Mr. García Márquez mythologized the history of an entire continent, while at the same time creating a Rabelaisian portrait of the human condition as a febrile dream in which love and suffering and redemption endlessly cycle back on themselves on a Möbius strip in time.
When our first book, Just the Facts: A civilian’s guide to US defense and security assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean, was published in 1998, we knew that we had made something useful. It was being used, not just by our target audience – the NGO sector – but by academics, journalists, congressional staffers, and even the Defense Department. The day the book was released, we got an order for 40 copies from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. They told me that they didn’t have this information compiled in one place.
Tomorrow, the “Just the Facts” brand-name (a lousy one but we could never think of anything better) disappears. From now on, you can find the same data and analysis in the Latin America section of Security Assistance Monitor, a new, global military aid-monitoring site coordinated by the Center for International Policy. Once it’s fully up and running, the new site is going to be a greatly improved resource.
With [captured Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín “Chapo”] Guzmán out of the way, the Zetas appear to have regained their brash form. Last week the group allegedly used Twitter and Facebook to warn Tampico residents of an imminent “gunbattle to the death” of what’s left of the Gulf cartel. The message warned residents to stay away from public areas. “We’re warning you now so you don’t whine later that you were caught in the crossfire,” it said.
Alfredo Corchado of the Dallas Morning News pieces together why violence is spiking upward in the northeastern Mexican border state of Tamaulipas.
As in the past several years, the fighting is taking place mainly between the Zetas and the Gulf cartel (which initially spawned the Zetas). Mexico’s biggest cartel, the Sinaloa organization, has less of a presence in Tamaulipas, but had been propping up the Gulf cartel to aid its nationwide battle against the Zetas.
Apparently the February capture of Sinaloa leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has curtailed the flow of Sinaloa support to the Gulf cartel. As a result, the Gulf organization is weakened and splintering. The Zetas—still strong despite last year’s capture of its top leader—have responded by launching a bloody offensive.
Mexico’s security forces, it appears, are once again almost completely absent from this story.
As Possibility for Peace Grows in Colombia, a New WOLA Report Analyzes the Challenges Ahead
The U.S. has an important role to play and should start planning now to help Colombia consolidate peace
By Adam Isacson, WOLA Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy
It looks ever more likely that sometime in the next year, Colombia may reach a landmark peace accord promising to end a half-century of armed conflict. As this likelihood increases, the United States—which provided billions for Colombia’s war effort—must prepare now to help Colombia consolidate peace.
The new WOLA report, Ending 50 Years of Conflict in Colombia, strikes an optimistic note. Talks between the Colombian government and the FARC, Latin America’s largest and oldest guerrilla group, “are beginning to stick,” the report explains. “Negotiators in Havana, Cuba have gotten significantly further than ever before. It is not unreasonable to expect an accord by the end of 2014.”
With 30 graphics and videos helping to tell the story, WOLA’s latest report walks the reader through the challenges that remain at the negotiating table: finding a dignified solution for millions of conflict victims, devising transitional justice to hold the worst human rights abusers accountable, and overcoming objections from the negotiations’ political opponents.
Once an accord is reached, a new series of challenges awaits: implementing the commitments agreed upon at the table, demobilizing and reintegrating all ex-combatants, and getting a functioning government presence into territories long abandoned to illegal armed groups.
The U.S. role will be crucial, the report contends. Since 2000, the United States has provided Colombia with over US$600 million per year in mostly military aid. In the years following a peace accord, this aid should not only continue, it should increase and reorient toward civilian institution-building and economic needs.
Colombia will need help bringing government into lawless areas; demobilizing and reintegrating combatants; assisting displaced populations’ return; protecting rights defenders; helping to fulfill accords on land, political participation, and victims; supporting transitional justice and a truth commission; and guaranteeing a strong international verification and monitoring presence. The United States can leverage the strong relationship it has built with Colombia’s powerful armed forces to help them weather a difficult transition to a smaller post-conflict role.
As negotiations proceed, the Obama administration must continue voicing its support for the process. It must do so even if negotiators agree to changes in counter-drug policy—such as suspending crop eradication through aerial herbicide spraying—that parts of the U.S. government would prefer not to implement.
The time to help Colombia prepare for the post-conflict is fast approaching. The United States and other international donors must begin planning now, not on the day an accord is actually signed. Ending 50 Years of Conflict in Colombia urges that this planning begin as soon as possible, while offering a roadmap to help guide it.
- “Venezuela Dialogue Scouting Report" and "Dialogue Live Blog,” David Smilde, WOLA Venezuela Politics and Human Rights, April 10.
David Smilde evenhandedly narrates Venezuela’s vaunted, televised “dialogue” between the Maduro government and opposition leaders. After reading this, most other coverage of the negotiations seems either redundant or polarized.
- “Terrorism and Crime in the Americas – ‘It’s Business’,” Steven Dudley, InsightCrime, April 9.
Dudley offers a firm, reasoned takedown of alarmist claims that global terrorist groups are allying with Latin American organized crime groups to threaten the United States. When cooperation happens, he says, it’s more of a “one-night stand.”
- “Tracing the U.S. heroin surge back south of the border as Mexican cannabis output falls,” Nick Miroff, The Washington Post, April 6.
Miroff travels to Mexico’s drug-producing heartland in Sinaloa where, as marijuana prices crater, growers are turning to poppies for the heroin trade. Cartels are aggressively marketing heroin in smaller U.S. cities as a cheaper alternative to synthetics like OxyContin.
- “The Border Patrol has a big problem with excessive force,” Dara Lind, Vox, April 6.
A good overview of the U.S. Border Patrol’s confused, circle-the-wagons reaction to incidents in which agents injure or kill migrants.
- “Drugs, Security, and Latin America: The New Normal?" Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield, speech given March 27 at University of Texas, posted this week to State Department website.
Amid some maddening generalizations and blind spots (“the United States Government, jointly with the Government of Colombia, actually did this the right way”), the Assistant Secretary—nearing the end of his fourth year at this post—recognizes some past drug-policy errors and offers some very sound recommendations for the future.