Latin America security by the numbers

Latin America and the Caribbean
  • “In the most expensive initiative in Latin America since the Cold War, the U.S. has militarized the battle against the traffickers, spending more than $20 billion in the past decade,” reports the Associated Press. “At any given moment, 4,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Latin America and as many as four U.S. Navy ships are plying the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines of Central America. U.S. pilots clocked more than 46,400 hours in 2011 flying anti-drug missions.”

  • The Colombian government reported that landmines and unexploded munitions killed 25 civilians and injured 94 more between January and June 2012.

  • As of August 2012, the Human Rights Unit of Colombia’s attorney general’s office had obtained convictions for less than 10% of 1,727 cases of extrajudicial killings, most committed between 2004 and 2008, involving more than 3,000 victims.

  • Although murders of trade unionists are down in Colombia from a decade ago, threats against unionists continue to be widespread, with 539 cases in 2011 and 255 between January and September 15, 2012.

  • Bogotá, Colombia’s homicide rate hit its lowest point in 30 years, with 16.92 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2012.

  • The number of homicides in Mexico in 2012 fell to “somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000,” down from a record high of 27,000 in 2011, according to a new report by the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.

  • At the same time, the number of drug-related homicides in Mexico has remained essentially the same, at more than 12,000 people according to the latest Mexican media tallies, which is roughly the same number as 2010 and 2011.

  • In 2012, 591 inmates died and 1,132 were injured in violent incidents in Venezuelan prisons.

  • Every year since 2010, Venezuela has had at least one prison tragedy in which 50 or more people have been killed or seriously injured. The most recent riot left over 60 people dead and 120 injured from the Uribana prison.

  • Two Brazilian companies share a 60 percent stake in Harpia, a company that will develop drones in Brazil. The third company, with 40 percent ownership, is Israel’s Elbit Systems, which has sold drones to Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and perhaps other Latin American countries.

  • “Some economists think the annual inflation rate could rise as high as 30% this year” in Argentina, the BBC reports.

  • An 84-year-old priest in Caldas became the third Catholic priest murdered in a three-week period in Colombia.

  • U.S. Defense Department “contracts have more than doubled since 2010 in Guatemala, where there is a ban on most State Department-channeled military aid to the army. However, the ban does not apply to Defense Department assistance,” reports the Fellowship of Reconciliation. “The contracts for nearly $14 million in 2012 amount to more than seven times what it was in 2009.”

  • Before Venezuela’s February 8 currency devaluation, a Big Mac at McDonalds cost US$16.27 at the official exchange rate.

  • Since 1999, Colombia’s child-welfare agency has assisted 5,092 former guerrilla and paramilitary fighters under the age of 18.

  • Of 109 alleged human rights abuse cases for which the Mexican government’s ombudsman has recommended action, Mexico’s Defense Secretariat (Ministry) has closed 63 cases – but arrived at only two convictions.

  • “For Brazil to keep up with [electricity] demand, two giant dams, just like this one, must go up every year,” said the director of a project to build the 14th-largest dam in the world on an Amazon River tributary.

  • Gallup asked Central Americans whether street crime or narcotrafficking should be their government’s priority. A majority said “street crime” in El Salvador (by a 79%-18% margin), Guatemala (64-30), Honduras (57-40), and Panama (43-42). A majority said “narcotrafficking” in Costa Rica (51-41) and Nicaragua (55-35).

  • The Western Hemisphere country with the most military personnel per capita is, surprisingly, Uruguay with 744 soldiers, sailors or airmen per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Colombia (633 per 100,000), the United States (505) and Venezuela (416). Brazil (157), Honduras (147) and Guatemala (110) are at the bottom of the list of nations with militaries in the region.

Written with research assistance from WOLA Intern Elizabeth Glusman.