Entries with Categories Global Affairs Security and defence .

Members of Colombia's National Liberation Army [Voces de Colombia].

▲ Members of Colombia's National Liberation Army [Voces de Colombia] [Voices of Colombia].

ESSAY / Angel Martos

Terrorism and transnational organised crime are some of the most relevant topics nowadays in international security. The former represents a traditional threat that has been present during most our recent history, especially since the second half of the twentieth century. International organised crime, on the other hand, has taken place throughout history in multiple ways. Examples can be found even in the pre-industrial era: In rural and coastal areas, where law enforcement was weaker, bandits and pirates all over the world made considerable profit from hijacking vehicles along trade routes and roads, demanding a payment or simply looting the goods that the merchants carried. The phenomenon has evolved into complex sets of interconnected criminal networks that operate globally and in organised way, sometimes even with the help of the authorities.

In this paper, the author will analyze the close interaction between terrorism and organized crime often dubbed the "crime-terror continuum". After explaining the main tenets of this theory, a case study will be presented. It is the network of relations that exists in Latin America which links terrorist groups with drug cartels. The evolution of some of these organisations into a hybrid comprising terrorist and criminal activity will also be studied.

Defining concepts

The crime-terror nexus is agreed to have been consolidated in the post-Cold War era. After the 9/11 attacks, the academic community began to analyze more deeply and thoroughly the threat that terrorism represented for international security. However, there is one specific topic that was not paid much attention until some years later: the financing of terrorist activity. Due to the decline of state sponsorship for terrorism, these groups have managed to look for funding by partnering with organised criminal groups or engaging in illicit activities themselves. Starting in the 1980s with what later came to be known as narco-terrorism, the use of organised crime by terrorist groups became mainstream in the 1990s. Taxing drug trade and credit-card fraud are the two most common sources of revenues for these groups (Makarenko, 2010).

The basic level of relationship that exists between two groups of such different nature is an alliance. Terrorists may look for different objectives when allying with organised crime groups. For example, they may seek expert knowledge (money-laundering, counterfeiting, bomb-making, etc.) or access to smuggling routes. Even if the alliances may seem to be only beneficial for terrorist groups, criminal networks benefit from the destabilizing effect terrorism has over political institutions, and from the additional effort law enforcement agencies need to do to combat terrorism, investing resources that will not be available to fight other crimes. Theirs is a symbiotic relation in which both actors win. A popular example in the international realm is the protection that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) offered to drug traders that smuggle cocaine from South America through West and North Africa towards Europe. During the last decade, the terrorist organisation charged a fee on the shipments in exchange for its protection along the route (Vardy, 2009).

The convergence of organisations

Both types of organisations can converge into one up to the point that the resulting group can change its motives and objectives from one side to the other of the continuum, constituting a hybrid organisation whose defining points and objectives blur. An organisation of this nature could be both a criminal group with political motivations, and a terrorist group interested in criminal profits. The first one may for example be interested in getting involved in political processes and institutions or may use violence to gain a monopolized control over a lucrative economic sector.

Criminal and terrorist groups mutate to be able to carry out by themselves a wider range of activities (political and financial) while avoiding competitiveness, misunderstandings and threats to their internal security. This phenomenon was popularized after the 1990s, when criminal groups sought to manipulate the operational conditions of weak states, while terrorist groups sought to find new financial sources other than the declining state sponsors. A clear example of this can be found in the Italian Mafia during the 1990s. A series of deliberate bombing attacks were reported in key locations such as the Uffizi Galleries in Florence and the church of St. John Lateran in Rome. The target was not a specific enemy, but rather the public opinion and political authorities (the Anti-Mafia Commission) who received a warning for having passed legislation unfavorable to the interests of the criminal group. Another example far away from Europe and its traditional criminal groups can be found in Brazil. In the early 2000s, a newly elected government carried out a crackdown on several criminal organizations like the Red Commandthe Amigos dos Amigos, and the group Third Commandwhich reacted violently by unleashing brutal terrorist attacks on governmental buildings and police officers. These attacks gave the Administration no other choice but to give those groups back the immunity with which they had always operated in Rio de Janeiro.

On the other side of the relationship, terrorist organisations have also engaged in criminal activities, most notably illicit drug trade, in what has been a common pattern since the 1970s. Groups like the FARC, ETA, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), or Shining Path are among them. The PKK, for example, made most of its finances using its advantageous geographic location as well as the Balkan routes of entry into Europe to smuggle heroin from Asia into Europe. In yet another example, Hezbollah is said to protect heroin and cocaine laboratories in the Bekaa Valley, in Lebanon.

Drug trafficking is not the only activity used by terrorist groups. Other criminal activities serve the same purpose. For example, wholesale credit-card fraud all around Europe is used by Al Qaeda to gain profits (US$ 1 million a month). Furthermore, counterfeit products smuggling has been extensively used by paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland and Albanian extremist groups to finance their activities.

Sometimes, the fusion of both activities reaches a point where the political cause that once motivated the terrorist activity of a group ends or weakens, and instead of disbanding, it drifts toward the criminal side and morphs into an organised criminal association with no political motivations) that the convergence thesis identifies is the one of terrorist organisations that have ultimately maintained their political façade for legitimation purposes but that their real motivations and objectives have mutated into those of a criminal group. They are thus able to attract recruits via 2 sources, their political and their financial one. Abu Sayyaf, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and FARC are illustrative of this. Abu Sayyaf, originally founded to establish an Islamic republic in the territory comprising Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago (Philippines), is now dedicated exclusively to kidnapping and marijuana plantations. The former granted them US$ 20 million only in 2000. Colombian FARC, since the 1990s, has followed the same path: according to Paul Wilkinson, they have evolved from a revolutionary group that had state-wide support into a criminal guerrilla involved in protection of crops and laboratories, also acting as "middlemen" between farmers and cartels; kidnapping, and extortion. By the beginning of our century, they controlled 40 per cent of Colombia's territory and received an annual revenue of US$ 500 million (McDermott, 2003).

"Black hole states

The ultimate danger the convergence between criminal and terrorist groups may present is a situation where a weak or failed state becomes a safe haven for the operations of hybrid organisations like those described before. This is known as the "black hole" syndrome. Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Angola, Sierra Leone and North Korea are examples of states falling into this category. Other regions, such as the North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan, and others in Indonesia and Thailand in which the government presence is weak can also be considered as such.

Afghanistan has been considered a "black hole state" since at least the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989. Since the beginning of the civil war, the groups involved in it have sought to survive, oftentimes renouncing to their ideological foundations, by engaging in criminal activity such as the production and trafficking of opiates, arms or commodities across the border with Pakistan, together with warlords. The chaos that reigns in the country is a threat not only to the nation itself and its immediate neighbors, but also to the entire world.

The People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is, on the other hand, considered a criminal state. This is because it has engaged in transnational criminal activities since the 1970s, with its "Bureau 39", a government department that manages the whole criminal activity for creating hard currency (drug trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, privacy, etc.). This was proved when the Norwegian government expelled officials of the North Korean embassy in 1976 alleging that they were engaged in the smuggling of narcotics and unlicensed goods (Galeotti, 2001).

Another situation may arise where criminal and terrorist groups deliberately foster regional instability for their own economic benefits. In civil wars, these groups may run the tasks that a state's government would be supposed to run. It is the natural evolution of a territory in which a political criminal organisation or a commercial terrorist group delegitimizes the state and replaces its activity. Examples of this situation are found in the Balkans, Caucasus, southern Thailand and Sierra Leone (Bangura, 1997).

In Sierra Leone, for example, it is now evident that the violence suffered in the 1990s during the rebellion of the Revolutionary United Forces (RUF) had nothing to do with politics or ideals - it was rather a struggle between the guerrilla and the government to crack down on the other party and reap the profits of illicit trade in diamonds. There was no appeal to the population or political discourse whatsoever. The "black hole" thesis illustrates how civil wars in our times are for the most part a legitimisation for the private enrichment of the criminal parties involved and at the same time product of the desire of these parties for the war to never end.

The end of the Cold War saw a shift in the study of the nexus between crime and terrorism. During the previous period, it was a phenomenon only present in Latin America between insurgent groups and drug cartels. It was not until the emergence of Al Qaeda's highly networked and globally interconnected cells that governments realised the level of threat to international security that non-state actors could pose. As long as weak or failed states exist, the crime-terror nexus will be further enhanced. Moreover, the activity of these groups will be buttressed by effects of globalisation such as the increase of open borders policies, immigration flows, international transportation infrastructure, and technological development. Policymakers do not pay enough attention to the criminal activities of both types of organisations. Rather than dealing with the political motivations of a group, what really makes the difference is to focus on its funding resources - credit-card frauds, smuggling, money laundering, etc.

The following section focuses on the crime-terror continuum that exists between illegal drug trade and terrorist networks. This phenomenon has emerged in many regions all around the world, but the case of Latin America, or the Andean region more specifically, represents the paradigm of the characteristics, dangers and opportunities of these situations.


When drug trafficking meets political violence

The concept of narco-terrorism was born in recent years as a result of the understanding of illicit drug trade and terrorism as two interconnected phenomena. Traditionally linked with Latin America, the concept can now be found in other parts of the world like, for example, the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan), or the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Laos and Myanmar).

There is no consensus on the convenience and accuracy of the term "narco-terrorism," if only because it may refer to different realities. One can think of narco-terrorism as the use of terrorist attacks by criminal organisations such as the Colombian Medellin Cartel to attain an immediate political goal. Or, from a different point of view, one can think of a terrorist organisation engaging in illicit drug trade to raise funds for its activity. Briefly, according to Tamara Makarenko's Crime-Terror Continuum construct all organisations, no matter the type, could at some point move along this continuum depending on their activities and motivations; from the one extreme of a purely criminal organisation, to the other of a purely political one, or even constituting a hybrid in the middle (Makarenko, 2010).

There is a general perception of a usual interaction between drug-trafficking and terrorist organisations. Here, it is necessary to distinguish between the cooperation of two organisations of each nature, and an organisation carrying out activities under both domains. There are common similarities between the different organisations that can be highlighted to help policymaking more effective.

Both type of organisations cohabit in the same underground domain of society and share the common interest of remaining undiscovered by law enforcement authorities. Also, their transnational operations follow similar patterns. Their structure is vertical in the highest levels of the organisation and turns horizontal in the lowest. Finally, the most sophisticated among them use a cell structure to reduce information sharing to the bare minimum to reduce the risk of the organisation being unveiled if some of its members are arrested.

The main incentive for organisations to cooperate are tangible resources. Revenues from narcotics trafficking might be very helpful for terrorist organisations, while access to explosive material may benefit drug trade organisations. As an example, according to the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2004, an estimated US$ 2.3 billion of the total revenue of global drug trade end up in the hands of organisations like Al Qaeda. Another example is the illegal market of weapons emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, field of interest of both types of networks. On the other hand, intangible resources are similar to tangible in usefulness but different in essence. Intangible resources that drug trafficking organisations possess and can be in the interests of terrorist ones are the expertise on methods and routes of transports, which could be used for terrorist to smuggle goods or people - drug corridors such as the Balkan route or the Northern route. On the other way around, terrorists can share the military tactics, know-how and skills to perpetrate attacks. Some common resources that can be used by both in their benefit are the extended networks and contacts (connections with corrupt officials, safe havens, money laundering facilities, etc.) A good example of the latter can be found in the hiring of ELN members by Pablo Escobar to construct car bombs.

The organisations are, as we have seen, often dependent on the same resources, communications, and even suppliers. This does not lead to cooperation, but rather to competition, even to conflict. Examples can be traced back to the 1980s in Peru when clashes erupted between drug traffickers and the terrorist Shining Pathand in Colombia when drug cartels and the FARC clashed for territorial matters. Even the protection of crops terrorists offer to drug traffickers is one of the main drivers of conflict, even if they do find common grounds of understanding most of the time; for example, in terms of government, revenue-motivated organisations are a threat to the state as they fight to weaken some parts of it such as law enforcement or jurisdiction, while politically-motivated ones wish not only to undermine the state but to radically change its structures to fit their ideological vision (state-run economy, religious-based society, etc.).

The terrorism and drug connection in the Andean Region

Nowhere has the use of illicit drug trade as a source of funds for terrorism been so developed as in the Andean Region (Steinitz, 2002). Leftist groups such as FARC and Peruvian Shining Pathas well as right-wing paramilitary organisations such as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) are involved in this activity. At the beginning, the engagement between terrorists and drug traffickers was limited only to fees imposed by the former on the latter in exchange for the protection of crops, labs and shipments. Later, FARC and AUC have further expanded this engagement and are now involved in the early stages of the traffic itself - the main substance being cocaine, and the main reward money and arms from the drug syndicates. The terrorist cells can be therefore considered a hybrid of political and criminal groups. The following paragraphs will further analyze each case.

Peru's Shining Path

Shining Path (SL) started to operate in the Huallaga Valley, a strong Peruvian coca region, several years after its foundation, in 1980. Peru was at the time the world's first producer of coca leaf. The plant was then processed into coca paste and transported to Colombian laboratories by traffickers. Arguably, the desire for profit from the coca business rather than for political influence was the ultimate motive for Shining Path's expansion into the region. SL protected the crops and taxed the production and transportation of coca paste: the 1991 document "Economic Balance of the Shining Path" shows that the group charged US$ 3,000-7,000 per flight leaving Huallaga. Taxes were also levied in exchange for a service that the group provided the cocaleros: negotiating favourable prices with the traffickers. In the late 1980s, SL's annual income from the business was estimated at US$ 15-100 million (McClintock, 1998).

The Peruvian government's fight against SL represents a milestone in the fight against the terrorism-crime nexus. Lima set up a political-military command which focused on combating terrorism while ignoring drugs, because a reasonable percentage of the Peruvian population eked out a living by working in the coca fields. The government also avoided using the police as they were seen as highly corruptible. They succeeded in gaining the support of peasant growers and traffickers of Huallaga Valley, a valuable source of intelligence to use against SL. The latter finally left the Valley.

But it was not a final victory. Due to the vacuum SL left, the now more powerful traffickers reduced the prices paid for the coca leaf. SL was no longer there to act as an intermediary in defence of peasants and minor traffickers, so thanks to the new lower prices, the cocaine market experienced a boom. The military deployed in the area started to accept bribes in exchange for their laissez-faire attitude, becoming increasingly corrupted. President Fujimori in 1996 carried out a strategy of interdiction of the flights that departed from the Valley carrying coca paste to Colombia, causing the traffickers and farmers to flee and the coca leaf price to fall notably. However, this environment did not last long, and the country is experiencing a rise in drug trade and terrorist subversive activities.

The Colombian nexus expands

The collapse of the Soviet Union and an economic crisis in Cuba diminished the amount of aid that the FARC could receive. After the government's crackdown, with the help of Washington, of the Medellin and Cali cartels, the drug business in Colombia was seized by numerous smaller networks. There was not any significant reduction of the cocaine flow into the United States. The FARC benefited greatly from the neighbouring states' actions, gaining privileged access to drug money. Peru under Fujimori had cracked down on the coca paste transports, and Bolivia's government had also put under strict surveillance its domestic drug cultivation. This elimination of competitors caused a doubling of coca production in Colombia between 1995 and 2000. Moreover, opium poppy cultivation also grew significantly and gained relevance in the US' East-coast market. The FARC also benefited from this opportunity.

According to the Colombian government, in 1998 the terrorist groups earned US$ 551 million from drug, US$ 311 million from extortion, and US$ 236 million from kidnapping. So much so that the organization has been able to pay higher salaries to its recruits than the Colombian army pays its soldiers. By 2000, the FARC had an estimated 15,000-20,000 recruits in more than 70 fronts, de facto controlling 1/3 of the nation's territory. Most of the criminal-derived money in the country comes nowadays from taxation and protection of the drug business. According to the Colombian Military, more than half both the FARC's fronts were involved in the collection of funds by the beginning of the 2000s decade, compared to 40% approx. of AUC fronts (Rebasa and Chalk, 1999).

The situation that was created in both scenarios required created a chaos in which the drug cartels, the cultivation syndicates and the terrorist organisations were the strongest actors. This makes it a very unstable environment for the peoples that lived in the territories under criminal/terrorist control. The tactics of law enforcement agents and government, in these cases, need to be carefully planned, so that multilateral counter-drug/counter-terrorist strategies can satisfactorily address threats existing at multiple dimensions. In the following section, the author will review some key aspects of the policies carried out by the US government in this domain.

The "War on Drugs" and the "War on Terror".

Since 9/11, policies considering both threats as being intertwined have become more and more popular. The separation of counter terrorism and counter-narcotics has faded significantly. Although in the Tashkent Conferences of 1999-2000 the necessary link between both was already mentioned, the milestone of cooperative policies is the Resolution 1373 of the UN Security Council (Björnehed, 2006). In it, emphasis is given to the close connection between terrorism and all kinds of organised crime, and therefore coordination at national, regional and global level is said to be necessary. War on drugs and war on terror should no longer be two separate plans of action.

The effectiveness of a policy that wishes to undermine the threat of illicit drug trade and terrorism is to a high degree dependent on successful intelligence gathering. Information about networks, suspects, shipments, projects, etc. benefits agencies fighting drug trafficking as well as those fighting terrorism, since the resources are most of the times shared. Narco-terrorism nexus is also present in legal acts, with the aim of blocking loopholes in law enforcement efforts. Examples are the Victory Act and the Patriot Act, passed in the US. Recognizing the natural link and cooperation between drug trade and terrorism leads to security analysts developing more holistic theories for policymakers to implement more accurate and useful measures.

However, there are many aspects in which illicit drug trade and terrorist activity differ, and so do the measures that should be taken against them. An example of a failure to understand this point can be found in Afghanistan, where the Taliban in 2000 set a ban on poppy cultivation which resulted in a strong increase of its price, this being a victory for traffickers since the trade did not stop. Another idea to have in mind is that strategies of a war on drugs differ greatly depending on the nature of the country: whether it is solely a consumer like the UK or a producer and consumer like Tajikistan. In regard to terrorism, the measures adopted to undermine it (diplomacy, foreign aid, democratization, etc.) may have minimal effect on the fight against drug trade.

Sometimes, the risk of unifying counter-policies is leaving some areas in which cooperation is not present unattended. Certain areas are suitable for a comprehensive approach such as intelligence gathering, law enforcement and security devices, while others such as drug rehabilitation are not mutually beneficial. Not distinguishing the different motivations and goals among organisations can lead to a failed homogenous policy.


Multilevel threats demand multilevel solutions

Terrorism has traditionally been considered a threat to national and international security, while illicit drug trade a threat to human security. This perception derives from the effects of drugs in a consumer country, although war on drugs policies are usually aimed at supplier ones. Although it was already constituting a threat to regional stability during the twentieth century, it was not considered a crucial political issue until 9/11 attacks, when the cooperative link between criminal and terrorist organisations became evident. An example of unequal attention paid to both threats can be found in US's Plan Colombia in 2000: one of the main advocators of the legislation stated that the primary focus was on counter-drug, so the United States would not engage with Colombian counterinsurgency efforts (Vaicius, Ingrid and Isacson, 2003).The same type of failure was also seen in Afghanistan but in the opposite way, when the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) completely neglected any action against drug traffickers, the trade or the production itself.

The merging of drug trafficking and terrorism as two overlapping threats have encouraged authorities to develop common policies of intelligence gathering and law enforcement. The similarities between organisations engaged in each activity are the main reason for this. However, the differences between them are also relevant, and should be taken into consideration for the counter policies to be accurate enough.

Evidence of a substantial link between terrorists and criminals has been proved all along our recent history. Around the world, leaders of mafias and terrorist commanders have oftentimes worked together when they felt that their objectives were close, if not similar. When cohabitating in the outlaw world, groups tend to offer each other help, usually in exchange for something. This is part of human behaviour. Added to the phenomenon of globalisation, lines tend to be blurred for international security authorities, and thus for the survival of organisations acting transnationally.

The consequences can be noticed especially in Latin America, and more specifically in organisations such as the FARC. We can no longer tell what are the specific objectives and the motivations that pushed youngsters to flee towards the mountains to learn to shoot and fabricate bombs. Is it a political aspiration? Or is it rather an economic necessity? The reason why we cannot answer this question without leaving aside a substantial part of the explanation is the evolution of the once terrorist organisation into a hybrid group that moves all along the crime-terror continuum.

The ideas of Makarenko, Björnehed and Steinitz have helped the international community in its duty to protect its societies. It cannot be expected for affected societies to live in peace if the competent authorities try to tackle its structural security issues only through the counter-terrorist approach or through the organised crime lens. The hybrid threats that the world is suffering in the twenty-first century demand hybrid solutions.



Bangura, Y. (1997) 'Understanding the political and cultural dynamics of the sierra leone war', Africa Development, vol. 22, no. 3/4 [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Björnehed, E., 2006. Narco-Terrorism: The Merger Of The War On Drugs And The War On Terror. [online] Taylor & Francis. Available at [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Galeotti, M. (2001) 'Criminalisation of the DPRK', Jane's Intelligence Review, vol. 13, no. 3 (March) [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Makarenko, T., 2010. The Crime-Terror Continuum: Tracing The Interplay Between Transnational Organised Crime And Terrorism. [online] Taylor & Francis. Available at [Accessed 3 April 2020].

McClintock, C. Revolutionary Movements in Latin America: El Salvador's FMLN and Peru's Shining Path (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1998), p. 341 [Accessed 10 April 2020].

McDermott, J. (2003) 'Financing insurgents in Colombia', Jane's Intelligence Review, vol. 15, no. 2

(February) [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Mutschke, R., (2000) 'The threat posed by organised crime, international drug trafficking and terrorism', written testimony to the General Secretariat Hearing of the Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime (13 December) [Accessed 14 June 2020].

Rebasa and Chalk, pp. 32-33; "To Turn the Heroin Tide," Washington Post, February 22, 1999, p. A9; "Colombian Paramilitary Chief Shows Face," Associated Press, March 2, 2000.

Steinitz, M., 2002. The Terrorism And Drug Connection In Latin America'S Andean Region. [online] Brian Loveman, San Diego State University. Available at [Accessed 10 April 2020].

Vaicius, Ingrid and Isacson, Adam "'The War on Drugs' meets the 'War on Terror' " (CIP International Policy Report February 2003) p. 13.

Vardy, N., 2009. Al-Qaeda's New Business Model: Cocaine And Human Trafficking. [online] Forbes. Available at [Accessed 14 June 2020].

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Latin America Essays

[Azar Gat, War in Human Civilization. Oxford University Press. Oxford (New York), 2006. 822 p.]

review / Salvador Sánchez Tapia

War in Human CivilizationAmong the many authors who have written on the phenomenon of war in recent decades, the name of Azar Gat stands out. From his Chair at Tel-Aviv University, this author has devoted an important part of his academic degree program to theorising on the war from different angles, a phenomenon that he knows directly from his position as a reservist in the Tsahal (Israeli Defence Forces).

War in Human Civilization is a monumental work in which the author sample his great erudition, together with his ability to deal with and study the phenomenon of war, combining the employment of fields of knowledge as diverse as history, Economics, biology, archaeology and anthropology, placing them at the service of the goal of his work, which is none other than that of elucidating what has moved and moves human groups towards war.

Throughout the almost seven hundred pages of this extensive work, Gat makes a study of the historical evolution of the phenomenon of war in which he combines a chronological approach, which we could call "conventional", with a synchronic one in which he puts in parallel similar stages of the evolution of war in different civilisations in order to compare cultures which, at a given historical moment, were at different Degrees of development and show how in all of them war went through a similar process of evolution.

In his initial approach, Gat promises an analysis that transcends any particular culture to consider the evolution of war in a general way, from its inception to the present day. The promise, however, is broken when he reaches the medieval period, for from then on he adopts a distinctly Eurocentric view, which he justifies with the argument that the Western model of war has been exported to other continents and adopted by other cultures, which, while not entirely false, leaves the reader with a somewhat incomplete view of the phenomenon.

Azar Gat dives into the origin of the human species to try to elucidate whether the phenomenon of war makes it different from the rest of the species, and to try to determine whether conflict is an innate phenomenon in the species or whether, on the contrary, it is a learned behaviour.

On the first question, the book concludes that nothing makes us different from other species because, despite Rousseaunian visions based on the "good savage" that were so in vogue in the 1960s, the reality sample is that intra-species violence, which was considered to be unique to humans, is in fact something shared with other species. On the second question, Gat takes the eclectic view that aggression is both innate and optional, a basic survival choice that is nonetheless exercised optionally, and developed through social learning.

Throughout the book's historical journey, the idea, formulated in the first chapters, that the ultimate causes of war are evolutionary in nature and have to do with the struggle for the survival of the species, appears as a leitmotif.

According to this approach, conflict would be rooted in competition for resources and better reproductive opportunities. Although the human development towards increasingly complex societies has eventually obscured it, this logic would still guide human behaviour today, mainly through the bequest of proximate mechanisms implied by human desires.

An important chapter in the book is the author's dissection of the theory, first advanced during the Enlightenment, of the Democratic Peace. Gat does not refute the theory, but puts it in a new light. If, in its original definition, it argues that liberal and democratic regimes are averse to war and that, therefore, the spread of liberalism will advance peace among nations, Gat argues that it is the growth of wealth that actually serves that spread, and that welfare and the interrelationship that trade fosters are the real drivers of democratic peace.

Two are, therefore, the two main conclusions of the work: that conflict is the rule in a nature in which organisms compete with each other for survival and reproduction in an environment of scarce resources, and that, recently, the development of liberalism in the western world has generated in this environment a feeling of repugnance towards war that translates into an almost absolute rejection of it in favour of other strategies based on cooperation.

Azar Gat recognises that a significant part of the human race is still a long way from liberal and democratic models, let alone the achievement of Degree of well-being and wealth, which, in his view, goes hand in hand with the rejection of war. Although he does not say so openly, it can be inferred from his speech that this is, nevertheless, the direction in which humanity is heading and that, the day it reaches the necessary conditions for this, war will finally be eradicated from the Earth.

Against this idea, one could argue the ever-present possibility of regression of the liberal system due to the demographic pressure to which it is subjected, or because of some global event that provokes it; or that other systems, equally rich but not liberal, will replace the world of democracies in world domination.

reference letter The book is a must for any scholar or reader interested in the nature and evolution of the phenomenon of war, and is a must for any scholar or reader interested in the nature and evolution of the phenomenon of war. Written with great erudition, and with a profusion of data that, at times, makes it somewhat harsh, War in Human Civilization is, without a doubt, an important contribution to the knowledge of war that is essential reading.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Book reviews Global

VCR 8x8 programme [framework Romero/MDE].

▲ VCR 8x8 programme [framework Romero/MDE].

COMMENTARY / Salvador Sánchez Tapia

After a gap of eight years since the publication of the last one in 2012, on 11 June, the President of the Government signed a new National Defence Directive (DDN), marking the beginning of a new Defence Planning cycle which, according to agreement as established by Defence Order 60/2015, must be valid for six years.

The essay of the DDN 20 is a laudable effort to bring National Defence up to date with the challenges of a complex strategic environment in continuous transformation. Its essay also offers an excellent opportunity to build along the way an intellectual community on this important issue, which will be fundamental throughout the cycle.

This article provides a preliminary analysis of the DDN 20, focusing on its most relevant aspects. In a first approximation, the official document follows the line, already enshrined in other Directives, of subsuming the essentially military concept of Defence within the broader concept of Security, which affects all the capabilities of the State. In this sense, the first difficulty that the DDN 20 has had to overcome is precisely the lack of a statutory document similar to the DDN, drafted at the level of National Security, to illuminate and guide it. To tell the truth, the void has not been total, since, as the DDN 20 states in its introduction, there is a National Security Strategy (NSS) which, although published in 2017, has served as reference letter in its elaboration, despite the evident lack of consistency between the strategic scenarios described in both documents.

In this respect, it is precisely worth noting the lack of specificity with which the new DDN defines the strategic scenario, compared to the somewhat greater specificity of the ESN. The DDN 20 draws a vague, almost generic scenario, applicable almost unchanged to any nation in the world, without reference to specific geographical areas; an accumulation of threats and risks to security with an impact on Defence, none of which appears to be more likely or more dangerous, and to which is added the recognition of changes in the international order that once again bring the possibility of major armed conflicts closer.

Such an approach makes it difficult to subsequently define defence objectives and guidelines for action and, perhaps for this reason, there are certain inconsistencies between the three parts of the document. It is striking that, although the document raises certificate, somewhat hastily, the possibility of the emergence of COVID-19, the possibility of a pandemic not being triggered is not considered in the description of the strategic scenario, something that, on the other hand, is included in ESN 17.

Along with the description of this scenario, the DDN 20 is interspersed with a series of considerations of a programmatic nature, which are in themselves positive and relevant, but which have little to do with what is to be expected in a document of this nature, designed to guide National Defence planning. In some cases, such as the promotion of the gender perspective, or the improvement of the quality of life of staff in its dimensions of improving living facilities, reconciling professional and family life, and reintegration into civilian life once the link with the Armed Forces has ended, the considerations are more typical of the Policy of staff of the department than of a DDN. In others, such as the obligation to respect local cultures in military operations, they seem more subject typical of the Royal Ordinances or another subject code of ethics.

Undoubtedly motivated by the COVID-19 emergency, and in view of the role that the Armed Forces have assumed during it, the DDN emphasises the importance of partnership missions with and in support of civilian authorities, something that is inherent to the Armed Forces, and establishes the specific goal of acquiring capabilities that allow for the partnership and support of these authorities in crisis and emergency situations.

The management of the pandemic may have highlighted gaps in response capabilities, shortcomings in coordination instruments, etc., thereby opening a window of opportunity to make progress in this area and produce a more effective response in the future. Nonetheless, it is important to guard against the possibility, opened up by this DDN, of losing sight of the central tasks of the armed forces, to prevent an excessive focus on missions in support of the civilian population from ending up distorting their organisation, manning and training, thereby impairing the deterrence capacity of the armies and their combat operability.

The DDN also contains the customary reference letter, which is necessary to promote a true Defence Culture among Spaniards. The accredited specialization is justified by the role that the Ministry of Defence should play in this effort. However, it is not the defence sector that needs to be reminded of the importance of this issue. The impact of any effort to promote Defence Culture will be limited if it is not assumed as its own by other ministries Departments , as well as by all State administrations, being aware that it is not possible to generate a Defence Culture without a prior consensus at the national level on such essential issues as the objectives or values shared by all. It is perhaps on this aspect that the emphasis should be placed.

Perhaps the most controversial point of the DDN 20 is that of financing. Achieving the objectives set out in the document requires sustained financial investment over time to break the current ceiling of expense in defence. Maintaining the Armed Forces among the technological elite, substantially improving the quality of life of the professional staff -which begins with providing them with the equipment that best guarantees their survival and superiority on the battlefield-, reinforcing the capacity to support civilian authorities in emergency situations, strengthening intelligence and action capabilities in cyberspace, or meeting with guarantees the operational obligations derived from our active participation in international organisations, for which, moreover, a commitment has been made to strengthen them by up to 50% for a period of one year, is as necessary as it is costly.

The DDN 20 recognises this in its final paragraph when it states that the development of the document's guidelines will require the necessary funding. This statement, however, is little more than an acknowledgement of the obvious, and is not accompanied by any commitment or guarantee of funding. Bearing in mind the important commitments already signed by the Ministry with the pending Special Armaments Programmes, and in view of the economic-financial panorama that is on the horizon due to the effects of COVID-19, which has led the JEME to announce the arrival of a period of austerity for the Army, and which deserves to be listed among the main threats to national security, it seems difficult that the objectives of the DDN 20 can be covered in the terms it sets out. This is the real Achilles' heel of the document, which could make it little more than a dead letter.

In conclusion, the issuance of a new DDN is to be welcomed as an effort to update National Defence policy, even in the absence of a similar instrument that periodically articulates the level of Security Policy in which Defence Policy should be subsumed.

The emergence of COVID-19 seems to have overtaken the document, causing it to lose some of its validity and calling into question not only the will, but also the real capacity to achieve the ambitious goals it proposes. At least it is possible that the document may act, even in a limited way, as a kind of shield to protect the Defence sector against the scenario of scarce resources that Spain will undoubtedly experience in the coming years.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Comments

Crossroads in Minneapolis where George Floyd was stopped by local police [Fibonacci Blue].

▲ Crossroads in Minneapolis where George Floyd was stopped by local police [Fibonacci Blue].

COMMENTARY / Salvador Sánchez Tapia [Brigadier General (Res.)].

In a controversial public statement on 2 June, US President Donald Trump threatened to deploy armed forces units to contain riots sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota, and to maintain law and order if they escalate in violence.

Regardless of the seriousness of the event, and beyond the fact that the incident has been politicised and is being employee used as a platform for expressing rejection of Trump's presidency, the possibility raised by the president poses an almost unprecedented challenge to civil-military relations in the United States.

For reasons rooted in its pre-independence past, the United States maintains a certain caution against the possibility that armed forces can be used domestically against citizens by whoever holds power. For this reason, when the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution, while authorising the congress to organise and maintain armies, they explicitly limited their funding to a maximum of two years.

Against this backdrop, and against the background of the tension between the Federation and the states, American legislation has tried to limit the employment of the Armed Forces in domestic tasks. Thus, since 1878, the Posse Comitatus Since 1878, for example, the Armed Forces Act has limited the possibility of using them to carry out law and order missions that the states, including the National Guard, are responsible for carrying out with their own resources.

One of the exceptions to this rule is the Insurrection Act of 1807, invoked precisely by President Trump as an argument in favour of the legality of a possible decision by employment. This is despite the fact that this law is restrictive in spirit, as it requires the cooperation of the states in its application, and because it is designed for extreme cases in which the states are unable, or unwilling, to maintain order, circumstances that do not seem applicable to the case at hand.

The controversial nature of advertisement is attested to by the fact that voices as authoritative and so little inclined to publicly break its neutrality as that of Lieutenant General (ret.) James Mattis, Secretary of Defence of the Trump Administration until his premature removal in December 2018, or Lieutenant General (ret.) Martin Dempsey, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff between 2011 and 2015, have spoken out against it. ) Martin Dempsey, head of the board Chiefs of Staff between 2011 and 2015, have spoken out against this employment, joining the statements made by former presidents as disparate as George W. Bush and Barack Obama, or those of the Secretary of Defence himself, Mark Esper, whose position against the possibility of using the Armed Forces in this status has recently been made clear.

The presidential advertisement has opened up a crisis in the usually stable US civil-military relations (CMR). Beyond the scope of the United States, the profound question, which affects the very core of CMR in a democratic state, is none other than whether or not it is appropriate to use the armed forces in public order or, in a broader sense, domestic tasks, and the risks associated with such a decision.

In the 1990s, Michael C. Desch, one of the leading authorities in the field of CMR, identified the correlation between the missions entrusted to the armed forces by a state and the quality of its civil-military relations, concluding that foreign-oriented military missions are the most conducive to healthy CMR, while non-military domestic missions are likely to generate various CMR pathologies.

Generally speaking, the existence of armed forces in any state is primarily motivated by the need to protect the state against any threat from outside. employment In order to carry out such a high task with guarantees, armies are equipped and trained for the lethal use of force, unlike police forces, which are equipped and trained for a minimal and gradual use of force, which only becomes lethal in the most extreme, exceptional cases. In the first case, it is a matter of confronting an armed enemy intent on destroying one's own forces. In the second, force is used to confront citizens who may, in some cases, use violence, but who remain, after all, compatriots.

When military forces are employed in tasks of this nature, there is always a risk that they will produce a response in accordance with their training, which may be excessive in a law and order scenario. The consequences, in such a case, can be very negative. In the worst case, and above all other considerations, the employment may result in a perhaps avoidable loss of life. Moreover, from the CMR's point of view, the soldiers that the nation submission has for its external defence could become, in the eyes of the public, the enemies of those they are supposed to defend.

The damage this can do to civil-military relations, to national defence and to the quality of a state's democracy is difficult to measure, but it can be intuited if one considers that, in a democratic system, the armed forces cannot live without the support of their fellow citizens, who see them as a beneficial force for the nation and to whose members they extend their recognition as its loyal and selfless servants.

The abuse of employment of the armed forces in domestic tasks can also deteriorate their already complex preparation, weakening them for the execution of the missions for which they were conceived. It may also end up conditioning their organisation and equipment to the detriment, once again, of their essential tasks.

On the other hand, and although today we are far from such a scenario, this employment could gradually lead to a progressive expansion of the tasks of the Armed Forces, which would extend their control over purely civilian activities and see their range of tasks increasingly broadened, displacing other agencies in their execution, which could, undesirably, atrophy.

In such a scenario, the military institution could cease to be perceived as a disinterested actor and come to be seen as a competitor with particular interests, and with a capacity for control that it could use to its own advantage, even if this were at odds with the nation's interest. Such a status would, over time, lead hand in hand to the politicisation of the armed forces, from which would follow another damage to WRCs that is difficult to quantify.

Decisions such as President Trump's may ultimately place members of the armed forces in the grave moral dilemma of using force against their fellow citizens, or disobeying the president's orders. Because of its seriousness, therefore, the decision to commit the armed forces to such tasks should be taken exceptionally and after careful consideration.

It is difficult to determine whether President Trump's advertisement was merely a product of his temperament or whether, on the contrary, it contained a real intention to use the armed forces in the unrest sweeping the country, in a decision that has not occurred since 1992. In any case, the President, and those advising him, must assess the damage that could be done to civil-military relations and, therefore, to the American democratic system. This is without forgetting, moreover, the responsibility that rests on America's shoulders in the face of the reality that a part of humanity looks to the country as a reference letter and model to imitate.

Categories Global Affairs: North America Security and defence Comments

Bolivia has established itself in the role of distributing Peruvian cocaine and its own cocaine for consumption in South America and export to Europe.

  • In 2019, Martin Vizcarra's government eradicated 25,526 hectares of coca cultivation, half of the estimated total area of plantations.

  • Peru had a record potential cocaine production of 509 tonnes in 2018; Bolivia's was 254 tonnes, one of the highest historically, according to the US.

  • The US accused Morales towards the end of his term of office of having "manifestly failed" to meet his international obligations with his 2016-2020 counter-narcotics plan.

Coca eradication operation in Alto Huallaga, Peru [project CORAH)

Coca crop eradication operation in Alto Huallaga, Peru [project CORAH]

report SRA 2020 / Eduardo Villa Corta [PDF version].

Since Peru's national plans against coca cultivation began in the 1980s, eradication campaigns have never reached what is known as the VRAEM (Valley of the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers), a difficult-to-access area in the centre of the southern half of the country. Organised crime operates in this area, especially the remnants of the old Shining Path guerrillas, now dedicated to drug trafficking and other illicit businesses. The area is the source of 64% of the country's potential cocaine production. Peru is the world's second largest producer, after Colombia.

The government of President Martín Vizcarra carried out a resolute policy of suppressing illicit crops in 2019. The eradication plan (project Especial de Control y Reducción del Cultivo de Coca en el Alto Huallaga or CORAH) was applied last year to 25,526 hectares of coca crops (half of the existing ones), of which 750 were in the VRAEM (operations were carried out in the areas of Satipo, Tambo River and Alto Anapati, in the Junín region).

These actions should result, when the figures for 2019 are presented, in a reduction in total coca cultivation and potential cocaine production, thus breaking the increase experienced in recent years. According to the latest report International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), from the US State Department's department , which closely monitors this illicit activity in the countries of the region, in 2018 there were 52,100 hectares of coca in Peru (compared to 44,000 in 2016 and 49,800 in 2017), whose extent and quality of cultivation could generate a record production of 509 tonnes of cocaine (compared to 409 in 2016 and 486 in 2017). Although in 2013 there was even more area cultivated (59,500 hectares), then the cocaine potential stood at 359 tonnes.

From Peru to Bolivia

This increase in recent years in the generation of cocaine in Peru has consolidated Bolivia's role in the trafficking of this drug, since in addition to being the world's third largest producer (in 2018, 32,900 hectares were under cultivation, with a potential production of 254 tonnes of narcotic substance, according to the US), it is a transit zone for cocaine of Peruvian origin.

The fact that only around 6% of the cocaine reaching the US comes from Peru (the rest comes from Colombia) indicates that most Peruvian production goes to the growing market in Brazil and Argentina and to Europe, and therefore its natural outlet is through Bolivia. Bolivia is thus considered a major "distributor".

Some of the drugs arrive in paste form and are refined in Bolivian laboratories. The goods are brought into Bolivia using small planes, which sometimes fly at less than 15 metres above the ground and drop the cocaine packages in uninhabited rural areas; they are then picked up by elements of the organisation. The movement is also carried out by road, with the drugs camouflaged on cargo roads, and to a lesser extent using Lake Titicaca and other waterways connecting the two countries.

Once across the border, drugs from Peru, along with those produced in Bolivia, travel to Argentina and Chile, especially through the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz and the Chilean border crossing of Colchane, or enter Brazil - directly or through Paraguay, using for example the crossing between the Paraguayan town of Pedro Juan Caballero and the Brazilian town of Ponta Pora - for consumption in South America's largest country, whose volume has climbed to second place in the world, or to reach international ports such as Santos. This port, which is Sao Paulo's outlet to the sea, has become the new hub of the global narcotics trade, from which almost 80 per cent of Latin America's drugs leave for Europe (sometimes via Africa).

Production in Bolivia has been growing again since the middle of the last decade, although in the Bolivian case there is a notable difference between the often divergent figures provided by the United States and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Both estimates agree that there was a previous decline, attributed by the La Paz government to the so-called "rationalisation of coca production", which reduced production by 35 per cent and adjusted cultivation areas to those permitted by law in a country where traditional uses of coca are allowed.

However, the Coca Law promoted in 2017 by President Evo Morales (his political degree program originated in the coca growers' unions, whose interests he later continued to defend) protected an extension of production, raising the permitted hectares from 12,000 to 22,000. The new law covered an increase that was already occurring and encouraged further excesses that have far exceeded the volume required for traditional uses, which programs of study from the European Union puts at less than 14,700 hectares. In fact, the UNODC estimated in its 2019 report that between 27% and 42% of the coca leaf grown in 2018 was not sold in the only two local markets authorised for this purpose, indicating that at least the rest was destined for cocaine production.

For 2018, the UNODC determined a production of 23,100 hectares, in any case above what is allowed by law. The US data reported 32,900 hectares, an increase of 6% over the previous year, and a potential cocaine production of 254 tons (2% more).

Sixty-five percent of Bolivian production takes place in the Yungas area, near La Paz, and the remaining 35 percent in Chapare, near Cochabamba. In the latter area, crops are expanding, encroaching on the Tipnis natural park -reservation . The park, which runs deep into the Amazon, suffered major fires in 2019: whether intentional or not, the destroyed tropical vegetation could give way to clandestine coca plantations.



After Morales

The report of the 2020 US State department highlights the greater anti-drug commitment of the Bolivian authorities who succeeded the Morales government in November 2019, which had maintained "inadequate controls" over coca cultivation. The US considers that Morales' 2016-2020 anti-drug plan "prioritised" actions against criminal organisations rather than combating coca growers' production that exceeded the permitted volume. Shortly before leaving office in September, Morales was accused by the US of having "manifestly failed" to comply with international obligations at subject on drug control.

According to the US, the transitional government "has made important strides in drug interdiction and extradition of drug traffickers". This increased control by the new Bolivian authorities, together with the determined action of the Vizcarra government in Peru, should lead to a reduction in coca cultivation and cocaine production in both countries, and therefore in its export.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Articles Latin America

Uruguay contributes 45.5% of the Latin American workforce and El Salvador is second with 12%, both ahead of the regional powers.

  • Of the total of 82,480 troops in the fourteen UN peacekeeping missions at the beginning of 2020, 2,473 were from Latin American countries, mostly military and police.

  • Almost all troops from the region serve in missions in Africa; 45.4% serve in the DRC stabilisation plan.

  • After Uruguay and then El Salvador come Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Guatemala, while Mexico is one of the lowest contributors (only 13 experts and employees, not troops).

Bolivian soldier in training exercises for UN peacekeeping missions, 2002 [Wikipedia].

Bolivian soldier in training exercises for UN peacekeeping missions, 2002 [Wikipedia].

report SRA 2020 / Jaime Azpiri[PDF version].

Latin America's contribution to international peacekeeping missions sponsored by the United Nations is below the weight of its population and Economics in the world (around 8% and 7%, respectively). Of the 82,480 people participating in the various UN missions as of 31 January 2020, only 2,473 were from Latin American countries, which represents 2.9% of the total. A similar percentage (3%) was recorded when considering only the military or police staff of the missions (around 2,150 uniformed personnel, out of a total of 70,738; the rest corresponded to employees and experts).

This is a smaller external presence than might be expected, given the insistence of many countries in the region on multilateralism and the desirability of strong international institutions that limit the expansionist impulses of the great powers. A special exception is Uruguay, precisely the most coherent nation in its defence of international arbitration, which, despite its small population, is by far the largest contributor to peace missions staff . Its 1,125 envoys make up 45.5 percent of the total Latin American contingent.

While Uruguay's strong contribution is not surprising, it is surprising that the second country with the highest participation is El Salvador, with 293 people (12% of Latin America's contribution). This is followed by two very important countries, Argentina and Brazil (272 and 252 envoys, respectively); then Peru (231) and Guatemala (176). On the other hand, Mexico, despite all its economic and human potential, is particularly absent from these international missions (only 13 people, moreover, as employees or experts, not troops), both due to constitutional restrictions and political doctrine. In the case of Colombia (only 2 experts), this may be due to the need to devote its military force entirely to the pacification of the country itself, although one would expect greater capacity and availability from a global NATO partner , the only designation in Latin America that it achieved in 2018.

The international mission with the largest number of envoys, accounting for 45.4% of the region's total contingent, is the UN's mission statement mission for the stabilisation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whose French name is derived from the acronym MONUSCO. A total of 1,123 Latin Americans are participating, the majority of whom are Uruguayan envoys (934), with the greatest participation of Guatemalans on military missions abroad (153).



Previous highlights of missions

Although Latin American countries generally participate little in military missions abroad, the sending of troops abroad is not alien to the history of the American republics after their independence. A first intervention was the so-called "ABC", a coalition formed by Argentina, Brazil and Chile in the context of the Mexican Revolution at the beginning of the last century to prevent civil war in the North American country. Another conflict that required mediation was the Chaco War in the 1930s. In this confrontation between Paraguay and Bolivia, the interventions of Chile and Argentina were crucial to subsequently define the reaffirmation of the nationality of the Chaco region.

At the end of the 20th century, the most important was mission statement aimed at pacifying the former Yugoslav republics, known by the UN as UNPROFOR. Argentina was the Latin American country with the largest presence of troops in this scenario. Shortly afterwards, in the 1990s, two international missions were implemented, this time in the Western Hemisphere itself, to secure the agreements that put an end to the civil wars in El Salvador (ONUSAL) and Guatemala (MINUGUA). At the end of the decade, MOMEP was set up to impose an armistice between Peru and Ecuador, which were at war in the Cenepa War.

deadline In Colombia, too, some leaders at some point considered the possibility of apply for the presence of blue helmets in order to control and, in the long term, put an end to the FARC insurrection. In 1998, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe proposed the presence of international troops in the face of the government's inability to control the situation, but the initiative was not carried out. Following the peace agreement agreement in 2016, the signatory parties asked the UN to set up a UNVMC ( mission statement ) to monitor compliance with the terms of the agreement, which operates with a maximum of 120 people (some civilians and around 100 military and police personnel), of whom 94 were from Latin American countries as of January 2020.



The contrast between Uruguay and Mexico

Today, the countries of the region are present in 14 different peace missions (out of the total of 21 promoted by the UN), especially in Africa but also in other parts of the world. Nine Latin American nations participate in MINUSCA, convened for the pacification of the Central American Republic, the same issue as in UNVMC, the mission statement verification of the peace accords in Colombia. In UNMISS, mission statement of attendance in South Sudan, 8 countries participate, and in MONUSCO, implemented in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 7 do so.

As mentioned above, Uruguay is the largest contributor to ongoing missions (1,126 personnel as of 31 January). This staff is basically assigned to MONUSCO (934) and to a lesser extent to UNDOF (170), which ensures security on the Golan Heights as a force separating Syrians from Israelis; in total, Uruguayan blue helmets are present in six different missions. This service has been especially recognised by the United Nations, which values Uruguay's long history in this area subject: for example, it highlighted its attendance in the mission statement carried out in Haiti after the disaster caused by Hurricane Dean, to which it assigned 13,000 troops between 2007 and 2014. The contribution of Uruguay, a country of barely 3.5 million inhabitants, is greater than that of Spain (648), France (732) or Italy (1084).

On the other hand, the case of Mexico is the most striking due to its very limited participation in peace missions, considering that it is one of the region's powers. The North American country is the second Latin American nation that spends the second most resources on development for its armed forces, with a total of 7 million dollars, far behind Brazil's first place, with a total of almost 29.5 million dollars. Historically, Mexico has participated in more than 80 peace missions, lending troops from the Federal Police and the army, generally under issue. The previous president, Enrique Peña Nieto, announced in 2014 that Mexican units would once again participate decisively in armed operations in support of the UN, but today their contribution is reduced to 13 people (9 experts and 4 employees), which represents only 1% of Latin American participation. The most relevant reason to explain the Mexican phenomenon is the long tradition in favour of the Estrada doctrine of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. Moreover, the Mexican Constitution restricts the deployment of troops abroad unless Mexico has declared war on an enemy.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Articles Latin America

The British Raj in 1909 showing Muslim majority areas in green

▲ The British Raj in 1909 showing Muslim majority areas in green

ESSAY / Victoria Paternina and Claudia Plasencia

Pakistan's partition from India in 1947 marked the beginning of a long road of various territorial disputes, causing different effects in the region. The geopolitics of Pakistan with India are often linked when considering their shared history; and in fact, it makes sense if we take the perspective of Kashmir as the prominent issue that Islamabad has to deal with. However, neither the history nor the present of Pakistan can be reduced to New Delhi and their common regional conflict over the Line of Control that divides Kashmir.

The turbulent and mistrustful relations between India and Pakistan go beyond Kashmir, with the region of Punjab divided in two sides and no common ground between New Delhi and Islamabad. In the same way, the bitter ties between Islamabad and a third country are not exclusively with India. Once part of Pakistan, Bangladesh has a deeply rooted hatred relationship with Islamabad since their split in 1971. Looking beyond Kashmir, Punjab and Bangladesh show a distinct aspect of the territorial disputes of the past and present-day Pakistan. Islamabad has a say in these issues that seem to go unnoticed due to the fact that they stand in the shadow of Kashmir.

This essay tries to shed light on other events that have a solid weight on Pakistan's geopolitics as well as to make clear that the country is worthy of attention not only from New Delhi's perspective but also from their own Pakistani view. In that way, this paper is divided in two different topics that we believe are important in order to understand Pakistan and its role in the region. Punjab and Bangladesh: the two shoved under the rug by Kashmir.


The tale of territorial disputes is rooted deeply in Pakistan and Indian relations; the common mistake is to believe that New Delhi and Islamabad only fight over Kashmir. If the longstanding dispute over Kashmir has raised the independence claims of its citizens, Punjab is not far from that. On the edge of the partition, Punjab was another region in which territorial lines were difficult to apply. They finally decided to divide the territory in two sides; the western for Pakistan and the eastern for India. However, this issue automatically brought problems since the majority of Punjabis were neither Hindus nor Muslims but rather Sikhs. Currently, the division of Punjab is still in force. Despite the situation in Pakistan Punjab remains calm due to the lack of Sikhs as most of them left the territory or died in the partition. The context in India Punjab is completely different as riots and violence are common in the eastern side due to the wide majority of Sikhs that find no common ground with Hindus and believe that India has occupied its territory. Independence claims have been strengthened throughout the years on many occasions, supported by the Pakistani ISI in order to destabilize India. Furthermore, the rise of the nationalist Indian movement is worsening the situation for Punjabis who are realizing how their rights are getting marginalized in the eyes of Modi's government.

Nonetheless, the question of Punjabi independence is only a matter of the Indian side. The Pakistan-held Punjab is a crucial province of the country in which the wide majority are Muslims. The separation of Punjab from Islamabad would not be conceived since it would be devastating. For Pakistan, it would mean the loss of 72 million inhabitants; damaging the union and stability of the country. All of this taking into account that Punjab represents a strong pillar for the national economy since it is the place where the Indus river - one of the most important ones - flows. It can be said that there is no room for independence of the Pakistani side, nor for a rapprochement between both parts of the former Punjab region. They have lost their main community ties. Besides, the disagreements are between New Delhi and Eastern Punjab, so Islamabad has nothing to do here. According to that, the only likely long-term possibility would be the independence of the Indian side of the Punjab due to the growth of the hatred against New Delhi. Additionally, there are many Sikhs living abroad in UK or Canada who support the independence of Punjab into a new country "Khalistan" strengthening the movement into an international concern. Nevertheless, the achievement of this point would probably increase the violence in Punjab, and in case they would become independent it would be at the expense of many deaths.

There is a last point that must be taken into account when referring to India-Pakistan turbulent territorial relations. This is the case of the longstanding conflict over water resources in which both countries have been increasing tensions periodically. Considering that there is a scarcity of water resources and a high demand of that public good, it is easy to realize that two enemies that share those resources are going to fight for them. Furthermore, if they both are mainly agrarian countries, the interest of the water would be even harder as it is the case of Pakistan and India. However, for more than five decades both Islamabad and New Delhi have maintained the Indus Waters Treaty that regulates the consumption of the common waters. It divides the six rivers that flow over Pakistan and India in two sides. The three western ones for Pakistan, and the other three of the eastern part for India. Nevertheless, it does not mean that India could not make any use of the Pakistani ones or vice versa; they are allowed to use them in non-consumptive terms such as irrigation, but not for storage or building infrastructures[1]. This is where the problem is. India is seemed to have violated those terms by constructing a dam in the area of the Pakistani Indus river in order to use the water as a diplomatic weapon against Islamabad.

This term has been used as an Indian strategy to condemn the violence of Pakistan-based groups against India undermining in that way the economy of Pakistan which is highly dependent on water resources. Nevertheless, it is hard to think that New Delhi would violate one of the milestones treaties in its bilateral relations with Pakistan. Firstly, because it could escalate their already existent tensions with Pakistan that would transform into an increase of the violence against India. Islamabad's reaction would not be friendly, and although terrorist activities follow political causes, any excuse is valid to lead to an attack. Secondly, because it would bring a bad international image for PM Modi as the UN and other countries would condemn New Delhi of having breached a treaty as well as leaving thousands of people without access to water. Thirdly, they should consider that rivers are originated in the Tibet, China, and a bad movement would mean a reaction from Beijing diverting the water towards Pakistan[2]. Finally, India does not have enough infrastructure to use the additional water available. It is better for both New Delhi and Islamabad to maintain the issue over water resources under a formal treaty considering their mutual mistrust and common clashes. Nevertheless, it would be better for them to renew the Indus Waters Treaty in order to include new aspects that were not foreseen when it was drafted as well as to preserve the economic security of both countries.


Punjab is a territory obligated to be divided in two between India and Pakistan, yet Bangladesh separated itself completely from Pakistan and finds itself in the middle of India. Bangladesh, once part of Pakistan, after a tumultuous war, separated into its own country. While India did not explicitly intervene with Bangladesh and Pakistan's split, it did promote the hatred between the two for its own diary and to increase in power. The scarring aspect of the split of Bangladesh from Pakistan is the bloody war and genocide that took place, something that the Bengali people still have not overcome to this day. The people of Bangladesh are seeking an apology from Pakistan, something that does not look like it is going to come anytime soon.

Pakistan and Bangladesh share a bitter past with one another as prior to 1971, they were one country which separated into two as a result of a bloody war and emerging political differences. Since 1971 up to today, India and the Awami league have worked to maintain this hatred between Bangladesh and Pakistan through propagandist programs and different techniques. For example, they set up a war museum, documentaries and films in order to boast more the self-proclamation of superiority on behalf of India against Bangladesh and Pakistan. India and the Awami League ignore the fact that they have committed atrocities against the Bengali people and that in large part they are responsible for the breakup between Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) worked to improve relations with Pakistan under the governments of Ziaur Rahman, Begum Khaldia Zia, and Hossain Mohammad Ershad in Bangladesh, who had maintained distance from India. Five Pakistani heads of government have visited Bangladesh since 1980, along with signing trade and cultural agreements to improve relations between the two nations. [3] While an alliance between Pakistan and Bangladesh against India is not a realistic scenario, what is important for Pakistan and Bangladesh for the next decade to come is attempt to put their past behind them in order to steer clear of India and develop mutually beneficial relations to help improve their economies. For example, a possible scenario for improving Pakistan and Bangladesh relations could be to join the CPEC to better take advantage of the trade opportunities offered within South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, and China and Russia.[4]

Despite decades of improving trade and military links, especially as a defence against Indian supremacy in the region, the two countries continue to be divided by the question of genocide. Bangladesh wants Pakistan to recognize the genocide and its atrocities and teach them as a part of its history. However, Pakistan has refused to do so and has even referred to militant leader executed for war crimes as being killed for his loyalty to Pakistan.[5]

Even though India supported Bangladesh in its independence from Pakistan, Bangladesh thinks that India is self-serving and that they change ideas depending on their own convenience. [6] An alliance of Pakistan and Bangladesh, even though it is against a common enemy, India, is not realistic given the information recently provided. India is a country that yes, even though they helped Bangladesh against Pakistan, they are always going to look out for themselves, especially in search to be the central power in the region. India sees still a lot of potential for their power in the coming decades. Indian PM Narendra Modi is very keen on making strategic choices for the country to transform and increase its global leadership position.[7]

The hostile relations between Pakistan and India find their peak in its longstanding conflict over Kashmir, but Punjab and Bangladesh must not be put in the shadow. The further directions of both PM Imran Khan and PM Modi could have consequences that would alter the interests of Punjab and Bangladesh as different actors in the international order. In the case of Punjab their mutual feelings of mistrust could challenge the instability of a region far from being calm. It is true that independence claims is not an issue for Pakistan itself since both Islamabad and Pakistan-held Punjab would lose in that scenario, and they both know it. Nonetheless, Indian Punjabis' reality is different. They have crucial problems within New Delhi, again as a historical matter of identity and ethnicity that is still present nowadays. Sikhs have not found common ground with Hindus yet and it does not seem that it will happen in a near future. In fact, tensions are increasing, posing a threat for two nations with their views on Kashmir rather than on Punjab. In the case of Bangladesh, its relations with Pakistan did not have a great start. Bangladesh gained freedom with help from India and remained under its influence. Both Pakistan and Bangladesh took a long time to adjust to the shock of separation and their new reality, with India in between them.

In conclusion, Punjab and Bangladesh tend to be the less important territorial issues, and not a priority neither for Islamabad nor for New Delhi that are more engaged in Kashmir. However, considering the magnitude of both disputes, we should appreciate how the Sikhs in the Indian-held territory of Punjab as well as the Bengali people deserve the same rights as the Kashmiris to be heard and to have these territorial disputes settled once and for all.


Ayres, Alyssa. "India: a 'Major Power' Still below Its Potential." Lowy Institute, July 24, 2018.

Iftikhar, Momin. "Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations." The Nation. The Nation, December 15, 2018.

"Indus Water Treaty: Everything You Need to Know". ClearIAS.

Muhammad Hanif, Col. "Keeping India out of Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations." Daily Times, March 6, 2018.

Sami, Shafi. "Pakistan Bangladesh Relations In the Changing International Environment." JSTOR. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, 2017.

Shakoor, Farzana. "Pakistan Bangladesh Relations Survey. JSTOR. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, 2017.


[1] "Indus Water Treaty: Everything You Need to Know". Clearias. Accessed March 24.

[2] ibid

[3] Muhammad Hanif, Col. "Keeping India out of Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations." Daily Times, March 6, 2018.

[4] Iftikhar, Momin. "Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations." The Nation. The Nation, December 15, 2018.

[5] Sami, Shafi. "Pakistan Bangladesh Relations In the Changing International Environment." JSTOR. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, 2017.

[6] Shakoor, Farzana. "Pakistan Bangladesh Relations Survey." JSTOR. Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, 2017.

[7]Ayres, Alyssa. "India: a 'Major Power' Still below Its Potential." Lowy Institute, July 24, 2018.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia Security and defence Testing

From the success of super-minister Sérgio Moro to the failure of 'hugs, not bullets': two different signs in the first year of populist presidents in Brazil and Mexico

  • AMLO promised to end the steady annual rise in homicides seen under his two predecessors, but over the course of 2019 he has accentuated it.

  • Improved figures in Brazil are overshadowed by an increase in accidental deaths in police operations and the issue increase in the number of provisional inmates in prisons.

  • In the first months of 2020 in both Mexico and Brazil homicides have increased, but the Covid-19 confinement could affect the annual statistics.

The Mexican president at the launch of the National Guard in June 2019 [Gov. of Mexico].

▲ The Mexican president at the launch of the National Guard in June 2019 [Gov. of Mexico].

report SRA 2020 / Túlio Dias de Assis and Marcelina Kropiwnicka[PDF version].

One of Latin America's best-known conflicts is its high level of violence, often as a consequence of the strong presence of organised crime. Within this regional paradigm, not all presidents deal with the problem of crime in the same way. While some opt for a more passive policy, others prefer to bet on an iron fist, despite the risks that this may entail. 2019 was the first year in office of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Jair Bolsonaro, populist leaders of opposing ideologies, who came to power barely a month apart. In Brazil homicides went down, in Mexico they went up.


There were a total of 35,588 victims of intentional homicide in Mexico in 2019. This means that, as 2019 drew to a close, a record high in homicides nationwide was left behind. In doing so, President López Obrador, known by the abbreviation AMLO, failed to deliver on his election promise to reduce violence. Although he maintained his approval rating at 72% at the end of 2019, his approval has been damaged in the aftermath by his management of the coronavirus health crisis.

Three previous governments had favoured military combat against drug cartels, but López Obrador established a divergent security strategy upon his arrival, focusing more on the self-described approach of "abrazos, no balazos" (hugs, not bullets). This approach led to the release of Ovidio Guzmán, son of Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, which the government argued was motivated by a desire to prevent an escalation of cartel violence. In addition, AMLO created the National Guard, a new security force that has been deploying tens of thousands of troops, formerly from the army and federal police, to tackle organised crime in areas core topic across the country. While the new strategy aims to strengthen security and tackle violence in the cities, it has so far failed to curb the barbarity. The president has even reneged on another promise and announced that for the time being the army will remain on the streets sharing the role of citizen security.

The issue of intentional homicides in 2019 was 34,582, up 2.5% from 33,743 the previous year; femicides reached 1,006, up 10.3% from 912 in 2018, according to the National Public Security System (SNSP). Although in previous years, during presidents Enrique Peña Nieto's term in office, there were larger increases - previous increases were 15.7% (from 2017 to 2018), 26.5% (from 2016 to 2017) and 25.1% (from 2015 to 2016) - the 2019 homicides represent the highest overall figure recorded in the last two decades. The figures from the mandate of Felipe Calderón (PAN), the first to take the army to the streets to fight drugs, were surpassed in the mandate of Peña Nieto (PRI) and now there has been an increase again in the first year of López Obrador (Morena). All three criticised the security management of their predecessors and all three failed in their purpose (AMLO at least for the moment).

On average, 2,881 murders were committed per month in 2019; the highest issue recorded was 2,993 murders in June and the lowest issue was 2,731 in April. The state with the most homicides was Guanajuato, followed by the state of Mexico and leave California. In terms of homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants, Colima ranked first with 98.3, followed by leave California (80.6) and Chihuahua (68.7).

Much of the violence that has occurred across the country is directly related to gang formations and drug traffickers, and the struggle for dominance of local markets. It is therefore not surprising that Colima, home to the strategic port of Manzanillo, a focus of illicit activities, is the state at the top of the blacklist. In addition, there is partnership between criminal groups on both sides of the US-Mexico border for the mutual supply of drugs and weapons. Seventy per cent of homicides are committed with firearms, many of which have been smuggled across the border. The status not only undermines security in Mexico but also in the US. 

Donald Trump has urged Mexico to "wage war" against the cartels. In November he announced that he would officially label them as terrorist organisations. "The United States is ready, willing and able to engage and do the work quickly and effectively," Trump tweeted at the time. However, he ended up postponing the proclamation at the request of the Mexican president.

In the first quarter of 2020, homicides continued their upward trend, with 269 homicides more than in the same quarter of the previous year. While the social distancing measures taken during the Covid-19 crisis may change the trend in the second semester, the reduced investment in security to direct the public expense towards the health and economic sectors may push up the issue murder rate.




In contrast to Mexico, Brazil has achieved a series of more positive results, following a trend to leave already experienced in the last year of Michel Temer's presidency. This is mainly due to the measures taken by the until recently appointed Minister of Justice and Public Security Sérgio Moro, the former federal judge in charge of Operation Car Wash. Bolsonaro's choice of Moro as minister was not random, since Moro is considered by a large part of the population as a hero in the fight against corruption, due to the various trials he led against members of Odebrecht and the political class , including the one that led to the imprisonment of former president Lula da Silva. Having promised in his campaign a tough hand against crime and corruption, Bolsonaro decided to merge the ministries of Justice and Public Security and offer Moro its leadership.

issue The decision was a wise one, and one of those that best sustained the Brazilian president's popularity in his first year in office. test of this was the significant drop in violent crime, including a 19% drop in the number of homicides issue . This is one of the most worrying indicators in Brazil, as it is the country with the highest issue gross annual homicide rate in the world. In 2018 homicides were 51,558, while in 2019 they fell to 41,635, a decrease of 19.2%. Excluding larcenies from these figures, the decrease was from 49,120 to 29,750.

In addition, cargo thefts were down by 35% and drug seizures increased by 81%. In Rio de Janeiro, one of the most problematic states in terms of security, larceny (robbery followed by death) was reduced by 34% and seizures of illegal weapons increased by 32%.

One of the measures that contributed most to this decline was the integration of the different institutions of state security forces at all levels: federal, state and municipal. This has allowed for a higher level of coordination, especially significant in the area of intelligence services, where information now flows more easily between institutions. Furthermore, in this same area, it is worth highlighting the investments made in Big Data and intelligence systems. The main focus has been on facial recognition and video surveillance systems.

Another important policy has been the transfer of gang leaders to more isolated prisons, thus preventing their possible communication and coordination with gang members on the outside.

Finally, mention should be made of the so-called "anti-crime package": a series of laws and reforms to the penal code that increase the power of the security forces to act, as well as establishing harsher penalties for violent crime, organised crime and corruption. The project C finally adopted by the Brazilian Parliament is a far cry from Moro's original proposal , but it has contributed, albeit to a lesser extent, to the drop in crime.

On the other hand, these positive figures were accompanied by a worrying increase in accidental deaths in police operations, with several cases of children killed by stray bullets in shoot-outs between drug gangs and security forces going viral. In addition, the issue number of provisional prisoners in Brazilian jails increased by 4.3% compared to the previous year. All this has encouraged criticism from most of the civil service examination and various national and international human rights NGOs.

In the first two months of 2020, 548 more deaths were recorded than in the same period of the previous year. This spike occurred in 20 of Brazil's 27 federal states, suggesting that this is a general trend rather than a sporadic episode. However, due to the mandatory quarantine library porter in several states and municipalities, homicides fell again, making any extrapolation for this year as a whole difficult. Another factor to take into account for 2020 is the recent resignation of Minister Moro; without him, the likelihood that the reforms initiated in the first year will continue is greatly reduced.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Articles Latin America

Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia and Honduras have already C , while Brazil and Guatemala have pledged to do so shortly.

  • The 25th anniversary of the AMIA bombing served to unleash a cascade of pronouncements, breaking down the lack of adequate legal instruments against the group

  • Several countries have established lists of terrorist organisations, allowing for greater coordination with the US in the fight against terrorism in the region.

  • Hezbollah's involvement in the TBA's illicit economies and drug trafficking networks explain the decision of the countries concerned in South and Central America.

report to those killed in the AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires [Nbelohklavek].

report to those killed in the AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires [Nbelohklavek].

report SRA 2020 / Mauricio Cardarelli [PDF version].

The 25th anniversary of the biggest terrorist attack in Latin America - the attack on the association Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) on 18 July 1994 - prompted several countries in the region to announce their intention purpose to declare the Lebanese Shiite organisation Hezbollah a terrorist organisation group . Hezbollah is blamed for the AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people, as well as the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in the Argentine capital two years earlier, which killed another 22 people.

The year 2019, then, marked an important leap in the confrontation of Hezbollah in the Western Hemisphere, since previously no Latin American nation had declared this organisation to be a terrorist organisation, which the United States, the European Union and other countries have identified as such. In fact, Latin American codes of law, beyond the guerrilla phenomenon itself, have barely taken external terrorism into account, as these are states that have not suffered as much as other parts of the planet from the rise of international terrorism, especially so far this century and above all from the hand of Islamist radicalism.

The round of declarations was opened by Argentina itself in July, on the anniversary of the AMIA massacre. In mid-August it was Paraguay's turn, while Brazil then announced its intention to follow in the same footsteps. lecture Later, US efforts catalysed the process, so that at framework of the Third Hemispheric Ministerial Meeting on Combating Terrorism, held in mid-January 2020 in Bogotá, both Colombia and Honduras proceeded to include Hezbollah on lists of terrorist organisations. For his part, the Guatemalan president-elect pledged to take a similar step when he takes office.

The cataloguing already effectively carried out by Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia and Honduras (countries attentive to Hezbollah's activity in the so-called Triple Frontier or its involvement in drug trafficking), and the as yet unimplemented but supposedly imminent cataloguing of Brazil and Guatemala should help to make the fight against this radical group by the national security forces and in the sentences handed down by the respective courts of justice more forceful.

If in 2018 the arrest of part of the Barakat clan's network was already a step forward in police coordination between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay in the area shared border (the Triple Frontier, a place of intense commercial activity and of financing and concealment of Hezbollah operatives, sheltered by elements of a large Muslim population), the steps taken in 2019 constitute a decisive action.

Infiltration in Latin America

Hezbollah militants and cells have been able to penetrate Latin America in recent decades primarily by taking advantage of the Lebanese diaspora. Following Lebanon's civil war between 1975 and 1990, thousands of people emigrated to the American continent, sometimes settling in places where there was already a certain Arab presence, as was the case with Palestinians or Syrians. While some of these immigrants were Christian, others were Muslim; the latter's awareness of the fight against Israel led to the formalisation of networks for financing radical groups, in a process of money laundering from the profuse commercial activity - and also smuggling - carried out in many of these enclaves.

A strategic point in this dynamic has been the Triple Frontier, home to some 25,000 people of Lebanese origin, as well as other Arab groups: it is the area with the most Muslims in Latin America. The porous border connects Ciudad del Este (Paraguay), with 400,000 inhabitants; Foz de Iguazú (Brazil), with 300,000; and Puerto Iguazú (Argentina), with 82,000. It is a hotbed of illicit activities linked to money laundering, counterfeiting, smuggling and drug trafficking. Illicit trade in the TBA is estimated to be worth some $18 billion a year. The authorities have been able to identify Hezbollah financing networks, as well as the presence of group operatives (the preparations for the Buenos Aires bombings of 1992 and 1994 were traced back to this tri-border enclave). Last year, Assad Ahmad Barakat and some 15 members of his clan, which generated funds for Hezbollah, were arrested.

Other points of support for Hizbollah have been certain places in Brazil with mosques and radicalised Shia cultural centres, which host activities of extremist clerics such as Bilal Mohsen Wehbe. On the other hand, Hugo Chávez's rapprochement strategy with Iran involved a close relationship partnership manifested in the submission of Venezuelan passports to Islamists and their involvement in the drug trade under the protection of Chávez's leadership. This interrelation also contributed to its greater dispersion throughout the region, through Hezbollah's progressive links with those involved in the drug trafficking structure, such as the FARC or some Mexican cartels (Los Zetas and Sinaloa).


Designation of Hezbollah as group terrorist


Cascade of signals

Argentina opened the round of Hezbollah finger-pointing (and the creation, in most cases, of lists of terrorist groups, which did not previously exist in Latin American countries) on the 25th anniversary of the AMIA bombing in July 2019. The then president Mauricio Macri, who had put an end to the Kirchnerist presidencies of certain complicity with Iran, approved the creation of a public register of persons and entities linked to acts of terrorism and its financing (RePET).

On the occasion of the landmark anniversary, the University Secretary of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, encouraged the countries of the contin ent to make this subject declaration against Hezbollah.

Paraguay followed in Argentina's footsteps a month later. Mario Abdo Benítez's government had been criticised for failing to act decisively on the Triple Frontier, whose smuggling, such as tobacco, and other illicit activities feed the perception of corruption that accompanies the country's politicians. The Paraguayan president also plans to introduce a package of legislative reforms against money laundering.

Brazil announced on 20 August its intention to proceed in the same way as its two neighbours, although it has not yet implemented this decision. At the end of February 2020, Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of the Brazilian president and national deputy, confirmed that the step would be taken 'soon'; he suggested that the delay in adopting the measure was due to the fact that the grade of group terrorist is also being considered for other organisations, such as Hamas.

In December it was Guatemala's advertisement , whose president-elect, Alejandro Giammattei, announced that he would blacklist Hezbollah when he took office position . Giammattei linked the decision to a pro-Israeli policy that would also lead him to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following the example of the US (Honduras and Paraguay are also on the same line). Giammattei took office on 14 January, but has yet to implement his promises.

Behind these moves by Latin American countries was US diplomacy. The deployment of US diplomacy was evident in the third meeting of the Hemispheric Counterterrorism Ministerial lecture , an initiative promoted by Washington with Hezbollah in its sights, among other objectives. This meeting was held on 20 January 2020 in Bogotá and was attended by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, attendance .

Colombia took advantage of meeting, which it hosted, to announce its consideration of Hezbollah as a group terrorist organisation. President Iván Duque announced that three days before the country's National Security committee he had adopted the US and EU lists of terrorist individuals and organisations. The approved list included the ELN guerrillas and FARC dissidents, with the former FARC disappearing from the list.

Honduras, the Central American country that is the most compliant with US strategies, also carried out its international advertisement at the same lecture. Its foreign minister commented at the end of a previousmeeting of the National Security and Defence committee that Honduras had designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation group and proposed the creation of a register of individuals and entities linked to terrorism and its financing.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Articles Latin America

The region purchased only 0.8% of total Russian arm exports in 2015-2019; the US has recovered its position as the main arms supplier for the Americas

  • Over the last five years, the region carried out 40% less arms imports than during 2010-2014; the end of the commodity boom era reduced military equipment purchases

  • Chavez's Venezuela got almost $20 billion in Russian loans to buy weapons, but the collapse of the Venezuelan oil industry has left Moscow without a clear full repayment.

  • The arrival of the Bolivarian left to power in many countries brought tight relations with Moscow. But the pink revolutions wave has subsided in almost all places

A Russian Sukhoi Su-30MK2 bought by Venezuela, in Barquisimeto in 2016 [Carlos E. Pérez].

▲ A Russian Sukhoi Su-30MK2 bought by Venezuela, in Barquisimeto in 2016 [Carlos E. Pérez].

ARS Report 2020 / Peter Cavanagh[PDF version] [PDF version].

Over the last two decades Latin America increased its military expenditure. As the Latin American countries improved their economies, they looked to modernize their military and defence systems. The purchasing spree was notorious during the golden decade of high commodity prices (2004-2014), especially during the first five years, which were the most profitable in public income terms. After the commodity boom was over the region lowered its military purchases.

The trend was not uniform. Meanwhile Central America and the Caribbean, less affected by the commodity cycle, kept increasing the expenditure in arms imports over the last years, South America, more depending on minerals and oil exports, reduced the volume of arms transfers. Taken the region as a whole, Latin America's military purchases were 10% of global arms transfers in 2010-2014, and 5.7% in 2015-2019, according to SIPRI. Between the two periods, arms imports by Latin America dropped 40%.

This general evolution was mirrored by the ups and downs of Russia's portfolio in the region. Moscow managed to exploit the opportunity of the golden decade to the fullest. Russia positioned itself as a willing partner in arms sales and became the leading arms exporter in the region, surpassing China and the United States by far. Russia tried to exert its influence in Latin America to the highest extent possible, taking advantage of a wave of leftist governments (the so-called pink revolutions). Latin America has traditionally fallen under the sphere of influence of the United States. With Russian arms sales in the region, it serves as a direct challenge to US influence. As the second largest exporter of military arms in the world, after the US, Russia has a unique opportunity to affect policy in the region.

However, it is important to note that from 2014 onwards, Latin American arms imports have really begun to drop off, and this includes Russian exports as well. Russian arms exports decreased by 18% globally between 2010-2014 and 2015-2019, first affected by a prominent drop of purchases by India (-47%), which is its main client (25% of Russia's sales in that period), and, less importantly, by a reduction of imports from the Americas. Russian sells to Latin American countries were only 0.8% of total Russian military exports. From 2014 onwards the US recovered its traditional position as the main arms supplier for the region.




In the last two decades Venezuela has been Russia's biggest customer in the Western Hemisphere. Since the mid 2000's, after Hugo Chávez consolidated his power, Venezuela has purchased almost $20 billion in military equipment from Moscow. The years 2005 and 2006 saw the beginning of the transactions: Russian loans for Chavez's government to buy arms in exchange of future Venezuelan oil deliveries.

Over the years Caracas carried out more than thirty operations of arms acquisitions. more than the number of operations done by the other countries combined: Mexico 7, Peru 6, Nicaragua 5, Brazil 4, Colombia 3, Ecuador 2, and Argentina, Uruguay and Cuba 1 each. Among other significant material Venezuela acquired 24 Sukhoi fighters Su-30MK2s (and ordered 12 more), the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, various combat and transport helicopters such as the Mi-35M and Mi-26 models, and 92 T-72M1 tanks.

The prospects of Russia getting all its money back any time soon from Venezuela is quite low. Due to the severe economic conditions of the country, Venezuela has not been able to continue its payments, so the terms of the debt had to be renegotiated. Since 2014 Moscow has not delivered any new material. After the withdraw of the giant Russian energy company Rosneft from the country at the beginning of 2020 there have been fewer ways for the Russians to recover the loans. In many respects, this has left Venezuelan-Russian relations at a crossroads.

As Venezuela continues to decline rapidly, Russia is faced with deciding whether to keep making large investments in a country where it is tremendously risky or just abandon all efforts which have been made over the past few decades. Only time will tell which course of action the Kremlin will take.

Besides Venezuela there are a handful of other nations which have also carried out arms deals with Moscow. Nicaragua for example has been the beneficiary of many arms deals. According to the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database, in the first decade of the 21st century almost no arms orders had been made. However, this changed two years after Daniel Ortega came to power in 2007. Since then 90% of all military imports that Nicaragua has received have been supplied by Russia. In 2016, 50 T-72B1 Russian tanks were shipped to Nicaragua as part of a reported $80 million deal. Then in 2017 two Antonov An-26 military transport aircraft were sent.

The Nicaraguan government justified these purchases, saying that the equipment would be used as part of the struggle against drug trafficking. However, this has caused many other Latin American nations to become concerned of a military imbalance in the region, especially because some of the new equipment is more proper for waging war rather than keeping internal security.

Reports on Nicaraguan-Russian relations point to the fact that Russia may have ulterior motives beyond just influence. In many ways it comes down to military real estate. The arms deals between the two countries has been seen as an attempt on the part of Russia to curry favour with the Nicaraguan government in attempts to gain access refuelling facilities by the equator.

Other significant Russian arms sales recipients, as already mentioned, include states such as Peru, Mexico and Brazil. In the case of Peru, a country that even during the Cold War had some Soviet weapons systems in its inventory in order to diversify its arm imports, the most recent deal occurred between 2014 and 2016 valued at approximately half a billion dollars: the purchase of 24 transport helicopters Mi-8MT and Mi-17 (another 24 units were ordered in 2017).

Mexico has not Russians among its main arms suppliers (64% of Mexican purchases were to the US in the period 2015-2019; 9.5% to Spain and 8.5% to France), but still it carried out six arms deals with Russia since 2000. There has not been a deal made since 2011 when three Mil Mi-17 Military helicopters were purchased.

Brazil has also had a handful of deals with Russia in recent years, during the presidencies of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, when an amore pro-Russia stance was held by the government. This has changed immensely since the election of Jair Bolsonaro in 2018. The Brazilian government is now openly concerned for Russian influence in the region and has begun to take a more pro-USA stance when it comes to foreign policy. In any case, in the period 2015-2019 the main arms suppliers to Brazil were France (26%), the US (20%) and the UK (17%).

Overall, Russian arms sales to Latin America grew considerably, with some fluctuations, over the course of the last twenty years. The latest trend however has been a significant drop in overall Russian arms exports to Latin America. Between 2015 and 2019, as already mentioned, Latin America accounted for only 0.8% of all Russian arms exports.

This drop can be attributed to two main factors. In the first place, the change of ideological orientation in the Latin American countries, with less leftist parties in power. Secondly, the end of a booming economy in the region. And additional reason could be the international sanctions against some specific Russian industries due to the aggressive foreign policy conducted by Putin.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Articles Latin America