Since the 2006 launch of the Mexican "war on drugs," the country has spent at least $54 billion on security and defense, and the U.S. has donated at least $1.5 billion, but the biggest costs have been human, reports the Guardian. Almost 200,000 people have been murdered and more than 28,000 reported as disappeared.
Earlier this week InSight Crime noted that the ten years of militarized attacks on drug cartels has "failed to substantially improve the nation's security situation."
Mexican Defense Secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos says the army is uncomfortable with the law-enforcement role it was given ten years ago, when the government launched a "war on drugs," reports the Associated Press. Cienfuegos said the army was supposed to be a stopgap while new police forces were built, but that it hasn't happened.
- Brazilian President Michel Temer played a key role in defusing a potential constitutional crisis this week between the Senate and the Supreme Court. The compromise he brokered -- leaving Senate president Renan Calheiros in his post, but taking him out of the line of presidential succession due to his indictment in a corruption case -- may have ensured the passage of his administration's centerpiece economic overhauls. But it may ultimately further undermine a scandal plagued political system, reports Reuters. And the deal, aimed at preserving the country from further economic recession, weakens the judiciary, which Brazilians have looked to in order to clean up a political establishment plagued with corruption.
- Calheiros said yesterday that the final vote on the government's key fiscal austerity measure will be held as planned next Tuesday, reports Reuters.
- The headlines have moved on, but the influx of Central American migrants at the U.S. Mexico border continues to increase, reports the Guardian. "According to Border Patrol statistics, 46,195 people were apprehended on the southwest border in October – an increase from recent months and a rise of 41% from the previous October. ... In total, 408,870 people – including 59,692 lone minors – were stopped in the past fiscal year, compared with 331,333 in 2015 and 479,371 in 2014."
- Of course if you have money, the situation changes: Wealthy politicians and businessmen suspected of corruption have found haven in the U.S., entering on a variety of visas, including one designed to encourage investment, reports the Miami Herald. A ProPublica investigation has revealed that officials fleeing prosecution in Colombia, China, South Korea, Bolivia and Panama have found refuge for themselves and their wealth in this country, taking advantage of lax enforcement of U.S. laws and gaps in immigration and financial regulations.
- Latin America leads the world in clean energy production, reports the Economist. In 2014, Latin America as a whole produced 53 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, compared with a world average of 22 percent.
- Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will be awarded the Nobel Peace prize tomorrow, in recognition of his efforts to end a five decade conflict with the guerrilla FARC. After a plebiscite narrowly rejected a peace deal years in the making, Santos has pushed a modified accord through Congress. His avoidance of a popular referendum this time around aims at salvaging the negotiations, but means he will have to defend a deal that lacks a public mandate, argues Semana journalist Marta Ruiz in a New York Times op-ed. The polemic over the deal reflects "the division between the conservative and liberal elites over issues including the lack of agrarian reform, the shortcomings of Colombian democracy, the unsuccessful war on drugs and rampant impunity for crimes," she writes. "Since Mr. Santos did not manage to build a basic consensus around peace, he is obliged to fight for it in the 20 months he has left to govern. He must show that peace is a major accomplishment not only for his administration but also for the country. He’s betting that disarming the FARC will be felt as a dramatic improvement in the everyday lives of Colombians, the sort of conclusive evidence that can convince skeptics of the benefits of peace."
- An outbreak of a mosquito-borne disease, leishmaniasis, in Colombia could be related to FARC demobilization bringing it out of the jungle and into rural communities, reports La Silla Vacía.
- Homicides in El Salvador fell 18.5 percent in the first 11 months of 2016 compared to the same period last year, reports Reuters. Officials attribute the drop to new security plans in penitentiaries.
- InSight Crime has a feature on José Adán Salazar Umaña, the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. Known as "Chepe Diablo," he has managed to evade legal cases for years, a situation that might change now. Salvadoran Attorney General Douglas Meléndez is attempting to reopen a money laundering investigation, and has asked for information from the U.S. and other countries. "To be sure, whether we are talking about evading justice along the Guatemala-El Salvador border, steering clear of an indictment in the US or paying off Salvadoran officials just the right amount of fines, Salazar Umaña has shown a remarkable ability -- or had remarkable luck -- which has allowed him to evade prosecution and troublesome investigations."
- El Faro profiles one of El Salvador's main transportation businessmen, Catalino Miranda, who refuses to pay gangs extortion money. Instead he has armed employees and hired former military troops as guards. He resists the common practise of paying off gangs for secure passage, though it has cost several employees their lives.
- FBI Special Agent David LeValley believes Salvadoran street gang MS13 has entered a phase of expansion along the U.S. East Coast. InSight Crime interviews him as part of field work done for a multi-year research initiative evaluating the transnational criminal capacity of MS-13 in the US and El Salvador sponsored by American University's Center for Latin American & Latino Studies and the National Institute of Justice.
- The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights praised Bolivian President Evo Morales' efforts to comply with international humanitarian law, reports TeleSur.
- The Peruvian government asked the contentious Las Bambas copper mine to resubmit its environmental plan, reports Reuters.
- Gangs of out-of-work fishermen are terrorizing boats along the Sucre coast in Venezuela, reports the Associated Press.
- Paraguay's Ministry of Justice has opened up an investigation into a pedophile ring thought to have groomed and raped 1,000 young girls, operating at the highest reaches of dictator Alfredo Stroessner’s government. Amid a regional push to prosecute human rights abuses committed by the Southern Cone's military dictatorships, Paraguay has lagged behind, reports Americas Quarterly. Stroessner’s supporters remain influential within parts of the ruling Colorado Party as well as Paraguay’s armed forces and the investigation into the regime's sexual abuses has only one victim willing to go on record.
- Rio de Janeiro " is a financial, political, crime-ridden mess," reports the Washington Post, in a piece that focuses on the city's post-Olympics difficulties, including a surge in violent crime, a tangled web of corruption and fiscal insolvency.
- The head of Bolivian charter airline LaMia, whose plane crashed in Colombia last month, killing dozens of Brazilian soccer players, will be held on manslaughter and other charges until the investigation is complete, reports Reuters.
- Fidel Castro's tomb -- a simple granite boulder with a metal plaque -- is inspired in a line by poet and independence leader José Martí: "All the glory in the world fits in a single kernel of corn," reports the Miami Herald.
- Cardboard representations of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump sporting devil horns were burned by Guatemalan revelers in the traditional "Quema del Diablo," reports Reuters.
- "When you are a woman in authority, they say you are hard, dry and insensitive, while a man in the same position is strong, firm and charming," said Dilma Rousseff in an interview with the Financial Times, part of a "Women of the year" series.
- The latest innovation in cocaine trafficking: a cream form of the drug transp orted in shampoo bottles to throw off authorities, reports InSight Crime.
- And cocaine use and availability increased in the U.S. for the first time in years -- the DEA says its due to the spike in Colombian production, reports InSight Crime.
- Cat-calling and other forms of sexual harassment in public are now punishable by a $60 fine in Buenos Aires, reports the BBC. A new law passed by the city's legislature allows for offenders to do community service and envisages public education campaigns, too, to try to change attitudes.