Week in Review

Latin America and the Caribbean

This post was co-written by Sarah Kinosian and CIP intern Benjamin Fagan

U.S. Policy

On Thursday the U.S. Congress passed the Organization of American States Revitalization and Reform Act of 2013, a bill that requires the Obama administration create a strategy to reform the Organization of American States (OAS). Obama will likely sign off on the bill as it was signed by unlikely parties from both sides of the political spectrum, analyst James Bosworth noted. In that event, Secretary of State Kerry will have 180 days to submit a multi-year proposal to Congress. Eliot Engel, the senior Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “The passage of this legislation signals a rebound in the Congressional relationship with the OAS.”

USAID released a report, ”Detailed Guidelines for Improved Tax Administration in Latin America and the Caribbean that will “enable tax administrations to assess their own performance against leading practices in a variety of areas.” A blog written by USAID economic advisor Doug Pulsar highlights the inability of several countries in the region to to collect and manage public revenues effectively.

The United States Government Accountability Office released a report calling for improvements in the implementation of the Leahy Law. In particular, the report calls for the State Department to better guide embassies on how to implement a requirement that “directs State to inform the foreign government if funds are withheld under the law and, to the maximum extent practicable, assist the foreign government in bringing those responsible to justice.”

U.N. General Assembly

Several Latin American leaders spoke at the UN General Assembly meeting this week. Yesterday Just the Facts provided a round-up and summary of their statements. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff received the most media attention over her harsh criticism of U.S. surveillance practices. Also notable were statements from Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Guatemala’s Otto Perez Molina calling for global drug policy reform yet again in front of the international body.


Following Rousseff’s critical speech at the UN, there were a number of articles examining U.S.-Brazil relations. Links to them can be found here. The Miami Herald published an interview with a former U.S. ambassador who said "From Washington’s perspective, the Brazilian government is not exactly friendly," noting the country’s relatively friendly relations with Iran, Venezuela and Cuba. The Christian Science Monitor asked, “Is Brazil’s Rousseff the New Voice of Latin America?” while the New York Times’ Room for Debate blog asked contributors with differing views, “As Brazil Snubs the U.S., Who Loses?”

Peru coca numbers

Peru has replaced Colombia as the world's leading producer of coca, according to the United Nations. This increase has been reflected in rising U.S. funding for counternarcotics operations in the country, Fox News Latino noted.This year, anti-drug assistance to Peru reached $100 million, almost double 2012's $55 million. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “It's a shift in the map of Andean coca production, which experts say strongly resembles the landscape from the early 1990s, a time of expanding drug crop cultivation and trafficking.” According to Peru’s former drug czar, Ricardo Soberon, “The problem exists because there is a complicity and corruption at various levels that allow planting to continue,” he told EFE in an interview.


  • Two majors storms have battered Mexico and left at least 115 dead. Security analyst Alejandro Hope writing for Animal Politico deems such storms more damaging to national security than criminal groups and drug cartels, and says policymakers should begin to tackle the risk of such events.
  • InSight Crime published a piece that gives an up-to-date overview of the current state of Mexico’s Sinaloa Federation, the Zetas, and other active cartels. According to the article, “Mexico's drug trafficking organizations have increasingly splintered, and may well end up consolidated under the influence of the last cartel standing. That cartel would likely be the Sinaloa Federation.”
  • In Mexico, “Military courts suffer from a fundamental conflict of interest, because the military acts as both defendant and judge,” writes Maureen Meyer and Clay Boggs in a new post from the Washington Office on Latin America. The authors call for an overhaul of the country’s Military Code of Justice to allow human rights abuses of citizens by military personnel to be tried in civilian courts.


Talks between the FARC rebel group and the Colombian government have slowed down in recent weeks. La Silla Vacia explores the reasons behind the stalled peace process, noting that Santos’ low poll numbers and recent protests by campesinos may be emboldening the rebel group. Another blow to the peace process was an announcement by FARC leader Timochenko that the group may break the confidentiality of the talks because the Santos administration was “imposing unilateral decisions.” Soon after, Timochenko denied that the group threatened to break the secrecy of talks but that keeping the Colombian people informed of advances in the talks, “did not break the pact of confidentiality.”


Authorities seized1.4 tons (2,900 lbs.) of cocaine from an Air France flight from Caracas to Paris. It was the largest seizure in French history. So far, 22 people have been detained in connection with the seizures, including low level Venezuelan military officers. As security analyst James Bosworth noted that it is unlikely that high level officials will be held accountable. The drug haul has substantiated U.S. officials’ concerns about the involvement of Venezuelan military and government officials in drug trafficking, particularly since the National Guard is in charge of airport security in Caracas. Reuters reported on Wednesday that Venezuelan authorities had seized another, considerably smaller, drug load (9.7 lbs) at the Caracas airport on a flight headed to Ibiza, Spain.


International Crisis Group released a new report on the Guatemalan justice system and the trial of former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt.


  • Jamaican police figures indicate 860 homicides were recorded between January and September 23 this year, compared to 820 over the same period last year. Police attribute this spike to increased gang activity. As InSight Crime noted, “Much of the violence on the island is perpetuated by warring gangs involved in drug trafficking, as well as street crime and property theft.” According to the U.S. State Department’s 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy report, Jamaica is not only the biggest Caribbean supplier of marijuana to the United States it also has a conviction rate of five percent due to its “sluggish” criminal justice system.
  • On Tuesday, Jamaican lawmakers debated a proposal to decriminalize marijuana for personal use. No bill has been drafted or vote scheduled. As the Associated Press noted, Jamaicans are growing tired of prohibitionist laws that result in “300 young men receiving criminal records each week for possessing small amounts of ‘ganja,’” hurting their employment opportunities. The article also highlighted that previous efforts have stalled over fears of U.S. reprisal, but that marijuana legalization initiatives in Washington and Colorado have calmed those worries.
  • This appears to be part of a growing trend in the Caribbean as EFE reported Puerto Rico’s Senate will also begin to consider a proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. It also noted that St. Lucia has been debating the issue for some time now and that the prime minister of St.Vincent and the Grenadines has proposed his counterpart from Trinidad and Tobago who currently heads the Caribbean Community, or Caricom, push debate on legalizing medical marijuana.