From the “Just the Facts” blog. 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.
Adding together active-duty military, National Guard and reserves, state and local police, and federal law enforcement (ICE, CBP, FBI, Coast Guard, etc.), the United States has about 3.5 million military and police personnel out of an adult population of about 240 million. That means about one out of every 68 Americans wears a uniform.
Great overview by David Smilde.
What are the politics of the recent tensions between Venezuela and Colombia?
The most recent tensions started when Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos agreed to meet with former presidential candidate and current Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles. For the Venezuelan government that was an affront because Capriles does not recognize Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela. Closely on the heels of that meeting Santos announced Colombia’s intention to strengthen ties to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This latter is significant since NATO is the world’s most powerful military alliance.
Venezuela’s entire foreign policy has been predicated on the idea of Latin American unity and recent years have seen significant progress with the creation of the Union of Southern Nations (UNASUR) and the Council of Latin American Heads of State (CELAC). Colombia’s presence and collaboration has been an essential element of this and their moving closer to NATO could throw a wrench in regional unity.
Part of what has happened is that Juan Manuel Santos is up for reelection in May 2014 and this seems like a move to strengthen his credentials as being tough on Venezuela—both Hugo Chávez and now Nicolas Maduro are very unpopular in Colombia—and close to the United States. Santos was elected as the successor to Uribe. But one of his major policy shifts as president was to reconcile and strengthen ties with Venezuela. This has helped the Colombian economy and facilitated a peace process with guerrilla groups but included sacrifices such as pulling out of a deal with the United States to have US military presence at Colombian bases.
“In La Paz, the Morales government has given Brazil the green light to send its reconnaissance drones over Bolivian airspace in an effort to monitor the cocaine trade. …
“[T]he Rousseff administration has signed an agreement with Argentina allowing for cooperation in the further development of drone technology. …
“Concerned about terrorism in advance of the Confederations Cup, Brazil has also deployed its drones near the Uruguayan border. Indeed, the Rousseff administration is negotiating a drone “code of conduct” with Montevideo and Asuncion that would allow Brazilian drones to monitor their territories. …
“Not taking any chances, and hardly wishing to experience the same fate as the DEA, Brazil has been careful to insert strict provisos within the so-called code of conduct agreements with neighboring countries such as Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. Under the accords, drone flights are to be limited, and neighboring governments will be allowed to view intelligence data from the unmanned aerial vehicles. …
“Brazil is probably correct in pushing for an “under the radar” drone program with Paraguay. Asuncion has long been wary of Brazil, a country that enjoys significant economic influence in the Paraguayan countryside.”” —Interesting tidbits about Brazil’s drone program from Nicholas Kozloff at World Politics Review.
“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end.
“You can’t protect the source, but if you help me make the truth known, I will consider it a fair trade.
“Perhaps I am naive, but I believe that at this point in history, the greatest danger to our freedom and way of life comes from the reasonable fear of omniscient State powers kept in check by nothing more than policy documents.
“We managed to survive greater threats in our history . . . than a few disorganized terrorist groups and rogue states without resorting to these sorts of programs. It is not that I do not value intelligence, but that I oppose . . . omniscient, automatic, mass surveillance. . . . That seems to me a greater threat to the institutions of free society than missed intelligence reports, and unworthy of the costs.”” —
NSA leaker Edward Snowden in his own words.
So much more eloquent than President Obama’s lame defense of PRISM and similar programs when the news emerged last week.