Latin America Security By The Numbers Update

Latin America and the Caribbean

This post was compiled by WOLA intern Elizabeth Lincoln.


  • In his speech at the biannual Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Arequipa, PeruUnited States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel focused on climate change, stating that the rise in sea level may claim 1,200 square miles of costal land in the next 50 years in the Caribbean. He emphasized the military’s survey assessment of 7,000 facilities for vulnerabilities and to ensure preparedness.
  • As the nearly month-long search for 43 missing students continues in Mexico, at least five mass graves have been uncovered in the area surrounding the city of Iguala, Guerrero. Municipal police working with a local organized crime group are likely to blame for the mass disappareance. This incident challenges President Enrique Peña Nieto’s claims that violence is improving in the country, and his administration has come under fire for remaining largely absent during two recent massacres and uncoverings of mass graves.
  • During a routine patrol off the coast of Guatemala, U.S. authorities seized 550 kilograms of cocaine as part of “Operation Martillo,” an ongoing U.S.-led interdiction effort along Central America’s coasts. The operation included the U.S. Navy’s USS Ingraham (FFG 61), the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell (WHEC-719), the Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49 Detachment 2 and a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET). Three individuals were apprehended for drug smuggling.
  • A new military transport plane, made by the Brazilian company Embraer, cost $1.9 billion to produce. The plane, called the KC-390, is the largest plane yet produced by Embraer, and was jointly financed by the Brazilian Air Force, Argentina, the Czech Republic, and Portugal. Embraer has set a goal of selling 728 aircrafts to 77 countries, totaling $50 billion. Embraer expects it to compete with the U.S.-made C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft.
  • Six more members of the FARC arrived in Havana, Cuba to participate in Colombian peace negotiations. The arrangement between the Colombian government and the FARC allows each delegation to have no more than 30 people, so some guerrilla leaders must return to Colombia.
  • In a 6-3 vote, the Constitutional court in Colombia gave a green light for a referendum to ratify a possible peace accord on the country’s next election day, in October 2015, when citizens will choose mayors, governors, and other local officials. A magistrate declared that the proposal to hold a referendum vote, based on objectives agreed upon by the parties in Havana, is constitutional.
  • In Colombia, the Eighth Division of the Army, which operates in the eastern edge of the country, says it has forced 132 members of the FARC and the ELN out of combat so far this year, in addition to capturing 114 members of organized crime groups. The division also said it helped eradicate 336 acres of illicit crops this year and to dismantle 13 laboratories.
  • Felina, a so-called “citizen journalist,” was targeted and killed by cartels, who effectively control the media in the border state of Tamaulipas, Mexico. She had over 1,000 followers on Twitter and half a million on Facebook. The cartels in the area, the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, have tried tirelessly to identify and kill those reporting on violence using social media, and previously offered a $48,000 reward for the names of the anonymous citizen journalists. 
  • Venezuela was voted into a two-year UN Security Council seat by 181 out of 193 member-states, with 10 countries abstaining, one country voting against Venezuela, and one null vote. The most recent term Venezuela served in the Security Council was under President Carlos Andrés Pérez from 1992 to 1993.
  • In El Salvador, authorities arrested 11 alleged members of the Barrio 18 gang, who had in their possession various firearms and six uniforms similar to those used by the National Police and Armed Forces. Among those captured, one is accused of murdering a mother and daughter, and others are accused of various homicides.
  • Panama has invested US$5,200,000,000 in the expansion of the Panama Canal to increase its value and triple its participation in commercial maritime activity. However, 37% of the Panamanian population lives in poverty, and 16.6% live in extreme poverty.