The Week in Review

Latin America and the Caribbean

The following is a round-up of some of the top security-related articles and news highlights from around the region over the past week.


Peace Talks

  • On Sunday, the FARC declared a 30-day ceasefire beginning December 15. The FARC’s statement came a day after the group bombed a police station in Cauca, killing nine. President Santos said the government would continue to fight the rebels throughout the ceasefire, while FARC leader “Pablo Catatumbo” warned on Tuesday there could be more attacks before the ceasefire begins Sunday. More from BBC, Semana, Colombia Reports and Fusion.
  • The Colombian government and the FARC released a joint report detailing the November accord on the guerrilla group's political participation.

Aerial eradication

  • The U.S. Ambassador - Designate to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker, said ending the aerial eradication program would be a “great mistake.” Whitaker also expressed his support for the peace talks. More analysis from Adam Isacson and the United Institute of Peace’s Ginny Bouvier.

U.S. influence in drug policy

  • Colombian news and analysis site La Silla Vacía published a list of the 10 most powerful actors with respect to drug policy in the country. The number one spot went to President Obama and the number 10 spot to former President Álvaro Uribe. The FARC, the U.S. Embassy and Open Sociey Foundations were also included on the list.

Bogota mayor

  • On Monday, Colombia's ultra-conservative prosecutor general, Alejandro Ordóñez, removed left-wing Bogota Mayor Guastavo Petro and banned him from holding public office for 15 years. Ordóñez claimed Petro had improvised and mismanaged a shift in responsibility of the city's garbage collection systems to a public collection service, resulting in tons of trash being left on the streets for several days last year. Petro and his supporters called the move an undemocratic right-wing “coup” by ruling conservatives threatened by his leftist views. On Monday and Tuesday, thousands converged on Bogota's main square, Plaza Bolivar, in support of Petro, who, hoping for a “Colombian Spring,” called for massive demonstrations to take place Friday.

    Given Petro was a former M-19 guerrilla, several observers have noted his dismissal could have repercussions for the peace talks in Havana. The guerrillas could interpret the move as a sign there are no political guarantees for leftist politicians, dissuading them from entering into formal politics. As Colombian magazine Semana noted, Ordóñez' decision has rallied support for Petro, not only within the capital city, but from the United States, the FARC, Colombia's political left, sectors of the indigenous population, the United Nations and the European Parliament.

    At his nomination hearing this Wednesday, the U.S. Ambassador - Designate to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker, said the move "could erode" the peace process, while the FARC, in a statement released Wednesday, commented, "With a simple signature, Ordoñez gave those of use who have risen up in arms a lesson in what democracy means to the oligarchy in Colombia." Petro has appealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and said he plans to appeal the decision, the deadline for which is January. More from the Miami Herald, La Silla Vacía and the Christian Science Monitor on the effect on the peace talks and El Tiempo on the Colombian government’s negative reaction to Whitaker's statement.

Uruguay Marijuana bill

  • On Tuesday, Uruguay's Senate approved a bill in a 16 to 13 vote that would allow the government to regulate the production and distribution of marijuana, which lawmakers consider fundamental to reducing drug-related violence in the country. President Jose Mujica is expected to sign the bill into law on Friday, however, he has reiterated he views the measure as an "experiment.” The U.N. International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has come out against the proposal, saying it breaks international anti-drug laws, while bordering countries Brazil and Argentina have expressed concern about increased trafficking. President Mujica told INCB head Raymond Yans to “stop lying” in reference to Yans’ claims that Uruguayan officials would not meet with him.

    More from the Pan-American Post, El País, Reuters, The Economist, and the New York Times, while the Transnational Institute's Drugs and Democracy program has useful infographics on why the measure was implemented and how it will work.

    InSight Crime has a feature looking at short-term and long-term obstacles to the bill, such as pushback from opposition lawmakers that have vowed to repeal the law and low public approval for the measure.

Venezuelan municipal elections

  • As was expected, Venezuela's ruling PSUV party won the majority of municipal elections that were held last Sunday. The final tally indicated that the PSUV won 44 percent of the local seats and the MUD part won 42 percent. Many had described the vote as a referendum for President Nicolas Maduro’s presidency, and as Venezuela expert David Smilde wrote on WOLA’s Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog, “This result clearly gives Maduro some breathing room.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the elections had “met the standards” despite “some questions of irregularities.” More from Christian Science Monitor, NPR, James Bosworth, the Miami Herald, World Politics Review, and the Economist.
  • The Venezuelan government says the country’s homicide rate is expected to drop by 25 percent this year: from a government-recorded 56 homicides per 100,000 people to 39 per 100,000, which would be the lowest rate in four years. In an interview with Reuters, Venezuela’s interior minister attributed the decrease to Plan Patria Segura, an anti-crime initiative that ramped up the presence of troops on the streets.InSight Crime highlighted the inconsistency and unreliability of official crime numbers, as the Venezuelan government has admitted to keeping unwanted statistics secret.


  • Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has confirmed conservative ruling party candidate Juan Orlando Hernández as the official winner of the country’s presidential elections, despite complaints of fraud and electoral irregularity filed by the opposition LIBRE and Anti-Corruption parties. Secretary of State John Kerry formally extended his congratulations to Hernández on Thursday. Hernández’ confirmation likely means the Honduran government will take a more heavy-handed approach to security, as Adam Isacson noted. More from El Heraldo and the BBC.


  • Chile is holding a presidential runoff election this Sunday, which former President Michelle Bachelet is almost certain to win. Bachelet won 47% of the vote in the first round, almost double that of her conservative rival, Evelyn Matthei. Even Matthei has said she would consider a victory a “miracle.” More from La Tercera.



  • This week police protests and strikes that started ten days ago spread to 20 of Argentina’s 23 provinces. The strikes and subsequent looting have resulted in mass violence, including the death of 12 people. The officers are demanding higher wages and better work conditions. According to La Nación, the strikes and looting have subsided but are still ongoing in three provinces and parts of Buenos Aires, the capital city. More from the Economist and the Pan-American Post.