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.”
The following is a round-up of some of the top security-related articles and news highlights from around the region over the past week.
Vice President Biden in Panama
On Tuesday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Panama to discuss security and trade with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and tour the expansion of the Panama Canal. He praised Panama for “contributing to global security” in its detection and seizure of weapons found heading from Cuba to North Korea. As security analyst James Bosworth noted, the United States has been relatively quiet on the issue. This is likely due, in part, to the “surprise warming in recent months” of relations between the two countries.
Attorney General Holder in Colombia
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to discuss narcotrafficking and bilateral cooperation ahead of the Fourth Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas, held in Medellín. During his remarks, Holder called for a change in security strategy saying, "we must acknowledge that none among us can fight this battle on our own, or by implementing a ‘one-size-fits all’ approach,” and "the path we are currently on is not sustainable."
As La Silla Vacía notes, Holder’s trip comes just as the Colombian government and Farc guerrillas start to address the third point on the agenda, narcotrafficking. For a detailed analysis and update on the peace process, see WOLA’s ColombiaPeace.org.
Secretary of State Kerry addresses OAS
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a speech at the Organization of American States in which he touched on climate change and endorsed the Obama administration’s current Cuba policy, lauding restrictions on travel but calling for broader political reform. The Washington Office on Latin America said the speech offered nothing new and “ignored things that Latin American nations have been asking of the United States,” such as an alternative drug policy, immigration reform, violence, and organized crime. More from the Miami Herald and Wall Street Journal.
Elections in Honduras
On Sunday, Hondurans will vote for a new president. The election is in a dead-heat between Xiomara Castro, the wife of ousted former president Manuel Zelaya, and conservative ruling party candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández. The outcome of the elections will greatly impact security strategy as Hernández has said he would “put a soldier on every corner,” while Castro has promoted community policing. An Organization of American States election observer said there was no indication of fraud, however, international and national observers will be watching to ensure Sunday’s polls are not manipulated. More analysis from the Wilson Center (video), which held an event on the elections last Friday, from El Faro and from Reuters, which has a useful "Factbox" on the candidates.
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems had a helpful FAQ on the elections, while Honduras Politics and Culture blog had an overview of the country’s voting system as well as an overview of an OAS report (pdf) on the vote counting system, which offered some praise but highlighted significant shortcomings.
On Sunday, in the first round of Chilean presidential elections, former President Michelle Bachelet received 47 percent of the vote, just shy of the 51 percent needed to win. Her closest competitor, Evelyn Matthei, received 25 percent. A run-off will be held December 15. More from the Economist and New York Times.
Protests in Haiti
Protestors in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, clashed with police and government supporters as they called for President Michel Martelly to resign, highlighting several concerns that range from high living costs to unabated corruption. The police and UN peacekeeping forces broke up the violent confrontations. More from the BBC and Pan-American Post.
El Salvador gang truce on the rocks?
According to El Salvador’s Security and Justice Minister Ricardo Perdomo, gangs in the country “are at war, in a process of vengeance and territorial control." An uptick in murders suggests the truce is abating. As InSight Crime noted, murders have been “steadily approaching the pre-truce average of 12 a day.” On Wednesday, gang leaders denied their involvement in the murder increase as well as an alleged plan to increase homicides in December.
Colombian President Santos running for re-election
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Wednesday night that he would run for re-election in 2014. His announcement speech focused on finishing the peace process. Santos’ main opposition candidate, Oscar Iván Zulaga, is backed by former President Álvaro Uribe and is a critic of the talks. For this reason, some observers, like analyst Laura Gil and former Senator Piedad Córdoba, have said the vote will be a referendum for the peace process. President Santos is still seeking a vice-president for his bid. More from Reuters and James Bosworth on the challenges President Santos faces in the election. La Silla Vacía has the full text of his announcement speech.
Mexican "self-defense" groups in Michoácan
Last weekend, "self-defense" groups seized another town in the violence-ridden Michoácan state in a clash with the Knights Templar cartel. As the AFP reported, these vigilante groups now provide security in six towns throughout the state, with plans to take over another 40,000 resident town. The Mexican government has pledged to prevent the groups from spreading.
RESDAL (Red de Seguridad y Defensa de America Latina – Latin American Security and Defense Network) published a comprehensive, graphical, and extremely informative Public Security Index (pdf) of Central America this week.
InSight Crime provided a breakdown and analysis of Brazil's Forum of Public Security and Open Society Foundation’s study on police killings, looking at why police in Brazil kill. The report found that police in São Paulo were responsible for 20 percent of all homicides last year.
The Drug Enforcement Administration published its National Drug Threat Assessment (pdf) Monday. It found that while the availability of cocaine in the United States has dropped, the availability of methamphetamine is on the rise, reportedly due to Mexican drug traffickers increasing production and control over the U.S. market.
The Center for Democracy in the Americas has a two-part documentary by independent journalist Tracey Eaton that "sheds light on the origins, failures, and future of the United States’ policy toward Cuba’s government."
The following is a round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the region over the past week.
Migration Declassified, a project of the National Security Archive, published documents that offer the most detailed glimpse yet into Defense Department’s intelligence programs in Mexico in recent years. According to the group, “What emerges are the outlines of a two-track U.S. intelligence program: one, a network of joint intelligence centers staffed by personnel from both countries; the other, a secret facility located inside the U.S. Embassy to which the Mexicans are not invited.”
President Obama will meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on December 3 and will emphasize the United States’ “continued support for efforts to achieve peace in Colombia, according to W Radio.
This Sunday, Chileans will head to the polls to vote for the country’s next president. As analyst James Bosworth noted, it is a “near certainty” former President Michelle Bachelet, a self-declared socialist from the opposition party, will beat out conservative ruling party candidate Evelyn Matthei. In the event that Bachelet does not receive the required 51% of the vote this Sunday, run-off elections will be held in December. More from the Miami Herald and Associated Press about Bachelet’s radical proposed plans for reform. This will be the first election in which voting is voluntary rather than compulsory.
On Monday, the Colombian government said it discovered a plot by FARC rebels to assassinate former President Álvaro Uribe and the country’s Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre. While there did not appear to be immediate fallout from the revelations, lead government negotiator Humerto de la Calle warned should such an attack take place, negotiations would be “destroyed.” The revealed plot hasfomentedconcerns that the FARC’s central command negotiating in Havana does not have control over mid-level members of the group. More from La Silla Vacía.
The negotiating teams in Havana have worked out agreements on land and the FARC’s participation in politics. On Monday, both sides will begin talks on the drug trade. In a lengthy post published Tuesday, FARC’s top commander “Timochenko” said the group would debate the legalization of illicit crops in negotiations, noting the group has advocated for a shift in policy for several years. More from Colombia Reports. For further analysis on the progress on the peace talks, see this post by Virginia Bouvier of the United States Institute of Peace, the Pan-American Post, and Semana.
The Latin America Working Group published a report, “ Far from the Promised Land”(pdf)examining land restitution along Colombia’s Caribbean Coast. The authors looked at the sluggish implementation of 2011 Victims’ and Land Restitution Law, which set out procedures to grant reparations and land return to victims of the armed conflict. They found that “land restitution is just beginning to be implemented, but that both land restitution and victims’ reparations promised under the law are, for most victims, still a distant dream.”
On Thursday, Venezuela’s Congress voted to grant President Nicolas Maduro decree powers for the next 12 months. Maduro says he will use the special powers to target corruption and the country’s economic problems, while critics claim he will use the silence the opposition in upcoming local elections. On Tuesday, the Congress stripped an opposition lawmaker of her immunity to be prosecuted for corruption, and a government supporter was put in her place, giving the ruling party the 99th vote needed to pass the measure. This was the first of two votes the Congress will hold. The next will take place Tuesday. More from the BBC, Ultimas noticias and El Universal.
InSight Crime translated an excellent investigation about the Venezuelan military’s involvement in drug trafficking. “Venezuela: Where the Traffickers Wear Military Uniforms” first appeared in Spanish in El Universal Domingo.
On Monday, Mexico announced it would be firing or demoting 700 state police officers in Michoácan for failing to pass a vetting process. Police forces have been accused of ties to the Knights Templar drug gang. This week Mexican newspaper Milenio published a report which found that in one month, in an “important city in Michoácan,” one state police officer receives over $18,000 from the cartel, while a federal police official receives about $27,000 and an official from the Attorney General’s Office receives almost $19,000.
Three unidentified armed persons broke into the office of a Salvadoran non-profit agency whose mission is to track down children disappeared during the country’s civil war. They tied up the guard, stole several computers and set fire the organization’s archives. The country’s human rights prosecutor, David Morales, suggested the attack was linked to the Supreme Court’s decision to hear an appeal to a law granting amnesty for human right violations committed during the war. The group had apparently backed up all files that had been destroyed. More from the Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times and the Washington Office on Latin America.
Writing for InSight Crime, Salvadoran journalist Hector Silva examined impunity for high-level corruption within El Salvador’s Civil National Police.
French police arrived in Brazil this week to train Rio de Janeiro’s military police in how to handle large-scale protests without using excessive force.
The Rio State Security Secretariat suspended the creation of new Pacifying Police Units, after reports of inappropriate use of force, forced disappearance and torture. Rio On Watch has an update on the city’s plans to target increased violence.
On Tuesday, the United Nation Development Program released a report that found Latin America continues to be the most unequal and the most insecure region in the world. As the UN noted, “ ‘Citizen Security with a Human Face: evidence and proposals for Latin America,’ revealed a paradox: in the past decade, the region experienced both economic growth and increased crime rates.”
The report, assessed citizen insecurity in 18 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela. It examined a myriad of ongoing problems in the region such as high levels of violence, weak judicial and penal systems, and high rates of economic inequality.
Some of the statistics revealed:
Homicides have reached “epidemic levels” with over 100,000 murders recorded each year. From 2000-2010 the number of homicides rose above one million and grew 11%.
In Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Paraguay, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador more respondents said the police were involved in crime than those who believed they protected the population.
In the majority of the countries surveyed, common criminals were perceived to be the biggest threat to public security. Only in Mexico and Brazil were organized crime and narcotraffickers perceived to be the biggest threat, while in El Salvador and Honduras gangs were chosen as posing the greatest danger.
Latin America has about 50% more private security guards (3,811,302) than police officers (2,616,753) and Latin American private security guards have rates of gun possession per employee ten times larger than Europe. Panama, Honduras, Guatemala and Brazil had disproportionately high numbers of private security guards.
The perception of insecurity has also risen. Interestingly enough, the perception of insecurity is higher in Chile, which has the lowest murder rate in the region (2 per 100,000), than in Honduras, which has the highest homicide rate (86.5 per 100,000).
In the past 25 years robberies have tripled. In 2012, one in three Latin Americans was a victim of a violent crime. This high level of crime had affected people's daily lives: between 45% and 65% of respondents said they no longer leave their houses at night, while 13% said they had felt the need to move to avoid crime.
The findings in the report underscore the importance of calls that have been growing throughout the region for a change in security strategies and for alternative approaches in the fight against the drug cartels. The report put forth several recommendations that have been voiced by analysts, officials and advocates: public institutions must be strengthened; efforts must be coordinated between governments and civil society, as well as between countries; opportunities for human development and growth ought to be increased, while “crime triggers” like alcohol, drugs, arms and weapons should be regulated and reduced through a public health perspective. More from Terra, Animal Politico and the Miami Herald. The report can be downloaded in Spanish here (pdf).
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.
Adam talks about the recent troubles of Rio de Janeiro's Favela Pacification Program, the Venezuelan President's quest for decree powers, and politics in Argentina as President Cristina Fernández undergoes brain surgery.
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This post was written by CIP intern Benjamin Fagan.
The following is a round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the region over the past week.
Inter American Court of Human Rights
Peruvian Judge Diego Garcia-Sayan, President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH), said that the use of military for domestic law enforcement was acceptable in the fight against crime. Charles Parkinson of InSight Crime noted, “his endorsement of the use of the army for citizen security may affect claims made against military human rights abuses before the CIDH, which is often the only serious option available to citizens as military personnel tend to be tried in closed military courts.”
A new report was released by the Centro de Estudios Legales about extrajudicial killings by members of Bueno Aires’ Metropolitan Police.
The Russian Defense Minister is set to travel to Brazil and Peru to discuss the sale of military technology to the South American nations. Brazil is set to buy anti-aircraft system batteries and Peru is in talks to acquire tanks. Both deals are expected to be valued at millions of dollars.
The United States donated six UH1Y helicopters to the Guatemalan Air Force to combat drug trafficking, along with navigational and infrastructure equipment all purported to be valued at $40 million. Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said the donation was, “a show of confidence in Guatemala by the United States government.”
Michelle Bachelet, the center-left candidate for president, is likely to win the race in mid-November, according to new opinion polls. Ms. Bachelet, who already has held Chile’s highest office, is polling at 33%, meaning a run-off vote is likely. In Chile, a candidate must gain 50% of the vote in the first round to avoid a runoff.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has demanded explanations from the Canadian government over allegations of spying on the country’s energy and mining sectors. Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail quoted American journalist Glenn Greenwald, “There is a huge amount of stuff about Canada in these archives because Canada works so closely with the NSA.” This is just the latest in allegations of spying on Brazil.
This week ongoing teachers protests turned violent in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, with police responding with tear gas. Al Jazeera writes, “Rio's police forces have come under criticism in recent months for their forceful responses to a series of street protests that have swept the city since June.” One incident that has gained notoriety in the country is the Facebook picture of a Rio police officer holding a broken baton with the caption “My bad, Teach.” More from Southern Pulse.
The Associated Press reported that while homicides have dropped in Rio de Janeiro since 2007, disappearances have “shot up,” fueling speculation about the police’s role in recent disappearances in the city. These concerns come a week after ten police officers were charged with the murder of Amarildo de Souza, a bricklayer who lived in Rocinha, a slum targeted by the police pacifying units that are attempting to control Rio’s slums.
A plane crashed during an anti-drug operation killing three Americans and a Panamanian and injuring two others. The aircraft was tracking boats suspected of smuggling illicit substances when it crashed in northern Colombia near Capurgana. The mission was part of Operation Martillo, a security agreement meant to stem the flow of illegal drugs in the Caribbean region.
Daniel Mejia from the Universidad de los Andes criticized irregularities in a study published by former and current Monsanto contractors on the effectiveness of coca fumigation. In an interview, Mejia, Colombia’s leading drug policy expert noted, “there is a strong scientific base to question what we are doing with the fumigation of glyphosate.” The researcher also said the government tried to censor information indicating aerial fumigation is harmful and ineffective.
Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America believes that the FARC peace talks could provide an opening to end fumigation programs, stating, “Both sides should commit to bringing the fumigation program to an end, and to replacing it with voluntary manual eradication, as part of a larger effort to bring the civilian part of the government to long-neglected areas.” The post looked at three reasons why the government should abandon aerial coca fumigation.
In an opinion piece, Laura Gil wrote that the Colombian government’s decision to not release an agreement that awarded Ecuador $15 million in damages over the use of glyphosate on the countries shared border was to stifle criticism of the controversial practice. On Thursday, the agreement, along with extensive commentary, was posted on El Tiempo.
The Independent published a chilling article by journalist James Bargent on the trafficking of girls in Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellin. Gangs in the city have been known to recruit girls as young as ten years old to be sold to the highest bidder, often times drug lords or foreign tourists.
President Nicolas Maduro has asked for decree granting powers, allowing him to bypass the legislature to tackle the country’s economic woes and rampant corruption. The Financial Times noted that Maduro “needs the votes of 99 lawmakers in the National Assembly … meaning that he needs to lure one independent or opposition legislator.” More from the Pan-American Post.
In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Salvadoran journalist Óscar Martínez argued the Salvadoran government’s failure to take credit for its role in facilitating a gang truce that has “already saved more than 2,000 lives,” could eventually cause the truce to fall apart. More from Central American Politics blog.
In mid-September, Honduran authorities announced that working closely with the Drug Enforcement Administration they had taken down $800 million in assets of Los Cachiros, a major drug trafficking organization. This week it was revealed that members of the organization were told about the operation at least a month in advance, allowing them to clear out banks accounts and sell considerable assets in advance of the raid. InSight Crime examined the U.S.’ role in the affair, noting that this U.S. push against narco-corruption “may be too late and might provoke a violent backlash.”
There has been an average of more than ten massacres per month in Honduras this year, El Heraldo reported. As the rate stands, the country is on track to register well over the 115 massacres recorded last year. Massacre is defined as the murder of three or more people.
According to McClatchy, “two Cuban MiG-21 jet fighters found aboard a seized North Korean cargo ship three months ago were in good repair, had been recently flown and were accompanied by ‘brand-new’ jet engines, Panamanian officials say.” Cuba had claimed all equipment found in the hidden arms shipment was obsolete and being sent to North Korea for repair.
This post was compiled by WOLA Intern Michael Pelzer.
2013 marks the 20th anniversary
of U.S. Border Patrol’s “Operation Hold the Line,” whose objective was to reduce the number of illegal border crossings. The program called for increased physical presence at the El Paso border crossing point to serve as a “show of force” and dissuade would be crossers from Mexico. This program was initially hailed as a success, however experts cited in an extensive El Paso Times analysis claim that it forced undocumented immigrants to enter the United States in more dangerous places or to seek out those who deal in smuggling people across borders, thus feeding into organized crime.
The Central State of Mexico has hired hundreds of women to fill the ranks of the corruption-prone State Transit Police. Ecatepec Police Chief Carlos Ortega Carpinteyro, a strong supporter of the initiative, claims that “women are more trustworthy and take their oath of office more seriously. They don’t ask for or take bribes." As it stands, the female traffic officers are limited to issuing verbal warnings until certain anti-corruption standards are put in place and the officers are determined to be compliant with them.
Forty years too late, the government of Chile has located Raymond E. Davis, a former U.S. naval officer charged with complicity in the murder of two American journalists. The Chilean government charged Davis, the chief of the military group in the U.S. embassy at the time of Chile’s September 11, 1973 coup, with passing information to two Chilean intelligence officers working with the Pinochet regime, ultimately leading to the journalists’ execution. The Chilean government had processed orders for extradition with the United States, only to find out that Davis had died in an affluent nursing home near Santiago.
In Colombia, the government’s Agency for Reintegration (ACR) has stated that it is ready to receive up to 40,000 former combatants if a peace process should succeed. The US$90 million-per-year program seeks to rehabilitate former fighter, providing psychological support, education, and vocational training. ACR Director Alejandro Éder notes the difficulty of the program: “they [ex-combatants] are coming from a completely different society and you essentially have to train them about everything.” The ACR’s pronouncement comes as FARC representatives note “modest progress” being made in peace talks between the Colombian government and the former leftist turned narcotics trafficking paramilitary group.
Recent figures released by the government of Colombia claim that more than 3,500 guerrilla fighters have demobilized over the past three years. With mass demobilization comes the difficulty of not only rehabilitating the former fighters, many of whom have been with the FARC since they were children, but also the difficulty of ensuring their acceptance into the Colombian population as a whole.
In a sweep of the notorious Sabaneta prison, authorities in Venezuela discovered a weapons cache containing over one hundred firearms, more than 20,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as grenades and tear gas canisters.. In addition to the weapons, 26 pounds of marijuana and cocaine were discovered in a hidden underground labyrinth of tunnels. Prison authorities have made assurances that those responsible for smuggling will be held responsible for their actions.
Documents discovered by the Truth Commission working in Brazil shed light on specific operations that occurred between 1964 and 1974, the first ten years of a 21-year dictatorship. The roughly 1.2 million pages of documentation were converted into microfilm by CENIMAR (service to the Navy), in order to preserve some of the dictatorship’s specific history.
As part of the urban pacification program in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 590 police officers and 180 soldiers entered into the Lins de Vasconcelos favela, in northern Rio, “securing” the community with the intention of installing two police stations. The addition of these Police Pacification Units (UPP) will bring the total to 36 across the city that will host next year’s World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics. Both the UPP’s and Brazil’s government have been facing mounting criticism over charges that some UPP personnel, particularly in neighborhoods most recently “pacified,” are abusing the population.
On Tuesday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff postponed her state visit to Washington, originally scheduled for next month. The Pan-American Post wrote that the decision is largely perceived as a political move ahead of elections in 2014, capitalizing on growing popularity polling after a sharp dip from widespread protests. Several analysts have said the move has negative implications for both countries. Nevertheless, the White House tried to soften the impact of the announcement, saying it would be working with the Brazilian government to reschedule the visit. More from Reuters, the Global Post,the Economist, James Bosworth, and Foreign Policy.
The Rousseff administration also began talks about creating a domestic network to store and share data. Popular technology blog Gizmodo called the Rousseff administration plan a “bullish” move and noted that breaking from the U.S. internet could be “potentially impossible.”
Joe Biden in Mexico
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Mexico on Thursday and Friday this week to discuss economic relations between the two countries. Joined by Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson andAssistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez, he was there to launch the High Level Economic Dialogue that President Obama announced on his trip to Mexico in May. As analyst James Bosworth noted, "All other issues that could be slightly controversial - security, spying, soccer - have been banished from the agenda." This is VP Biden's third trip to Mexico in his post and fifth trip to the region overall. More from the White House and the Los Angeles Times.
The Guardian featured an opinion piece on the visit, "Biden's visit to Mexico: what you should know, Joe," from John Ackerman, who wrote, "The widespread image of Peña Nieto as a bold reformist struggling against the forces of nostalgic reaction is about as accurate as Vladimir Putin's presentation of Bashar al-Assad as a distinguished statesman."
Verdad Abierta published an interesting, interactive feature about the FARC’s longstanding presence in the southern Colombian state of Caqueta. It examines the organization’s activities in narcotrafficking, intimidation tactics and more within this region, dubbed “the heart” of the FARC. There are extremely useful maps, timelines and graphics.
This week, Human Rights Watch released a report that documents the failures of the Colombian government to enforce the landmark Victims Law, which aimed to return millions of hectares of land to victims who had been displaced by violence. The report looked at the violence and threats against those victims trying to reclaim their land. Colombia’s Prosecutor General refuted the claims, citing an increase in convictions in cases involving forced displacement. InSight Crime provides some analysis of the report, highlighting the importance of criminal groups that are oftentimes contracted by wealthy individuals to maintain control of seized land.
The 14th round of peace talks between the FARC and the Colombian government concluded yesterday. The negotiators did not report any progress on the second of five topics on the agenda, the rebels' political participation. Despite the slow pace of the talks and the fact that the most recent Gallup poll indicated in early September that 75% of Colombians disagree with how Santos has handled the peace process with the guerrillas, the Colombian leader has stood by the talks.
Ex-President Alvaro Uribe is planning a political comeback, announcing that he is running for a seat in the Senate. He will run on a closed list with nine other candidates from his Democratic Center Party, which Uribe and close political allies formed in 2012. The Pan-American Post explains Uribe’s closed-list candidacy means “Colombians would vote not for individual candidates but for the party as a whole.”La Silla Vacia has an online forum that includes opinions from policymakers, journalists and analysts on the political impact of Uribe’s candidacy in the nation.
Central American Border Disputes
On Monday, Nicaragua filed a second lawsuit against Colombia in the International Court of Justice over a disputed maritime boundary in the Caribbean. Colombia’s President Santos has refused to recognize an earlier ruling by the ICJ that awarded Nicaragua a large portion of maritime territory.
Honduras and El Salvador also began a dispute over territory this week. El Faro reports that Honduran authorities announced construction of a helipad on the miniscule Conejo island in the Gulf of Fonseca, a natural harbor shared by El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. El Salvador’s President quickly filed a complaint with the government of Honduras, claiming the island as Salvadoran territory.
On Thursday, President Maduro claimed the United States had banned his plane from flying over Puerto Rico on his way to China. Maduro called this an “act of aggression.” Reuters then reported Friday that the United States had granted President Maduro the right to use U.S. airspace on Thursday night, despite the fact that Venezuela had failed to follow protocol for a flyover request. Maduro also said the U.S. had refused to grant his chief of staff, General Wilmer Barrientos, a visa for the UN General Assembly in New York. More from the Pan-American Post.
Haiti taking steps toward a military force
Haitian President Michael Martelly is taking steps to reinstate the country’s army, with the help of Ecuador, the Associated Pressreported. The first batch of 41 Ecuadorian-trained recruits is being sent to the interior of the country to work on public service projects with Ecuador’s military. Haiti abolished its military in 1995, due to the military’s ongoing political influence and after dozens of military coups. The new force will not be armed, and will serve “not in the infantry but in technical service,” according to Defense Minister Jean-Rodolphe Joazile. President Martelly has been pledging to reinstate the army in recent years. Brazil is apparently also planning to train Haitian soldiers and has pledged to train 500 in Brazil and 1,000 in Haiti.
Two eye-catching photo galleries were released this week. The first one from James Rodriguez shows Guatemalans arriving back in their homeland after deportation from the United States. The other features entries from an exhibition of the best photo journalism from Central America, on display now in San Salvador.
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.
Que hay detras de la posible complicacion en la compra por Argentina de los F-1 del ejercito del aire espanol? Francia entra en escena y ofreta sus F-1 co,pitiendo con los espanoles, Defensa.com
Brazil, Cuba -
Cuban doctors tend to Brazil's poor, giving Rousseff a boost Anthony Boadle, The Chicago Tribune
Ingeniero Leon Andres Montes Ceballos fue liberado por el Eln, El Colombiano
Tables Turned Virginia Bouvier, Foreign Policy Magazine
As Colombia's presidential race heats up, peace talks take center stage Jim Wyss, The Miami Herald
La mala herencia que nos dejo el capo Alejandro Baena, El Tiempo
El homicidio se redujo un nueve por ciento en el pais, El Tiempo (Colombia)
Las claves de la cita Barack Obama y Juan Manuel Santos Sergio Gomez Maseri, El Tiempo (Colombia)
Colombia espera que Obama ratifique apoyo al proceso de paz Sergio Gomez Maseri, El Tiempo (Colombia)
Honduras Election Results Challenged Nicholas Phillips, The New York Times
Pena Nieto cambia Mexico sobre el papel en su primer ano de mandato, El Pais
The Mexico Govt's Coordination Obsession Alejandro Hope, In Sight Crime
Mexican bishop takes on cultish cartel in drug war battleground state Joshua Partlow, The Washington Post
Despues de la guerra Eduardo Guerrero Gutierrez, Nexos En Linea
¿Que puede pasar el domingo? Luis Vincente Leon, El Universal
A project of the Latin America Working Group Education Fund in cooperation with the Center for International Policy and the Washington Office on Latin America
Project Staff: Adam Isacson (Senior Associate WOLA aisacson[at]wola.org) / Abigail Poe (Deputy Director CIP abigail[at]ciponline.org) / Lisa Haugaard (LAWGEF Executive Director lisah[at]lawg.org) / Joy Olson (WOLA Executive Director jolson[at]wola.org)