Latin America Week in Review - August 8, 2014

Latin America and the Caribbean

This week the United States provided the Nicaraguan Navy with $6 million in military equipment, President Hernandez visited U.S. Southern Command headquarters, and U.S. airmen started a training exchange with the Guatemalan air force. Read these highlights and more below. 

  •  Vice President Joe Biden shut down discussions surrounding the possible implementation of an anti-drug trafficking initiative similar to Plan Colombia in Central America. Biden stated that governments throughout the region are simply “not prepared” to implement an initiative akin to Plan Colombia. Biden’s announcement comes after proposals by Central American leaders that a security initiative similar to Plan Colombia is needed in order to solve the current child migration crisis at the border.
  •  President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras paid a surprise visit to General John Kelly at U.S. Southern Command headquarters in Miami. President Hernandez and Gen. Kelly discussed regional threats as well as cooperative security initiatives currently underway. In addition, the two discussed future initiatives between the two countries that would address the flow of illegal drugs moving up through Honduras and the entire region.
  •  U.S. authorities arrested prominent Honduran drug trafficker Digna Valle Valle in Florida on Tuesday. Investigators identified the Valle family as one of Central America’s largest drug transport clans. Some see Valle’s arrest along with recent action taken against the Matta Ballesteros trafficking clan as a major turning point for the Hernandez administration. The government’s recent efforts to curb transnational crime groups though may result in a short-term spike in violence among smaller groups seeking to fill the vacuum left by the government’s recent activity, according to InSight Crime
  • The United States donated nearly $6 million to Nicaragua’s Naval Force in order to strengthen the country’s operational capacity in combatting narcotrafficking and organized crime groups throughout the region. According to U.S. Southern Command, the donation consisted of two speedboats, equipment and construction funds for a new operations facility.
  •  Former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sánchez published an editorial in El País calling for the U.S. to re-think its approach to solving violence and instability in Central America. Rather then treating Central American countries as a proxy in the war on drugs, Arias called for the U.S. to adopt a more cooperative strategy “that seeks to reduce poverty and improve education as a way to avoid a second lost generation.
  • Between 2010 and 2012, nearly 100,000 convicts, many of whom belonged to criminal gangs, were repatriated from the United States back to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, according to El Nuevo Heraldo. Some activists believe the influx of criminal deportees to the region during this time was a major contributing factor to escalating gang violence. Gang related violence is cited as one of the push factors behind the current child migration crisis at the U.S./Mexico border.  
  • Mexican civil society groups came out en-mass on Monday to protest the recent deployment of the U.S. National Guard at the Texas/Mexico border. Texas Governor Rick Perry ordered 1,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border on July 21, citing inefficiencies by President Obama in handling the ongoing child-migration crisis. Perry recently appropriated $38 million in unused funds from the Texas Department of Public Safety to pay for their deployment, according to The Texas Tribune. Activist involved in the protests expressed concern over both the criminalization of migrants fleeing from violence and the potential for excessive force against unaccompanied children.
  • Six U.S. airmen set off to complete a week of training with members of the Guatemalan air force. The training exchange, which focused on preventative health, individual readiness and aerospace medicine, is part of an ongoing effort to assist the Guatemalan air force “in expanding and enhancing their military medical capabilities.”
  • U.S. Southern Command kicked off its Panamax 2014 training exercise this week with 17 partner nations from the Americas. The exercises were focused on a series of simulated training scenarios instructing participants on how to defend the Panama Canal in the event of an extremist attack, natural disaster, or pandemic outbreak.