A new report from the Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program and the Latin American Public Opinion Project at Vanderbilt University surveyed over 9,000 people in Central America, in order to better understand how violence has impacted everyday life in the region.
The findings paint a picture of communities where fear has shaped a wide range of behavior: not letting children play in the street, not taking public transportation, and not buying expensive goods that might be stolen.
Overall, the report urges U.S. policymakers to focus on improving the security and economic conditions that are driving people to migrate from the Northern Triangle, rather than focusing on border security measures. The report found that these "crime avoidance behaviors" are "closely correlated with intentions to migrate," particularly in Honduras (despite the fact that homicide levels have been decreasing in recent years). This is one reason why U.S. policymakers concerned about migration would do well to focus on this country, the report states.
- The New York Times reports that a lack of funding has limited the number of areas that scientists can monitor for future seismic activity in and around Mexico. One particular area of concern is called the Guerrero Gap, parts of which are long due for a large earthquake. "There are so many priorities in Mexico that it’s difficult that a seismology geophysics project gets financing this big,” one researcher told the newspaper.
- Cuba has released new details, reports the AP, on how its officials collaborated with U.S. investigators looking into the mysterious "sonic attacks" that have intensified tensions between the two countries (see yesterday's brief). While Cuba says it has allowed U.S. "investigative agencies," including the FBI, to visit the country three times since June, a Washington Post editorial argues that overall, the Cuban government's reaction has been "inadequate," and the U.S. response, "prudent."
- In The Miami Herald, former U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials speculate that the technology behind the "seismic attacks" in Cuba could range from microwave beams to acoustic weapons. “If we say we can’t identify it, it’s probably because we have one of our own,” one retired diplomat told the newspaper. “And we’re not going to let them know we know anything about it.”
- Guatemala's Elperiodico attempted to quiz President Jimmy Morales about the government's current stance towards the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), but Morales' answers proved "evasive." While tensions between the CICIG and the Morales administration no longer seem as intense as they were in September, the anti-impunity commission's future in Guatemala remains uncertain. Some of the country's political elites are already hard at work trafficking favors and pressuring their connections in order to debilitate support for the CICIG from social, business and faith groups, reports Plaza Publica.
- Peru's Supreme Court will hear several key drug trafficking and money laundering cases over the next month, and an elite group of powerful law firms who've made a living defending officials accused of financial crimes are sure to be watching closely, reports Ojo Publico. The rulings could establish a precedent that would make it harder for prosecutors to obtain convictions on money laundering charges.
- In a sign that U.S. sanctions may have a counterproductive effect in Venezuela, Reuters reports that President Nicolas Maduro's approval rating has risen six points to 23 percent. Elsewhere, The Washington Post reports on Venezuela's extreme cash shortage (Caracas Chronicles also has a helpful explainer on the issue).
- The Los Angeles Times profiles a small Mexican town that received help from a U.S. engineer to help rebuild its beloved, historical clock tower in the town plaza. Reconstruction efforts continue across Mexico, and concerns abide over whether officials will manage relief funds appropriately and ensure that new buildings follow established safety codes -- Animal Politico reports that a group of activists have already filed suit in Mexico City, demanding an investigation into whether corruption and lack of oversight exacerbated the damage caused by the Sept. 19 earthquake.
- Foreign Affairs describes the U.S. rebuke against Colombia's rising coca cultivation as "the wrong way to pressure Colombia."
- The United Nations Special Envoy to El Salvador has been unable to make much headway in helping the country address its political, fiscal or security problems, mostly because of resistance from right-wing party ARENA, reports El Faro. The envoy was appointed earlier this year in order to facilitate dialogue among Salvadorans.
- Ponte published a series of infographics on Brazil's femicide and domestic violence rates, noting that most of those affected are women of color. In total, more than 47,000 women were killed in femicide cases over a ten-year period.
- The New York Times reports on a fungus outbreak that could debilitate Central America's cacao industry. Like many crops, cacao has become more vulnerable to diseases because the agriculture industry tends to only cultivate a few select varieties, the report says.
- El Pais interviewed urban development specialist Horacio Torres of the World Bank on the future of Latin America's cities. Latin America has one of the highest urbanization rates in the world and its expanding cities will be home to a young rather than aging population. However, the development of "smart," car-less cities depends on whether the region can face up to challenges like violence, educational inequality, and uncontrolled growth, Torres says.
- Bloomberg Politics has a brief look at the impunity and protection enjoyed by the 40 percent of Brazilian Congressional representatives who are facing criminal charges. There's even one Congressman who received a seven-year prison sentence on corruption charges, but remains in office (he spends his nights in jail).
- The office of Colombia's Ombudsman has criticized the government's efforts to reintegrate former guerrillas in key areas affected by the conflict, reports Verdad Abierta.
- Radio Ambulante's latest episode profiles volunteer relief efforts in Mexico City. It's heartwarming.