Sep 16, 2013

Latin America Security By the Numbers

  • 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.

By Adam Isacson
This post was drafted by WOLA Intern Michael Pelzer.


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