Central America has gained fame for being one of the most violent regions in the world. For example, the Guardian published an article in June 2014 on “The 10 world cities with the highest murder rates – in pictures” based on the recent data released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that shows that eight of the ten most violent cities in the world are in Latin America; the Central American cities are Guatemala City, Belize City, Tegucigalpa, Panama City and San Salvador. However, amid this negative press, excellent news has been announced by the Guatemalan and Honduran Presidents; that their latest homicide statistics indicate that instances of homicide have dropped over ten and twenty points in the past two years, respectively. Is this good news just too good to be true?read more
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
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
Analogies of Frankenstein’s monster have been invoked as Mexican federal forces descend on Michoacán state to prevent vigilante self-defence groups from confronting the Knights Templar drug cartel in Apatzingan city. A threat to security which both the previous and current administrations had a hand in creating, the sudden advance of the self-defence groups has presented Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto with a complex challenge that puts his ambitious plans for reform in jeopardy.
Fuerzas autodefensas – self-defence forces – have featured in rural Mexico for decades, but began to emerge and spread with disquieting frequency in the latter half of 2013. The phenomenon has drawn increased attention, both from the Mexican government and the international community, in the early weeks of 2014, as the rapid vigilante advances seen in Michoacán state have raised concerns that the groups will tip the region over the edge from simmering violence into all-out war.read more
Uncertainty about the future of the government in Honduras was rife the day after the country’s general election was held on 24 November 2013, as both of the main presidential candidates claimed victory after only around a quarter of the votes had been counted. Over two weeks later, despite the official declaration by the country’s electoral tribunal that the ruling Partido Nacional candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez had won, his main rival Xiomara Castro maintains her claim that she is the true president of Honduras. She, along with her husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, led thousands of protesters on 01 December 2013, to demand a full vote recount. The following day, the electoral tribunal agreed to begin a recount of the vote tally sheets compiled at more than 16,000 polling stations, but stopped short of agreeing to a full recount of votes. Castro has since filed a formal request for the election to be annulled.
For over fifty years Colombia has been ravaged by civil war. Triggered by the 1948 assassination of popular socialist leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán and the violent repression of rural communist movements in the 1960s, the conflict has killed at least 220,000 Colombians since 1964 according to a government report. Unofficial statistics place the number as high as 600,000, with an estimated three million people displaced. Although the influence and scope of Colombia’s two largest rebel militias, the ELN and FARC, has significantly decreased since a US-supported government offensive in 2002, both organisations continue to carry out attacks hindering both the economic and human development of the Latin American country. Whilst peace negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest rebel group, are currently being conducted, violence continues to be part of daily domestic interactions. Amid this, the prospects of the peace talks are looking increasingly fragile.read more