The international image of Colombia has changed drastically over the past decade. During the 1990s it was internationally known not only for the persistent guerrilla warfare but also exorbitant rates of violence related to drug trafficking. However, the security environment is known to have improved considerably as well as the possibilities for international investment. President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010) first advocated an economic policy that strongly encouraged international investment in Colombia. Simultaneously, he implemented the policy of seguridad democrática targeting the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the largest guerrilla group in Colombia, militarily. US aid in the form of Plan Colombia was crucial in this context as huge amounts of military aid allowed Uribe to modernise the Colombian military. The FARC was weakened substantially as a consequence of this policy. This context of increased security in Colombia was used to attract foreign investment by Uribe’s government. This openness to foreign investment has continued under President Juan Manuel Santos since he assumed office in 2010.read more
CAN OPTIMISM CONCERNI...
The international image of Colombia has changed drastically over the past decade. During the 1990s...
The election of fifty-three-year-old Joko Widodo as president of Indonesia on 22 July 2014 has...
THE ISIS CRISIS: A RE...
Unless you have been living under a rock lately, you will undoubtedly have heard of the Islamic...
Inkerman Insights on Global Business Threat and Vulnerability
The election of fifty-three-year-old Joko Widodo as president of Indonesia on 22 July 2014 has widely been hailed as a major political turning point for the world’s fourth most populous country. Admittedly, Jokowi, as he is known to his supporters, has many of the right credentials for the position. His humble background, clean image and ability to relate to ordinary people have won over a significant proportion of the population. However, the challenges he now faces are considerable and numerous. A major concern will be Indonesia’s flagging economy, which has recently slowed under the weight of large current account and budget deficits. Jokowi will also need to deliver on his election promise to improve the lot of ordinary citizens, which will be no mean feat in a country where over forty million people live below the poverty line. In the short term, Prabowo Subianto’s decision to challenge the election result is expected to trigger further political instability, with a final decision unlikely to be reached until mid-August 2014.
Unless you have been living under a rock lately, you will undoubtedly have heard of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), sometimes referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and its recent lightning advance across much of western and northern Iraq. To listen to many mainstream media reports, the Sunni militant group is akin to an all-conquering force, brushing aside everything in its path like a modern-day Mongol ‘Golden Horde’. Indeed, the group and its allies have captured a vast amount of territory, particularly in the last fortnight, and have again demonstrated their reputation as a disciplined, well-organised and well-equipped fighting force. However, much of ISIS’s recent advances have been less about its military prowess and more about its active choice to pragmatically take advantage of opportunities, by using its well-honed ability to find and exploit weakness and division. It is clear that ISIS has helped to “breathe new life into militancy in Iraq, rejuvenating their confidence, resources, and cause”, as part of its efforts to merge regions of Iraq and Syria into a mono-religious state. The growing influence of the militant movement and its divisive agenda represents a key risk to the stability and integrity of the Republic of Iraq, which outweighs the threat it poses as a traditional military force. ISIS is unlikely to be able to generate the numbers and the support forces it would require to take and hold territory for extended periods outside of the so-called ‘Sunni Triangle’ in Iraq. Nevertheless, its true danger may lie in the reinvigoration of the sectarian conflict that so devastated the country between 2006 and 2008.read more
Despite President Dilma Rousseff’s assurances that Brazil will “fully guarantee people’s security” during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the international community has repeatedly questioned the ability of the government to protect the estimated 600,000 fans due to attend the tournament. Crime levels in Brazil, particularly those related to violent crime, are very high by international standards. Naturally, this poses the most obvious threat to foreign visitors. However, the build-up to the tournament has also been marred by protracted strike action and mass demonstrations in many of Brazil’s major cities. It is important to consider the impact that these unpredictable protests will have on the safety of World Cup fans.read more
Thailand’s political stalemate continues in the aftermath of the conclusion of two legal cases against former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The Inkerman Group outlines the political and security risks for Thailand at 08 May 2014.
WHAT IMPACT DO THE LEGAL AID CHANGES AND DECISION IN OPERATION COTTON HAVE ON THE FUTURE OF LEGALLY AIDED FRAUD CASES IN THE UK?
Last week, 01 May 2014, saw the staying of the indictment in the so called ‘Operation Cotton’ case; this was a multi-million pound fraud that centred on the sale of land. This is the first of many fraud cases that is likely to be stayed in this way as a direct result of cuts made to the legal aid budget. The five men involved in the case were on trial for fraud relating to £5 million of UK investors’ money.read more
It may seem strange to those in countries where election campaigns increasingly look like warped beauty contests in which the person matters more than the policy, that a candidate could stand in a presidential election without once stepping foot onto a podium. Stranger still: that the candidate in question would be all but guaranteed victory in said election. This is precisely the situation, however, in Algeria; with less than a week to go before the election – 17 April 2014 – seventy-seven-year-old incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika, silent since the shakily croaked announcement of his candidacy, will almost undoubtedly win a fourth term. However, an increasingly vocal opposition movement has made it clear that it does not intend to allow the elections to pass uncontested; weekly protests have been held to decry political stagnation, raising the much-feared spectre of unrest in Algeria, and making an arguably inevitable result marginally less inevitable.read more
On 05 April 2014, Afghanistan will go to the polls, to hold elections for a new president and over 400 provincial councillors. This will be the fifth national election held since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, but will be the first to be held on a constitutionally established election schedule, and also the first to be overseen by a permanent and independent entity, the IECC, rather than the controversial temporary bodies set up to monitor previous votes. Without a doubt, this upcoming election is an important moment in Afghanistan’s modern history, particularly in relation to its often problematic, decade-long democratic transition. A successful election that establishes a legitimate government would deal a substantial blow to the aspirations of Afghanistan’s militant groups. However, a failed election, combined with a coordinated push by Taliban forces, could provide an impetus and a rallying cry to these same extremist groups, potentially reinvigorating the insurgency that has caused so much bloodshed over the past decade. Although the elections could be crucial to the future stability of Afghanistan, the process is likely to be far from smooth, as there are a number of important obstacles that could significantly impact the chances of a successful outcome.read more
The difficult economic situation in Thailand has led an alliance of seven private sector organisations, including the Federation of Thai Industries, a major bankers’ association and the Tourism Council of Thailand, to call on the government and the opposition to negotiation with the aim to end the conflict and the “severe” damage to the economy. The rating agency Moody’s explicitly stated, that a “prolonging of the current political deadlock into the second half of 2014” could trigger a downgrade. However a resolution is unlikely at least in the medium-term; on 21 March 2014, in a vote of six to three, Thailand’s Constitutional Court pronounced the disrupted 02 February 2014 election invalid. The ruling implies more months under Yingluck Shinawatra’s caretaker government, which holds limited spending and decision-making powers, and whose grip on power is shaken by an ongoing impeachment trial focusing on Shinawatra’s signature rice subsidy scheme.
On 17 March 2014, in the aftermath of the contested referendum in Crimea, the European Union and United States imposed sanctions on several officials from Russia and Ukraine, who were believed to have been involved in Moscow’s actions in the Black Sea Peninsula. Unsurprisingly, the measures taken were seen as lacking bite, and this was confirmed by the fact that Russian and Crimean leaders signed a treaty absorbing the peninsula into the Russian Federation the subsequent day. Although the West is considered to have largely exhausted its options, the White House announcement that followed the 18 March 2014 events, suggest that we may see these economic sanctions expanded further. This is all the more likely to take place if Russia advances further into Ukraine proper. Effective action against Putin is no longer just a concern for Ukraine, but also its immediate eastern European neighbours.
As Somalia has attempted to shrug off its long-standing image as a ‘failed state’, a series of successful military operations against Harakat al Shabaab al Mujahideen – more commonly known as Al Shabaab – signify the beginning of a much anticipated full-scale offensive against the Islamist terrorist group. Since its emergence from the now-obsolete Union of Islamic Courts in 2006, Al Shabaab has controlled significant areas of Somalia, in which it imposes its strict interpretation of Sharia law. Despite gaining international notoriety via its merger with Ayman al Zawahiri’s Al Qaeda in 2012, however, Al Shabaab has steadily lost territory since a 2011 African Union (AU) operation forced it out of the capital, Mogadishu, which was closely followed by a subsequent operation which seized back Kismayo, a port city in the Lower Juba province which had previously generated a large portion of Al Shabaab’s income.read more
In recent weeks, the political and security situation in Bangkok has gone from bad to worse. In the aftermath of gunmen attacks on anti-government protest rallies in the capital’s busy intersections, and the country’s easternmost Trat province, Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation Chief, Tarit Pengdith warned that the country’s crisis may “escalate into civil war”, and urged “restraint and patience” on both sides of the political divide. At least twenty-three people, including children, have been killed, and around 700 have been left injured in the political unrest that plagued Thailand since late November 2013. Nonetheless, hostility between the ‘red’ and ‘yellow shirts’ continued. In a reflection of the dire circumstances, the caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Surapong Tovichakchaikul supposedly sought the advice of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in resolving in the political impasse. Until, suddenly, after seven weeks, the “shutdown”, instigated by ‘pro- establishment’ forces, came to an end.