Latin America Security By the Numbers: July 31, 2015

Latin America and the Caribbean

This post was compiled by WOLA Intern Caroline Buhse.

Peace negotiations between the FARC guerrilla group and the government of Colombia have new momentum amid a new unilateral guerrilla ceasefire, but negotiators must contend with the difficult issue of how to hold the most serious human rights violators accountable. Colombia’s chief prosecutor, Eduardo Montealegre warned that his office has documented 56,000 cases of human rights violations involving the FARC. Montealegre stated that if the most serious human rights violations are not sanctioned and punished by a transitional justice system, there cannot be a post-conflict recovery.

In Colombia, debate continues over obligatory military service for 18 to 28 year old citizens. The Ministry of Labor suggested that young people could work in the public sector instead of fulfilling military duty, along with amnesty for individuals over 24 who are reluctant to enter the military. However, the military does offer employment in Colombia where over one million people between the ages of 18 and 28 are unemployed. The military is largely comprised of the poorer sectors of the economy: it was shown that of the 466,000 people recruited between 2008 and 2012, 81 percent belong to the two poorest sectors of the economy.

An investigation completed by the Resource Center for Conflict Analysis (CERAC) in Colombia stated that the FARC was responsible for 83 violent acts during the month of June, including 24 cases of harassment towards government officials, 21 intentional explosions, 9 passenger vehicles set on fire, 4 ambushes and 3 assassinations. June was the most violent month since the start of the peace talks in Havana in 2012, and the percentage of violent acts went up 43 percent in comparison to June 2014. The FARC had declared an end to a 5-month-long unilateral ceasefire on May 22, which it reinstated on July 20.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released its annual survey of coca cultivation in Colombia. The survey showed that both the area of coca cultivation and cocaine production increased in 2014. The net coca cultivation area was up 44 percent from 48,000 acres in 2013 to 69,000 in 2014, and cocaine production rose 52 percent, from 290 metric tons in 2013 to 442 metric tons in 2014. (The U.S. government, which maintains a different set of estimates, found 112,000 hectares and 245 metric tons in 2014.)

The Office of the Attorney General of Mexico detained 22 public servants allegedly linked to the prison escape of top narcotrafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Twelve others were freed under Mexican law, but they could be called to testify at any time. The government also received testimony from the 17 inmates who occupy cells near Guzmán’s. Chapo escaped from Mexico’s high-security Altiplano prison on July 11, 2015.

July 7th marked the one-year anniversary of Mexico’s “Southern Border Plan,” launched to deal with a greatly increased flow of migrants crossing into Mexico via its southern border. In the last year the Mexican government has increased capture of migrants by 90 percent over 2014. Complaints of attacks and kidnappings are also on the rise, and crime and theft rates against migrants have risen 81 percent.

The government of Uruguay counted an official total of 192 missing persons as a result of the actions of the state between 1968 and 1985, a period when Uruguay was mostly dominated by military dictatorships. Government officials said that this figure is most likely an underestimate, and they are continuing to investigate the past.

Venezuela’s annual inflation has risen to the triple digits as an economic crisis continues. Between May 2014 and May 2015, consumer prices rose 108 percent, and they are predicted to rise to 150 and 200 percent by the end of the year. Banks say that a 100-bolivar note, Venezuela’s highest denomination, is now worth less than 20 U.S. cents on the black market. Inflation is at its highest point since Venezuela started measuring it 60 years ago.

In Peru 450 police officers are being investigated for their role in corruption. The officers were involved in schemes involving bribes and theft of fuel. The government stated that depending on the severity of the crime the officers will receive three months to ten years in prison.