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Monday, December 2, 2013

Latin America Security By the Numbers

This post was compiled by WOLA Intern Michael Pelzer.

  • 3,000 doctors from Cuba arrived in Brazil as part of the “Mas Medicos” program, which aims to boost the number of medical professionals in high-need areas. The doctors must undergo an extensive vetting process and are tested for Portuguese language proficiency. The program’s long-term objective is to bring in 12,996 doctors to service Brazil’s poorest and most remote regions.

  • 1,890 people died in confrontations with police in Brazil in 2012. By contrast, the United States--with 60 percent more population--saw 410 people killed by police that year.

  • President Enrique Pena Nieto claims that his government has captured 65 of the 122 most wanted criminals in Mexico. However, following a consultation of five state institutions that should be privy to the existence of such a list, the investigative website Animal Politico concluded that this “Most Wanted” list does not, in fact, exist.

  • The last thirteen years in Mexico have seen the assassinations of 98 journalists and the disappearances of 23 others. Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression Laura Angelina Borbolla Moreno noted that the “state of Chihuahua tops the list with 16 cases, followed by Veracruz, 14; Tamaulipas, 13; Guerrero, 11, and Oaxaca, Sinaloa and Durango, five.”

  • Researcher Laura Leal testified in front of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that there are upwards of 170,000 internally displaced people inside Mexico. In addition, asylum rate applications to the United States have risen threefold since 2009.

  • A group of more than 100 people attempted to cross into the United States from Mexico prompting U.S. border patrol agents to use capsicum pellets in an attempt to stop their advance. The migrants responded by throwing rocks and bottles, and later dispersed; no injuries were reported and no one was arrested.

  • Violence is growing and shifting in Guatemala, with a projected 3 percent increase in the 2013 homicide rate bringing it to 35.2 per 100,000 people. Although the overall murder rate has increased, it is concentrated in certain municipalities, with the rates in most others remaining level or decreasing.

  • 53.7% of those polled in Colombia support the ongoing peace talks with the FARC, 32.6% oppose them, and 13.7% are indifferent. Based on the survey data collected, those in areas most affected by the conflict are in opposition to allowing the FARC to form a political organization in a post-conflict Colombia.

  • In Colombia, defense sector spending over the past ten years totals 220 trillion pesos (just over US$100 billion).

  • The past decade in Colombia has seen the demobilization of almost 55,000 former fighters belonging to either leftist guerilla groups or right-wing paramilitary organizations. These demobilized fighters often enter into programs that aim to reintegrate them into society; so far more than 2,000 have successfully completed the 6–7 year program.

  • Military personnel from Colombia and Ecuador partnered up to assist 7,000 inhabitants living in border towns between the two countries. The exercise included a number of health specialists who assisted in providing medical care, as well as more specialized assistance like optometry, gynecology, pediatrics, and dentistry.

  • The navy of Colombia, with logistical support from the United States, seized over 3,200 pounds of cocaine in a single shipment. The smugglers are believed to have belonged to Los Urabeños, a criminal gang descended from the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary organization. The seizure was part of Operation Martillo, a U.S.-led, multilateral counter-narcotics operation in the Caribbean.

  • A 200-liter drum of oil in Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela costs less than US$2.00, but upriver it can cost 400 times the price. Price variance such as this is all too common in Venezuela, where recent incursions of FARC guerrillas and other illegal organizations from Colombia have caused a large increase in smuggling.

  • The government of Venezuela dispatched 536 soldiers and 129 National Police officers to Caracas to perform public security duties. The force will be deployed to six strategic locations and will have a 24 hour a day presence, patrolling by bicycle, on foot, and in cars.

  • In Venezuela, 1,400 soldiers took part in an exercise designed test a number of recently acquired weapons systems. The commander general of the Army, Major General Alexis Lopez Ramirez, stated that the exercise’s purpose was to demonstrate the power of these new weapons to both President Nicolás Maduro and the Venezuelan people, showing how well trained and equipped the Army is. Following the exercises, Maduro announced the need to expand training facilities and increase the frequency of training exercises.

  • “Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced partnerships with three private banks in Latin America that will make available $98.5 million in local lending exclusively for small and medium-sized enterprises.”

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Latin America Security by the Numbers

This post was compiled by WOLA Intern Michael Pelzer.

  • The defense minister of Guatemala, Manuel López Ambrosio, announced on October 7th that the army will maintain its ranks at 18,000 troops, with 4,000 of them slated for roles supporting the National Police. López Ambrosio defends the use of the military in quelling crime, claiming that there are widespread requests by both mayors and the general population for their use.

  • The government of Honduras plans to spend $30 million on a modern radar system capable of 360-degree detection of airplanes suspected of transporting narcotics. Honduran Defense Minister Marlon Pascua has indicated that the country is looking at systems from Israel, Ukraine, Argentina, Spain, Holland, and France. The Hondurans had previously operated off of information provided by U.S. forces stationed in the area; however Washington withdrew its intelligence sharing after numerous incidents of Honduran forces shooting down civilian planes.

  • The number of citizens of Guatemala deported from the United States has reached a record 41,000 so far this year. The entirety of 2012 saw the deportation of 40,647 Guatemalans.

  • Migrant rescues along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona are up 50% since 2011. Explanations for the trend include better cell service in the Arizona desert as well as a change in strategy for illegally entering the United States, with migrants taking more dangerous routes to avoid detection. 911 operators are often the first to interact with the lost migrants and must determine their location in order to send help. The rescue trend may also indicate that the number of migrants who died in the desert on U.S. soil also increased this year.

  • A recent report puts the number of homicides in Mexico since December 2012 at over 15,000, with a projected 17,000 in total for the year. Were this projection to hold true it would be the lowest murder total since 2009. The issue with these data, however is that “murders reported in criminal investigations goes to the Secretaria de Gobernacion, and death certificates that show murder as the cause of death go to the Instituto Nacional De Estadistica Y Geografia.”

  • Mexico authorities arrested 13 federal police officers on October 8th on suspicion of involvement in a kidnapping ring. The group is allegedly responsible for four kidnappings and at least seven murders.

  • Five years and $2 billion in U.S. aid later, the government of Mexico admits is falling short on its promise to reform its federal and local police forces. The program calls for an in depth vetting of current and future officers, including background checks and polygraphs, with those that did not meet the requirements to be removed from the police force. Of 36,000 federal, state, and local officers who failed vetting tests, fewer than a third have been fired.

  • A 600-man detachment of the Navy of the People’s Liberation Army of China arrived in Chile on October 7th. The visit was part of a five day visit to strengthen bilateral relationships and military ties between the two Pacific trading countries.

  • The cost of crime in Chile has risen 172% between 2000 and 2012, according to the “Libertad y Desarrollo” think-tank, with the 2012 cost comprising roughly 2.23% of GDP. In an attempt to curb rising crime rates, the government has increased security sector spending by nearly 188%.

  • In Brazil, police and military Special Forces began their 35th pacification operation in the favelas in and around Rio de Janeiro. The operation plans to target a dozen of the shanty towns in the Lins complex, in an attempt to drive out drug dealers and other criminals. Due to numerous abuses, the Pacifying Police Units (UPP) are often looked upon with skepticism by residents, although many are still optimistic that they can improve their lives. The pacification program comes in preparation for the 2014 World Cup Championships being held in Rio.

  • In Brazil, An additional 15 police officers have been charged in the murder of Amarildo Dias de Souza, a bricklayer who disappeared in July from Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha favela. Mr. Dias de Souza’s high-profile case has been a black eye for the Rio state government’s highly touted Favela Pacification Program.

  • On October 9th a joint operation by Dominican Republic and U.S. forces ended in the seizure of 1,110 kilograms of cocaine. The pursuit lasted nearly an hour and ended in the arrest of three traffickers.

  • The recent seizure of four tons of cocaine in Ecuador signals that trafficking within the country is on the rise. With the addition of these two raids, the past nine months have seen 38 tons of cocaine seized, although estimates by the American Police Community claim that nearly 120 tons of cocaine are transferred through the country each year. The high volume of captured narcotics could also signify a higher interdiction rate.

  • In Colombia, ELN guerillas operating near the Venezuelan border have claimed that they have conducted more than 50 attacks targeting security forces and oil infrastructure. The ELN claim they will continue the attacks until the government agrees to negotiate an oil tax of $10 per barrel to compensate for claimed damage caused by petroleum exploitation.

  • Officials in Panama have stated that they will release 33 of the 35 crew members captured on a boat transporting weapons from Cuba to North Korea. The freighter ship was concealing, under a shipment of sugar, MIG fighter jets, spare parts, and anti aircraft missiles bound for North Korea, in apparent violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions.

  • A seizure in Peru of four tons of cocaine is one of the country’s largest in recent years. It indicates Peru’s growing role as a supplier to the European market. The cocaine was seized in Paita, one of Peru’s largest international ports, and was believe to be destined for Lithuania.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Latin America Security By the Numbers

This post was drafted by WOLA Intern Michael Pelzer.

  • The national security minister of Jamaica, Peter Bunting, expressed worries to his nation’s lawmakers regarding a recent spike in violent crime. Between June 30th and August 31st there were a total of 251 homicides, an average of about four murders per day. This is a significant jump from the 197 homicides recorded in the same two month period in 2012. The sharp spike in violent crimes, especially that of homicide, may threaten the progress Jamaica has made in reducing its murder rate. In 2009 Jamaica had the world’s third highest homicide rate; however over the past four years, with significant foreign aid, the murder rate has been reduced nearly forty percent.

  • September 11th marked the 40th anniversary of the 1973 coup in Chile that ousted democratically elected President Salvador Allende from power, marking the beginning of a repressive authoritarian regime headed by Army General Augosto Pinochet. During Pinochet’s 17 year reign it is estimated that 40,018 Chileans were imprisoned for political reasons and tortured; of those 40,018, 3,095 were killed and 1,200 forcibly disappeared.
    Pinochet’s legacy is one of controversy, however; as many of his loyalists still view him as a fatherly figure, and a champion of economic growth. A recent poll of Chileans, however, indicates an evolving opinion, whereby 63% of respondents shared the belief that the 1973 coup destroyed Chilean democracy.

  • Mario Fabricio Ormachea, a National Police Colonel from Bolivia, was arrested in Miami, Florida after attempting to solicit a $35,000 bribe from Humberto Roca, former head of Aerosur, a private airline company. Following the creation of Boliviana de Aviacion, a nationalized airline, the Bolivian government began filing charges against individuals such as Roca. In conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Roca was able to catch Ormachea on tape promising to drop the federal charges in return for compensation.

  • Petrobras, the national oil company of Brazil, is one of the world’s 30 biggest businesses, and apparently a target of a U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spying program codenamed “Blackpearl.” Documents leaked from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden indicate that Blackpearl was designed to target private business networks, among them Petrobras. Brazil’s government is trying to determine whether the NSA’s actions can be interpreted as industrial espionage. Brazilian legislators have recently been authorized to visit Moscow and interview Edward Snowden to clarify some of their questions. Documents released by Snowden also expose a United States role in spying on President Dilma Rousseff and her advisors.

  • On September 9th, 15 navies from the Western Hemisphere conducted joint exercises in the Caribbean. The objective of UNITAS, a 54-year-old naval exercise sponsored by the U.S. Southern Command, is to promote cooperation and “develop their capacity for unified response.”

  • 29 people were shot, 11 killed, when gunmen in a stolen car opened fire on the crowded streets of a small village in Guatemala. Twenty minutes prior to the incident an anonymous tip had brought the National Police to the town, however the officers had left prior to the gunmen’s arrival. The National Police had previously been expelled by the villagers, after which a local police force was created, fostering significant reductions in crime. The National Police has faced accusations of corruption, extortion, and links to local gangs, leading many townspeople to draw connections between the police officers’ departure and the gunmen’s arrival.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Latin America Security by the Numbers

  • Arturo Corrales, the Minister of Security of Honduras, announced plans to create a new force of 4,500 community police. He plans to supply the force with 175 new vehicles equipped with GPS, 300 motorcycles and 5,000 bulletproof vests. Although the government has not yet specified what will differentiate the community police from the National Police, Corrales maintains that the deployment of this force, which is set to take place by September 1, will lead to a “rapid decrease” in levels of criminal violence.

  • The Congress of Honduras also approved the creation of a new military police force that will consist of 5,000 officers from the Honduran armed forces. Minister of Security Corrales assured that the military police initiative is not at odds with the community police, but rather the two new forces will complement each other. Both proposals have emerged just months before Honduras, the country with the world’s highest homicide rate, holds its next presidential elections.

  • An audit carried out by the Minister of Security in Honduras uncovered the existence of 2,151 “ghost officers” in the National Police Force. Although the government had been paying salaries for 12,800 police agents, only 9,350 actually reported to a post. With a monthly salary of 7,500 lempiras for a basic police agent (roughly US$368, per current exchange rate), multiplied by 2,151 ghost officers, the government has been paying over 16 million lempiras (US$784,697) each month to officers that either did not exist, or who did not do their jobs.

  • Of the 498 weapons that the “mara” gangs had relinquished to the government as part of the El Salvador gang truce, the vast majority do not work. ATF (U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) Special Agent Harry Penate said that in his opinion, these are not the weapons that organized crime participants are actually using.

  • A Brazilian government research institute reports that Brazil has 8,600 more homicides per year than officially reported, which puts the number at 60,000 homicides per year—nearly 18 percent above official statistics. The institution explains that this difference is due to the fact that roughly 10 percent of violent deaths are mistakenly classified as having “undetermined causes.”

  • In Nicaragua, the military’s commander in chief, General Julio Cesar Aviles, said the Navy (which is part of the Army) needs at least 8 more patrol boats to effectively intercept drug shipments in its territorial waters. The extent of these territorial waters is the subject of ongoing disputes with Colombia and Costa Rica.

  • Approximately 160 military personnel from 19 countries went to U.S. Southern Command (SOUTCHCOM) headquarters in Miami for part of PANAMAX 2013, an annual exercise designed to train in a scenario involving defense of the Panama Canal. The latest PANAMAX exercise lasted from August 4 to 16, and involved a component in Panama.

  • Colombia registered a 7 percent increase in homicides from the first half of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. According to the Center for Security and Democracy at the Sergio Arboleda University, which is critical of the current government’s security policies, the homicide rate for the first half of 2013 was 34.4 homicides per 100 inhabitants, the first time this rate has increased in seven years.

  • According to documents from the Mexican government, Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel controls more than 40 land, sea and air marijuana trafficking routes that run throughout Mexico and to U.S. states, such as California, Montana and Texas, as well as to European countries like Spain and the Netherlands. 90 percent of the marijuana is moved by land, with major routes moving south to north, inland to the coast, and from Guerrero and Oaxaca to Mexico’s capital.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Latin America Security By the Numbers

Compiled by WOLA Intern Laura Fontaine.

  • The prosecutor for the defense of human rights in Nicaragua came out with numbers that said that the Nicaraguan National Police has faced 1,334 complaints of human rights violations, the highest of the six public institutions with recorded complaints. The judiciary system had 210 complaints, the penitentiary system had 80, the Ministry of Family, Youth and Children had 75, the Public Ministry had 64, and the Ministry of Education had 56.

  • Approximately 4,000 demonstrators gathered in Peru on June 17th to protest the development of a $5 billion gold mining project proposed by the Newton Mining company.

  • São Paulo, Brazil police killed one suspect for every 229 arrested in 2012. By contrast, in the United States in 2011, police killed one suspect for every 31,575 arrests.

  • Mexico reports 7,128 organized crime-related homicides during the first seven months of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration.

  • Between 2005 and 2011 approximately 17 million pounds of marijuana were seized by U.S. Customs agents at ports of entry along the U.S.–Mexico border.

  • A survey about citizen security perceptions in Mexico found that 27% of citizens consider the country’s security situation to have improved. This was a 19% increase since the survey was last conducted in October of 2012.

  • A new law enforcement agency in Mexico, National Gendarmerie, will have 5,000 members. This group, which is considered a separate division of the Federal Police, will assist states “that do not have an effective, reliable police agency today,” said Interior Minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong.

  • A study conducted by the Center for Economic Research and Education (CIDE) of Mexico revealed that 60% of Mexicans would prefer for Mexico and the United States to form one country if it meant they would have a better quality of life.

  • In the first half of this year Mexico deported nearly 17,000 Salvadorans for residing illegally within the country. The United States has deported 9,072, making the statistic over 26,000 between the two countries.

  • In Mexico, it is estimated that 60% of workers, about 30 million people, work in the informal sector of the economy.

  • “The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released the results of the annual U.S. Government estimate measuring cocaine production in the Andean region. According to the new estimates, there has been a 41 percent drop in potential pure cocaine production capacity in the Andes since 2001, from an estimated 1,055 metric tons potential pure cocaine production at its peak in 2001 to 620 metric tons in 2012. The latest estimate is a 10 percent reduction from the previous year. Since 2011, the potential production of pure cocaine has dropped from 305 metric tons to 290 metric tons in Peru; from 190 metric tons to 175 metric tons in Colombia; and from 190 metric tons to 155 metric tons in Bolivia.”

  • A report by the National Center for Historical Memory, a government institution in Colombia revealed that between 1970 and 2010, more than 39,000 people were victims of kidnappings. Of those, 301 were kidnapped more than once.

  • Since 1990, 10,413 people have been injured or killed by land mines in Colombia. Of these, 1,019 were children. Most of the landmines were placed across the nation’s territory by the FARC and ELN guerrilla groups.

  • In the past 6 months the Army of Colombia reports having found 21,155 roadside bombs throughout the country.

  • Armed groups in Colombia have begun moving away from selling cocaine and instead moving toward illegal mining and the sale of gold. A kilogram of gold has a value of 19 times that of a kilogram of cocaine.

  • A statistical breakdown of Colombia’s newest police chief’s first year in office stated that the police “dismantled a total of 786 criminal gangs, captured 242 drug traffickersand extradited 192 more, dismantled 40 trafficking networks, and carried out 243 operations targeting the financial infrastructures of criminal groups.”

  • Between 2012 and 2015, the government of Colombia will invest a total of $2.3 billion in programs focused on citizen security. This funding will account for 2.4% of the country’s 2013 national budget and will include creating “integrated security plans” and adding 25,000 more police.

  • “According to the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), Honduras’ homicide rate could fall to 80 per 100,000 for 2013, from 85.5 per 100,000 (also according to UNAH numbers) in 2012, representing a 6.4 percent decrease, or 5.5 point drop, in the rate.”

  • Murder statistics in El Salvador are rising although the truce between the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs is still technically in effect. In June 2013, there were 182 murders, up from 166 in June of 2012.

  • As part of a bilateral Association for Growth agreement signed in 2011 between the United States and El Salvador, the U.S. government announced $91.2 million in funding that “will be divided between strengthening the judicial system, improving educational opportunities inside and outside schools, community crime prevention and a program called SolucionES”. The SolucionES program will also receive an additional $20 million in funding from private organizations.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Latin America Security By the Numbers

Compiled by WOLA Intern Laura Fontaine.

  • After meeting on June 11 with the president of Peru, Ollanta Humala, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged an extra $20 million to support the Peruvian government’s anti-narcotics efforts, in addition to the $40 million that the US already contributes to these efforts annually.

  • Over the past 30 years, the internal conflict in Colombia has claimed approximately 5.5 million victims. This statistic includes all of those who were murdered, kidnapped, disappeared, injured, or displaced.

  • The former “murder capital of the world,” Medellín, Colombia, used to experience between 19 and 25 homicides per weekend, and a total of 6,349 in 1991. But following efforts to lower these rates, the numbers have decreased dramatically. At the end of May, the numbers had decreased to 470 homicides since the beginning of this year. This is a faster pace, though, than in 2007, when the city registered 771 killings in 12 months. But the majority of cities considered the most violent and dangerous in the world continues to be in Latin America and the Caribbean. The most dangerous, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, had a homicide rate of 169 per 100,000 people in 2012. Additionally, “of the 50 cities with the highest homicide rates, 15 are in Brazil. Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, records far more homicides than any other city in the world, nearly 4,000 in 2012,” reports the Washington Post.

  • Due to extreme weather conditions and poor harvests, 1.5 million people in Haiti are in need of food assistance. An additional 6.7 million are said to be “struggling to meet their own food needs on a regular basis.” In preparation for the upcoming hurricane season the World Food Program (WFP) distributed enough supplies to provide ready-to-use food for 300,000 people for two days and stable food rations for four weeks. WFP estimates it will assist 1.1 million people during 2013. The WFP spokesperson said that the agency needs $17.2 million to support these needs.

  • “Women now represent just 7 percent of the estimated 10,000 officers in the Haitian National Police,” the Miami Herald reports. “Haiti is hoping that programs like this and others with Chile, Canada and the U.S. will help increase the force to 15,000 officers by the end of 2016, according to an HNP development plan. The program is funded by the U.S. International Narcotics and Law Enforcement office to boost the professionalism and increase the number of women in the HNP at a cost of $17,000 per cadet. The Haitian trainees will participate in 11 months of basic training to include a focus on sexual violence and protecting minors.”

  • The National Comission of Human Rights has reported that public officials have played a role in 2,443 of the 24,800 forced disappearances that have taken place in Mexico in the past 5 years.

  • At least 6,000 people are estimated to have died while trying to cross over the border between the United States and Mexico in the past 26 years, and many more have gone missing. During that period, the United States has spent $187 billion on border security and immigration enforcement. The new immigration reform bill calls for an additional $6.5 billion.

  • At least 1,500 students in the municipalities of Chinicuila and Coalcomán, both in Michoacán, Mexico, have been without classes and school activities for more than a week because of violence related to narcotrafficking and organized crime.

  • “An investigation by the Interior Ministry of Guatemala has identified over 54 drug trafficking organizations operating within the country, including independent groups and those working as “subsidiaries” of larger transnational organizations. Authorities also investigated the operations of 40 cells of the Barrio 18 gang and 30 cells of Mara Salvatrucha, reported Agénce France Presse.

  • The armed forces of Honduras will grow by approximately 1,000 troops at the cost of approximately $4.4 million after the Honduran Congress approved the plan.

  • Although still at a shocking number, the number of homicides in Honduras this year has gone down by 160 since this time last year. Between January 1st and June 9th of this year, there were 3,078 homicides in Honduras compared with 3,238 homicides during that period of time last year. The country averaged 19.23 homicides per day during this time period.

  • The Rio de Janeiro, Brazil police have now set up special “Pacifying Police Units” (UPPs) in 32 of the city’s most centrally located and conflictive slum neighborhoods, or favelas. The Rio state government hopes to have 40 UPPs set up by the time the World Cup tournament begins in 2014. These projects would involve 12,500 UPP officers and cover an area that 1.5 million people call home.

  • Brazil is nearing a deal with Boeing to purchase 36 F-18 fighter jets, which will be worth approximately $4 billion. Also in the running for Brazil’s giant purchase are fighters manufactured by France and Sweden, but the U.S. aircraft company appears to have an edge.

  • In early June Costa Rica and China signed 9 agreements worth a total of $1.5 billion “that will provide resources for improving Costa Rican roads and public transit fleets, purchasing solar panels and the building of a new police school,” the Associated Press reports. One of these agreements involved a $9 million line of credit that will go toward the expansion and remodeling of one of Costa Rica’s oil refineries.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Latin America security by the numbers

  • WOLA’s Venezuela blog looks at what polls say about the matchup for the country’s April 14 presidential election: “Based on Hinterlaces’ past poll we can see that voter intention for the Maduro-Capriles race had a similar pattern 55-45 [percent]. More recently Datanálisis released numbers that (when adjusted for abstention) show Maduro with a 15 point lead.”

  • Hours before President Hugo Chávez died on March 5, Venezuela’s government expelled two officers from the U.S. embassy’s military attaché’s office. The U.S. government reciprocated over the weekend by ejecting two officials from the Venezuelan embassy in Washington.

  • Even after a February devaluation, Venezuela’s currency, the bolívar, is trading on the black market at as much as 74 percent over the official rate.

  • Defense budget cuts will reduce U.S. air and maritime drug interdiction in the Caribbean and along Central America’s coasts. Two U.S. Navy frigates will not come back to the region after they return to port in April. And, reports the Associated Press, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection has cut 1,900 hours of flight time for its P3 radar planes, a nearly 40 percent cut in flights in the fiscal year ending in September. That leaves the program with only 800 hours for the rest of the year, an amount that could be used up after several dozen flights. The program currently flies several times in an average week.”

  • Colombia manually eradicated 30,000 hectares of coca bushes in 2012. That is 5,000 hectares less manual eradication than in 2011 (as opposed to fumigation, which has been steady at about 100,000 hectares), and a steep drop from a 2008 total of 96,000 hectares. The Colombian government’s budget for manual eradication has dropped by over half since 2010.

  • Colombia’s security forces now estimate the current membership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas at 7,800, the lowest figure since the mid-1990s.

  • Of the 336 municipalities (counties) in which it operated in 2002, the FARC is no longer present in 85, according to a report by Colombia’s New Rainbow Foundation.

  • Four or five organizations of “criminal bands,” or new paramilitary groups, totaling 4,170 members, operate in 231 of Colombia’s 1,100 municipalities (counties), according to a study by Colombia’s Ideas for Peace Foundation.

  • Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, experienced 86 homicides in February, 14 less than in February 2012 and the lowest single-month total measured in 13 years.

  • Almost 10 percent of the Congress that Colombia elected in 2010 - 22 members in all — have had to leave their posts, mostly for judicial reasons.

  • After it draws its membership from 8,000 army soldiers and 2,000 navy marines, Mexico’s new Gendarmería Nacional, or mobile constabulary police force, will be the country’s 4th-largest security force after the Army (196,000), Navy (54,000), and Federal Police (37,000), notes security analyst Iñigo Guevara.

  • There have been 47 cases of violence against Mexican journalists documented by the Inter-American Press Association since June 2012, when Mexico established A Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists. Only seven are under investigation.

  • Of 1.5 million Haitians displaced by the January 2010 earthquake, 350,000 are still in tent encampments, according to the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

  • Asked in a referendum whether they wished to remain a British colony, 1,514 of 1,517 Falkland Islands voters said “yes.”

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Latin America security by the numbers

Eleven countries have declared days of mourning for deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Iran, Nicaragua, Peru, and Uruguay

Venezuela suffered 16,072 homicides in 2012, according to numbers recognized by then-Vice President Nicolás Maduro. This is 1,980 more than the 2011 figure; the opposition calculates a homicide rate of 56 per 100,000 people. Observatorio Venezolana de Violencia, an NGO, estimated 21,600 homicides last year, for a rate of 73 per 100,000.

Brazilian aerospace company Embraer, together with U.S. joint-venture partner Sierra Nevada Corporation, has been awarded a $427 million U.S. Air Force contract to provide Super Tucano light air support aircraft, maintenance and training to the Afghan air force.

Through a program that will spend US$3.9 billion through 2017, Brazil and France are to produce “five submarines, one of them nuclear-propelled; 50 helicopters; a military shipyard; and a naval base, all with French technology,” EFE reports.

On March 3, it took 1,500 police and 200 Navy sharpshooters 25 minutes to take over the Complexo do Caju favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, part of the state government’s ongoing favela “pacification program.”

In Brazil there has been a land conflict-related murder on average every 12 days since the beginning of 2007. 32 rural activists were killed in 2012, a 10 percent increase over 2011. While that number is not low, attempted murders are even more common, and death threats occur on average almost every day, with 347 in 2011 alone.

Newly released documents reveal that Brazil’s military regime gave Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet US$115 million in aid in the first years after the 1973 coup that brought him to power.

After operating for a total of 50,000 hours, the Colombian Air Force’s U.S.-donated Helicopter Academy flight simulator has trained more than 4,000 pilots. Of those trained, 157 are from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Panama.

While the number of murders in Medellín, Colombia dropped 24% in 2012, the number of intra-city displacements and threats has dramatically increased. 9,941 people in 2012 had to flee their homes, an increase of 1,507 from 2011, according to the municipal ombudsman.

According to the Colombian NGO Somos Defensores, violence against the country’s human rights defenders increased by 66% from 2011 to 2012. In 2012 alone, 357 human rights defenders working in Colombia were attacked or received death threats from armed criminal groups. Of those, 69 were killed.

In the first three months of Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, 100 police from the three levels of government and the military have been murdered. In February alone, Mexico experienced 944 executions related to organized crime, or 34 per day, estimates the daily newpaper Milenio. When compared with January of this year, February shows an increase of 3 homicides every 24 hours.

The Mexican government estimated that related violence has left about 70,000 people dead since ex-President Calderón went on the offensive against organized crime groups.

The most recent estimate by the Mexican government puts the number of missing/disappeared persons since the beginning of ex-President Felipe Calderón’s administration (December 2006) at 26,122. That includes more than 20,000 ongoing official investigations, but 5,206 have yet to be verified.

11,000 migrants were kidnapped and held for ransom in Mexico in 2012, according to the national human rights ombudsman.

According to the International Press Institute and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, 55 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2006 for reasons related to their profession.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s plan to launch a new National Gendarmerie police force entails hiring 10,000 member officers by the end of the year. They are reportedly to come from the Army and Navy.

56.5 percent of 1,200 Salvadorans surveyed by LPG Datos said that El Salvador’s citizen security situation was “bad” or “very bad.” This is down from 64 percent in 2011. 83.7 percent said the same about the cost of living.

Thanks to WOLA Intern Elizabeth Glusman for contributing research assistance to this post.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Latin America security by the numbers

  • “In the most expensive initiative in Latin America since the Cold War, the U.S. has militarized the battle against the traffickers, spending more than $20 billion in the past decade,” reports the Associated Press. “At any given moment, 4,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Latin America and as many as four U.S. Navy ships are plying the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines of Central America. U.S. pilots clocked more than 46,400 hours in 2011 flying anti-drug missions.”

  • The Colombian government reported that landmines and unexploded munitions killed 25 civilians and injured 94 more between January and June 2012.

  • As of August 2012, the Human Rights Unit of Colombia’s attorney general’s office had obtained convictions for less than 10% of 1,727 cases of extrajudicial killings, most committed between 2004 and 2008, involving more than 3,000 victims.

  • Although murders of trade unionists are down in Colombia from a decade ago, threats against unionists continue to be widespread, with 539 cases in 2011 and 255 between January and September 15, 2012.

  • Bogotá, Colombia’s homicide rate hit its lowest point in 30 years, with 16.92 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2012.

  • The number of homicides in Mexico in 2012 fell to “somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000,” down from a record high of 27,000 in 2011, according to a new report by the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.

  • At the same time, the number of drug-related homicides in Mexico has remained essentially the same, at more than 12,000 people according to the latest Mexican media tallies, which is roughly the same number as 2010 and 2011.

  • In 2012, 591 inmates died and 1,132 were injured in violent incidents in Venezuelan prisons.

  • Every year since 2010, Venezuela has had at least one prison tragedy in which 50 or more people have been killed or seriously injured. The most recent riot left over 60 people dead and 120 injured from the Uribana prison.

  • Two Brazilian companies share a 60 percent stake in Harpia, a company that will develop drones in Brazil. The third company, with 40 percent ownership, is Israel’s Elbit Systems, which has sold drones to Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and perhaps other Latin American countries.

  • “Some economists think the annual inflation rate could rise as high as 30% this year” in Argentina, the BBC reports.

  • An 84-year-old priest in Caldas became the third Catholic priest murdered in a three-week period in Colombia.

  • U.S. Defense Department “contracts have more than doubled since 2010 in Guatemala, where there is a ban on most State Department-channeled military aid to the army. However, the ban does not apply to Defense Department assistance,” reports the Fellowship of Reconciliation. “The contracts for nearly $14 million in 2012 amount to more than seven times what it was in 2009.”

  • Before Venezuela’s February 8 currency devaluation, a Big Mac at McDonalds cost US$16.27 at the official exchange rate.

  • Since 1999, Colombia’s child-welfare agency has assisted 5,092 former guerrilla and paramilitary fighters under the age of 18.

  • Of 109 alleged human rights abuse cases for which the Mexican government’s ombudsman has recommended action, Mexico’s Defense Secretariat (Ministry) has closed 63 cases – but arrived at only two convictions.

  • “For Brazil to keep up with [electricity] demand, two giant dams, just like this one, must go up every year,” said the director of a project to build the 14th-largest dam in the world on an Amazon River tributary.

  • Gallup asked Central Americans whether street crime or narcotrafficking should be their government’s priority. A majority said “street crime” in El Salvador (by a 79%-18% margin), Guatemala (64-30), Honduras (57-40), and Panama (43-42). A majority said “narcotrafficking” in Costa Rica (51-41) and Nicaragua (55-35).

  • The Western Hemisphere country with the most military personnel per capita is, surprisingly, Uruguay with 744 soldiers, sailors or airmen per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Colombia (633 per 100,000), the United States (505) and Venezuela (416). Brazil (157), Honduras (147) and Guatemala (110) are at the bottom of the list of nations with militaries in the region.

Written with research assistance from WOLA Intern Elizabeth Glusman.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Latin America security by the numbers

  • Since 2005, 168 explosive devices have gone off in Santiago, Chile. There have never been any arrests.

  • Cuban dissidents say there are now 90 political prisoners on the island, a number that has doubled in the past nine months.

  • Ecuador has spent US$6 billion on its armed forces since 2007, tripling the defense budget between that year and 2012.

  • El Salvador spends 10.8 percent of Gross Domestic Product on security, three times what Costa Rica spends, according to a government study.

  • Honduras suffered 7,172 homicides in 2012, up from 7,104 in 2011 and 6,239 in 2010. Last year’s homicide rate of 85.5 per 100,000 people was down slightly from 2011 (86.5) because the population increased more quickly than homicides increased.

  • Guatemala’s police placed a US$14.2 million order for new uniforms, shoes, boots, sweaters, belts, smoke grenades and munitions.

  • During the November 20 - January 20 unilateral cease-fire declared by Colombia’s FARC guerrillas, the group’s violent actions were reduced by 87 percent, according to Bogotá’s Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris think tank.

  • Landmines laid by guerrillas and other illegal armed groups killed 13 children, and wounded 52 more, in Colombia last year.

  • Bolivia’s government says it will spend US$35-40 million on anti-drug activities this year.

  • Peru’s government says it will manually eradicate 22,000 hectares of coca in 2013, up from 14,171 hectares last year. In 2011, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime found 64,400 hectares of coca in Peru.

  • 54,000 Mexicans signed a petition asking President Obama to take several administrative measures that would limit cross-border gun trafficking into Mexico. None of the suggested measures appeared in the White House’s January 16 proposal.

  • One out of every 300 guns circulating in Mexico “is legal and complies with all requirements,” according to Mexico’s Defense Secretariat.

  • Of 726 men and 95 women surveyed in Mexico’s federal prison system, 60 percent were serving sentences for drug crimes.

  • Standing in for the far more voluble President Hugo Chávez, who continues to convalesce in Cuba, Venezuelan Vice-President Nicolás Maduro gave a ten-minute state-of-the-nation speech on January 15.