Long-form readings about Latin America in 2011: a list from Adam

Latin America and the Caribbean

Over the course of 2011, I read or saved a large pile of articles that were:

  • Somehow related to security in Latin America and the Caribbean;
  • Available at no cost on the Internet;
  • At least 2,500 words in length; and
  • Not written by the three organizations participating in the “Just the Facts” project. See the end of this post for a list of our own 2011 long-form writings about security in Latin America and the Caribbean.

After a lot of reading over the holiday break, here are links to my favorite 2011 long-form articles about security in the Americas.

Congratulations and thanks to the authors of all of these very informative pieces. Comments are open on this post, so feel free to add anything that I may have missed — I was on the road a lot last year.

  • Bruce Bagley, “El ‘efecto globo’ o por qué se está perdiendo la ‘Guerra contra las Drogas,’Razón Pública (Colombia), January 31, 2011. A veteran scholar of the “war on drugs” gives a thorough overview of this endeavor’s current state, its shortcomings and its unintended consequences. (Part 1) (Part 2)

  • Rory Carroll, “Drugs, murder and redemption: the gangs of Caracas,” The Guardian (UK), March 10, 2011. Carroll tells the stories of gang members in El Cementerio, a neighborhood in El Consejo, a city west of Caracas.

  • Jim Popkin, “Authorities in Awe of Drug Runners’ Jungle-Built, Kevlar-Coated Supersubs,” Wired, March 29, 2011. Worth a read, if only for the photos.

  • Perry Anderson, “Lula’s Brazil,” London Review of Books (UK), March 31, 2011. A fair and engrossing overview, from a political economy perspective, of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva’s eight years in office.

  • David Grann, “A Murder Foretold,” The New Yorker, April 4, 2011. An account of the bizarre conspiracy around the death of Guatemalan Rodrigo Rosenberg, which threatened the presidency of Álvaro Colom until investigators, especially the UN anti-impunity commission (CICIG), solved the case.

  • Patricio Zamorano, “Honduras: an urgent need for a new social pact,” Center for Democracy in the Americas, May 2011. The author observes the country’s peaceful “resistance” movement and determines that, in an atmosphere of extreme polarization, achieving reconciliation in post-coup Honduras will be a very complex task.

  • Sergio Arauz, Óscar Martínez, and Efren Lemus, “El Cártel de Texis,” El Faro (El Salvador), May 16, 2011. A remarkable investigative piece reveals a macabre alliance between narcotraffickers, gangs, police and politicians in northwestern El Salvador.

  • Karl Penhaul, “Inside the FARC: Colombia’s guerilla fighters,” Al Jazeera, May 30, 2011. The veteran war reporter, the first in several years to find a way to embed with Colombia’s FARC, finds a guerrilla group that remains deadly, but on the run and badly hurt by the Colombian military’s air superiority.

  • Kevin Casas-Zamora, “The Travails of Development and Democratic Governance in Central America,” The Brookings Institution, June 2011. While exploring Central America’s grave institutional, political and security shortcomings, Casas determines that Central America has still made important progress since the 1980s.

  • Max Chafkin, “A Constant Feeling of Crisis,” Inc., June 2011. Based on interviews with some of the country’s wealthy entrepreneurs, the author finds that despite its booming economy, Argentina is a difficult place to do business.

  • Eduardo Guerrero Gutiérrez, “La raíz de la violencia,” Nexos (Mexico), June 1, 2011. An exhaustive but clear look at violence trends in Mexico. The author concludes that “Mexico now needs to focus its efforts on reducing violence, even if this means directing less resources to fighting international drug trafficking.”

  • Nik Steinberg, “The Monster and Monterrey: The Politics and Cartels of Mexico’s Drug War,” The Nation, June 13, 2011. A Human Rights Watch researcher looks at the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Mexico’s principal industrial city.

  • La telaraña de los ‘paras’ en Urabá,” Verdad Abierta (Colombia), June 14, 2011. The results of an investigation of how paramilitary groups in northwestern Colombia became big landholders, allied themselves with politicians, and even set up foundations that received international aid — while simultaneously massacring and displacing populations and trafficking drugs.

  • Daniel Wilkinson, “Death and Drugs in Colombia,” The New York Review of Books, June 23, 2011. A Human Rights Watch researcher’s review of a book by Claudia López offers one of the best overviews in English of paramilitary power and Álvaro Uribe’s presidency in Colombia.

  • Damien Cave, “Better Lives for Mexicans Cut Allure of Going North,” The New York Times, July 6, 2011. A look at demographic, economic and security reasons why Mexican migration to the United States has dropped sharply. I like the scrolling interactive feature in the left column.

  • Para que los hechos no se repitan,” Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Honduras, July 8, 2011. While finding fault on all sides, the commission’s worthwhile report finds that an illegal military coup did take place on June 28, 2009, and that an alarming number of human rights abuses have followed.

  • Richard Marosi, “Inside the Cartel,” The Los Angeles Times, July 24-28, 2011. A four-part look, based on DEA investigations, at how Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel “moves drugs into Southern California and across the United States.” (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4)

  • Violence and Politics in Venezuela,” International Crisis Group, August 17, 2011. The report raises concerns about what worsening organized crime, proliferating small arms, deteriorating justice institutions and a polarizing political climate bode for Venezuela’s future.

  • Vanda Felbab-Brown, “Calderón’s Caldron,” The Brookings Institution, September 2011. Focusing on three zones, the author evaluates the Mexican government’s frustrated attempts to deal with organized crime, and suggests some strategic shifts.

  • María Teresa Ronderos, “La fiebre minera se apoderó de Colombia,” Semana (Colombia), September 6, 2011. Mining companies have requested 22,000 exploration and exploitation titles, covering one-fifth of Colombia’s territory. In eight years, the Álvaro Uribe government granted 9,000 of them. (Though it’s not 2,500 words, see also this June report on illegal mining in Madre de Dios, Peru, by Frank Bajak of the Associated Press.)

  • Keeping Haiti Safe: Police Reform,” International Crisis Group, September 8, 2011. A diagnosis of Haiti’s National Police, which is undergoing a slow, halting reform amid official calls to restore the army that was abolished in the mid-1990s.

  • Xavier Albó, “El Alto in Flux,” Revista: Harvard Review of Latin America, Fall 2011. A look at life and politics in the sprawling majority-Aymara city that overlooks — and is now larger than — La Paz, Bolivia.

  • A Culture of Cruelty: Abuse and Impunity in Short-Term U.S. Border Patrol Custody,” No More Deaths, September 21, 2011. A disturbing report based on interviews of thousands of migrants deported from the Border Patrol’s Arizona sector (PDF).

  • Neither Rights Nor Security,” Human Rights Watch, November 9, 2011. An indictment of the Mexican government’s security policies, which have so far brought few improvements in security or the rule of law. A useful guide to Mexico’s security and justice institutions, which in HRW’s view are not reforming quickly enough.

  • Alma Guillermoprieto, “In the New Gangland of El Salvador,” The New York Review of Books, November 10, 2011. The veteran reporter tries to explain the country’s vexing maras phenomenon.

  • Juanita León, “Santos les está dando a los militares lo que Uribe nunca se atrevió a concederles,” La Silla Vacía (Colombia), November 16, 2011. Discussing several legislative initiatives that would make it harder to hold the military accountable for human rights abuses, León paints a portrait of troubled civil-military relations in Colombia under President Juan Manuel Santos.

  • Gustavo Gorriti and Romina Mella, “Entrevista a ‘Artemio’ en el Huallaga,” IDL Reporteros (Peru), December 6, 2011. Reporters interview a founding member of Peru’s Shining Path insurgency, who still leads a small guerrilla column deep in the jungle. “Artemio” admits his faction’s defeat and says he is willing to negotiate a truce.

  • Mattathias Schwartz, “A Massacre in Jamaica,” The New Yorker, December 12, 2011. A narrative of the U.S.-supported May 2010 offensive against Kingston drug trafficker Christopher “Dudus” Coke, in which Jamaican security forces killed and abused civilians.

Here are some 2011 long-form articles by organizations participating in the Just the Facts project.