Latin America Civil-Military Relations Update - August 14, 2014

Latin America and the Caribbean

Mexico is getting ready to introduce its new gendarmerie police force, Colombia's Congress entered into its third round of debate over military justice reforms, and Nicaragua formalized its community police force . Read these highlights and more below. 

  • The Mexican government is preparing to roll out its new gendarmerie police force within the next two weeks. Although Mexican President Peña Nieto’s original plans called for 40,000 members, the force has now been scaled back to 5,000 officers. The unit was meant to provide an alternative to the military’s involvement in domestic security, but this is unlikely given its small size and that many of its members hail from the more military oriented federal police.
  • Colombia’s Congress is heading into its third round of debate on a heated military justice reform bill that would hand jurisdiction of military members accused of human rights violations from civilian to military courts. Colombian officials rejected the idea that the reforms will be what Human Right Watch publicly referred to as a “recipe for impunity.”  Click here to read Human Rights Watch’s open letter to Colombia’s defense minister in opposition to the bill.
  • In Peru, 50 protestors are standing trial for their involvement in an anti-mining demonstration that turned deadly following clashes with police over five years ago. Since then, Peru has passed a “license to kill” law that gives “members of the armed forces and the national police exemption from criminal responsibility if they cause injury or death while on duty.”
  • Plaza Pública reported that Guatemala’s National Security Council (CNS) now officially views social protests over extractive projects as a threat to national security. Troops were recently deployed to the southern municipality of San Rafael La Flores municipality to quell protests over a new mining project there. The government also opened a local Interagency Group of Mining Affairs, which some refer to as “ a military intelligence office.”
  • Venezuela’s former director of military intelligence Hugo Carvajal was arrested in Aruba last week following allegations that he was in league with former Norte del Valle cartel head Wilber “Jabón” Varela between 2004 and 2008. The United States has also wanted Carvajal since 2008 for supposedly aiding Colombia’s FARC guerilla group. The Netherlands has since released Carvajal, who was being held on a U.S. warrant, after threats by Venezuela that it would end vital commercial air and state oil contracts to the islands of Aruba and Curaçao.
  • Over 700 of Bolivia’s low ranking military and police officers have joined together in protest over alleged constitutional rights abuses and acts of discrimination committed by superiors. The protests, which are going into their third month, are the byproduct of crippling rank relations within the country’s security forces. Officials from both the police and military have confirmed that none of the officers that joined the protests have sought out reinstatement in their units.
  • Only July 25th, Nicaragua passed a new law that would give President Daniel Ortega more control over the country’s police force. The law, which includes raising retirement age and creating new specialized police units, would officially establish community-based volunteer police within the force. Despite including much needed reforms, there are fears that the law may unnecessarily politicize the country’s police.