Blogs

Washington warns of increase in violent transnational gangs and estimates MS-13 membership at 10,000 members

The Trump Administration has called attention to an increase in violent transnational gangs in the United States, particularly Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13, which is related to gang members from the Central American Northern Triangle. Although Trump has invoked this issue in a demagogic manner, criminalizing immigration and forgetting that the Central American maras were born in Los Angeles, the FBI finds that these organizations are recruiting more youth than ever before and demanding greater violence from their members. U.S. authorities estimate that these gangs are governed to some extent from El Salvador, but the hierarchy is not so clear.

Mara Salvatrucha graffiti

▲ Mara Salvatrucha graffiti [Wikimedia Commons].

article / Lisa Cubías[English version] [Englishversion].

Never before has the word "animal" probably caused so much controversy in the United States as when President Donald Trump pronounced it in allusion to members of the Marasalvatrucha or MS 13, on May 16. Initially it seemed that he was referring to all undocumented immigrants, which provoked widespread rejection; he then specified that label had meant to apply to gang members who arrive illegally in the United States to commit acts of violence. Trump placed his war on gangs in the framework of his immigration policy of zero tolerance and reinforcement of national agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in order to reduce migration flows from Latin America to the United States.

The description of the Latino youth gang phenomenon as an immigration problem had already come up in Trump's January 28 State of the Union speech . Before the U.S. congress , Trump told the story of two teenagers, Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, who had been brutally murdered by six MS-13 members as they were returning home. He asserted that criminals had taken advantage of loopholes in immigration law to live in the United States and reiterated that the congress should act to close them and prevent gang members from being able to use them to enter the country.

Despite Trump's demagogic oversimplification, the truth is that Latino gangs are a product of the United States. They are, as The Washington Post has put it, "as American-made as Google." They were born in Los Angeles, first from children of Mexican immigration and then fueled by the arrival of migrants and refugees fleeing armed conflicts in Central America. Thus, El Salvador saw the emergence of a twelve-year civil war between the government and leftist guerrillas during the 1980s. The length and brutality of the conflict, coupled with the political and economic instability the country was experiencing, fueled the exodus of Salvadorans to the United States. The influx of young people from El Salvador, and also from Honduras and Guatemala, led to the emergence of the Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 maras, both related to the pre-existing Mexican Mafia (La M).

When peace came to Central America in the 1990s, many of these young people returned to their countries, following their families or expelled by U.S. authorities because of their criminal activities. Thus, the maras began to operate in the Northern Triangle, where they constitute a serious social problem.

Transnationality

According to the department of Justice, there are some 33,000 violent street gangs in the United States, with a total of 1.4 million members. MS-13, with around 10,000 enlisted youths, accounts for only 1% of that total and in 2017 only 17 of its members were prosecuted, yet it deserves the full attention of the White House. Regardless of possible political interests of the Trump Administration, the truth is that US authorities have been highlighting its increase and its dangerousness, in addition to warning that certain orders are issued from El Salvador. This transnationality is viewed with concern.

The United States does not recognize MS-13 as a terrorist organization, and therefore has not included it in its National Counterterrorism Strategy released in October 2018. It is instead categorized as a transnational criminal organization, as described in an April 2017 Justice department document. According to this document, several of the gang leaders are imprisoned in El Salvador and are sending representatives to cross illegally into the United States in order to unify the gangs operating in U.S. territory, while forcing the MS-13 organization in the United States to send their illegal earnings to the leaders of group in El Salvador and to exert more control and violence over their territories.

The FBI assures that MS-13 and Barrio 18 "continue to expand their influence in the United States". These transnational gangs "are present in nearly every state and continue to grow in membership issue , targeting younger recruits than ever before." As grade of the aforementioned department Justice indicates, the Attorney General warned that "in the last five years alone" the issue of gang members "has risen significantly." "Transnational criminal organizations like MS-13 present one of the most serious threats to the security of the United States," he said.

Stephen Richardson, director attachment of the FBI's research criminal division, told congress in January 2018 that the mass arrests and incarceration of MS-13 members and mid-level leaders over the past year in the United States have caused frustration for MS-13 leaders in El Salvador. "They are very interested in sending younger, more violent criminals through their channels into this country to be gang thugs," he told the House Homeland Security committee .

The transnational character of the MS-13 is questioned by expert Roberto Valencia, author of articles and books on the maras. He works as a journalist for El Faro, one of El Salvador's leading digital media outlets; his latest book, graduate Carta desde Zacatraz, was published a few months ago.

"At first, the Los Angeles gangs served as moral guides over those who migrated to El Salvador during the 1990s. Some of the veteran leaders now living in El Salvador grew up in Los Angeles and have maintained personal and emotional ties to the Structures of the gangs to which they belonged," Valencia tells Global Affairs. "However," he adds, "that does not imply an international connection: everyone, no matter where they live, believes they are the essence of the gang and are not subordinate to the organization in another country." "Some leaders in El Salvador share a very staff relationship with the organization they got their start in the United States, and that is not so easily dissolved, but the link as a single organization was broken long ago," he says.

Valencia firmly rejects any interference by the US MS-13 in El Salvador's MS-13. He admits, however, that there may be some subject influence the other way around, as Salvadoran gang members in the United States "may be deported to El Salvador and end up in Salvadoran jails, where they may be punished by prison mafias."

Migrants: cause or consequence?

Roberto Valencia also speaks out about Donald Trump's references to gangs: "Trump talks about MS-13 to win votes under the premise of an immigration policy that ends up criminalizing all immigrants. It is outrageous that Trump presents them as the cause, when gangs started in the United States. In fact, the vast majority of migrants from the Northern Triangle come to the United States escaping gangs."

In Central America, the control that gangs exert over a society that is poor ranges from demanding "rent" (extortion) from companies and people who own small businesses to forcing older women to take care of babies that gang members have had, and "asking" young girls to become girlfriends of the gang's main leader if they do not want to be killed themselves and their families. The application of young girls is an extremely common cause of migration, which is also indicative of the misogynistic culture in rural areas of Latin American countries.

In most of his comments, Trump has described MS-13 as a threat to public safety and the stability of American communities. However, the Center for Immigration programs of study , a leading independent, non-profit research organization, conducted a research on the impact of MS-13 in the United States and addressed immigration measures the Administration should take to control its presence. It found that MS-13 and other gangs are indeed a threat to public safety, thus sharing Trump's view, but disagreed with Trump by not linking immigration to the impact of gangs.

U.S. attorney Greg Hunter, who has been a member of the Criminal Justice Act panel in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia since 2001 and has worked on gang-related matters, says that shoplifting and illegal immigration cases are far more frequent than those that can be categorized as threats to public safety or the "American community," such as drug trafficking and murders. He also alludes to the fact that these organizations are not centralized and, although they operate under the same identity, they do not follow the same orders. He asserts that the gangs have made efforts to centralize operations, but have result ineffective.

It is crucial to take into account the statistics on the influx of migrants when assessing the recent migrant caravans from the Northern Triangle that Trump has sought to link to gangs. The US president said these migrants were "stone-cold criminals."

However, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection record does not suggest this. In its 2017 Securityreport it counts a total of 526,901 illegal immigrants who were denied entrance, of which 310,531 were detained and 31,039 arrested; of the latter only 228 belonged to MS-13 and as many were members of other maras (61 of them from Barrio-18).

Categories Global Affairs: North America Security and defence Articles Latin America

skill of the two powers to have instructions in the Indian Ocean and to be active in strategic neighboring countries.

Rumors of possible future Chinese military use of area in Gwadar (Pakistan), where Beijing already operates a port, have added a great deal of attention in the last year to the rivalry between China and India to secure access to points in the region that will allow them to control the Indian Ocean. India regards this ocean as its own, while for China it is vital to ensure the security of its energy supplies from the Middle East.

Chinese work to transform Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands into an island in 2015.

▲ China's work to transform Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands into an island in 2015 [US Navy].

article / Jimena Puga

The two major Asia-Pacific powers, China and India, are vying for regional supremacy in the Indian Ocean by establishing military instructions and economic agreements with bordering countries such as Pakistan. The Indian Ocean, which borders Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, is home to one of the most crucial and strategic points for international trade. Nearly 40% of the oil extracted from the sea is produced in the Indian Ocean, which also has rich mineral and fishing deposits.

Five years ago China began its major territorial reclamation in the South China Sea, and the country has established a territorial status quo in its favor without receiving any international impediments, in order to counter the US military presence in the region, established during the Cold War, and which controls the South China Sea and all goods coming from Africa, the Middle East and the Strait of Malacca. This territorial expansion of the Middle Empire began in December 2013; since then China has built more than average dozen more artificial islands, located in a strategic location through which a third of global maritime trade passes, and has deployed military assets on them.

However, the creation of these islands has caused great damage to the region's marine ecosystem. The coral reefs that China has destroyed in order to use them as a base for the establishment of its islands provided food and shelter for numerous marine species, as well as supplies for Asia's most important fishing companies. However, thanks to this territorial expansion China is in a better position not only for maritime and air control of the area but also to continue to advance its strategy of power projection in the Indian Ocean and part of the Pacific to satisfy its plans for power and supremacy in the region.

Neocolonization

In early 2018, some reports suggested that China plans to set up a naval base next to the port it is developing in Gwadar, in Pakistan, although Pakistani authorities deny that Beijing has requested that the facilities be put to that use. In any case, the docking of military vessels at area in Gwadar would connect that point with the country's recent military and naval base built in Djibouti - the first China has abroad - as part of a growing network own of instructions air and naval along the Indian Ocean.

India, the greatest power among regional countries, is responding to Chinese expansion with unexpected strength. Delhi aspires to control the most strategic maritime trade points in the Indian Ocean including the Straits of Malacca and Hormuz and the Mozambique Channel. In addition, India is gaining access to the instructions of its foreign allies in the region. In 2017 it signed a logisticsagreement with the US that would mean free access to US military installations across the region (agreement which perhaps has something to do with the US desire to create an alternative to the Silk Belt and Road Initiative and curb the rapid growth of the Asian superpower).

In January 2018, India also announced the agreement logistical exchange with France involving free access to French military facilities in Djibouti, namely in the Red Sea and on the island of meeting, south of the Indian Ocean (perhaps to counter Sino-European agreements). Finally, India is also building strategic relations and infrastructure near the Persian Gulf. And after years of negotiations, Delhi has managed to formalize a agreement with Iran to modernize and expand the port of Chabahar, near the Strait of Hormuz. While it is true that the vast majority of agreements are commercial in nature, they have enough potential to increase India's access and influence in Central Asia.

In response to Beijing's military base in Djibouti, New Delhi has begun seeking access to new facilities in Seychelles, Oman and Singapore. From Tanzania to Sri Lanka the two Asian powers are attempting to increase their military and economic presence in countries along the Indian Ocean in their mission statement for regional supremacy. Finally, it is possible that India's 2017 request for drones from the US was aimed at goal monitoring Chinese activity in the ocean.

"My Chinese colleagues have explicitly told me that if the U.S. continues to fly over and navigate in what they self-described as 'their waters,' China will shoot down the corresponding intruder," said Matthew Kroenig, a CIA and Pentagon analyst. "Maybe it's just a bluff, but if China were to shoot down an American plane, it would be the perfect scenario for a U.S. military buildup. It's hard to see President Trump or any other American leader turn his back on this issue."

 

PEARL NECKLACE OF CHINA. 1-Hong Kong; 2-Hainan; 3-Paracel Islands (disputed); 4-Spratly Islands (disputed), 5- Sihanoukville and Raum (Cambodia), ports; 6-Itsmo de Kra (Thailand), infrastructure; 7-Cocos Islands (Myanmar), antennas; 8-Sittwe (Myanmar), port; 9-Chittagong (Bangladesh), port; 10-Hambantota (Sri Lanka), port; 11-Marao (Maldives), offshore exploration; 12-Gwadar (Pakistan), port; 13-Port Sudan; 14-Al Ahdab (Iraq), oil exploitation; 15-Lamu (Kenya), port. Chart from 2012; missing to note China's first overseas military base, in Djibouti, inaugurated in 2017 [Edgar Fabiano].

 

Globalization

The moves by both powers stem from the fear that the other countries will join in coalition with their opponent in the future, but they also do not want to completely abandon the expansion of economic relations with each other by altering the regional order too drastically.

This power of the weak has limitations, but it has so far worked to the benefit of both India and China. Due to globalization, particularly in the economic sphere, weaker states have adopted asymmetric strategies to extract resources from their neighboring superpowers that aspire to be leaders on the international stage. Often, these border countries had to choose a superpower to obtain resources, as was the case during the Cold War. The difference in this era of globalization is that these states can extract concessions and resources from both Beijing and Delhi without formally aligning themselves with one of them, as is the case, for example, with Vietnam. The absence of a bloc rivalry, as was the case during the Cold War, and the high levels of economic interdependence between India and China make it easier for many of the smaller states to avoid signing an alliance with one of these leaders.

India's subtle strategy involves developing entente with Japan and the member countries of the association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as with the United States. Specifically, the quadrilateral negotiations initiated between India, Japan, the US and Australia are another stabilizing mechanism vis-à-vis China.

However, the strategies of the smaller states in South Asia have limitations. Although China is offering greater economic attendance , these countries, except Pakistan, are unlikely to form military alliances with China because if they do, it would provoke a negative response from India, the dominant power in the region, and the United States, the international superpower that still has a strong naval presence in the Indian Ocean. We are witnessing a new dynamic of diplomatic relations in the Asia-Pacific region.

This new trend of rapprochement with smaller countries translates into an inclination to use economic appeal to persuade neighbors rather than military coercion. How long this trend will continue remains to be seen. India's new strategies with other international powers may be the key to complicating the freedom of action and decision that China is having in the military realm, especially in this time of peace. What is clear is that China's aspiration for supremacy is visible by all countries that are part of the Asia-Pacific region and will not be as easy to establish as the Empire at the Center thought.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia Security and defense World order, diplomacy and governance Articles

The US will pull out of the treaty if Russia doesn't 'return to full compliance'. Putin has taken the dispute to the UN

With all the conflicts and issues threatening worldwide security, the last thing the world needs is a new arms race, or what many are calling a new Cold War. European countries in particular are worried that US President Donald Trump pulling out of the INF Treaty might lead to exactly that. United States, supported by NATO, accuses Moscow of cheating on the missile treaty. At the beginning of December, the Trump administration gave 60 days to Russia to "return to full and veritable compliance". President Vladimir Putin has taken the issue to the United Nations.

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan at the signing of the INF Treaty, in 1987

▲ Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan at the signing of the INF Treaty, in 1987 [Reagan Presidential Library] [Reagan Presidential Library].

ARTICLE / Nicole Davalos

To understand what the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is about and why the possible US withdrawal concerns most of the international community, we have first to understand why it was created and what its purpose is. The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 following the deployment by the Soviet Union of missile SS-20 in Europe, which was retaliated by American cruise missiles and their Pershing II missiles. The issue with intermediate-range missiles back then was that their flying time was as little as 10 minutes, which was seen as a possible trigger to nuclear war. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan signed the deal, prohibiting land-based cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 311 and 620 miles (500-1,000 kilometers, short-range) and between 620 and 3,420 miles (1,000-5,500 kilometers, intermediate-range).

It is important to note, however, that the treaty does not cover air or sea-launched weapons even though they can potentially fly the same distances. Russia's 3M-54 Kalibr, a sea-launched missile, is an example. The following charts retrieved from the official website of the US Department of State outline the affected missiles specified under the elimination protocol of the treaty:

The INF Treaty has helped not only to solve the problems of its time towards the end of the Cold War but also serves still to this day as an umbrella of protection for US's allies in Europe. The INF provides a measure of strategic stability on the European continent.

According to the Stockholm National Peace Institute, by 1991, 2,692 missiles had been eliminated thanks to the treaty; 846 owned by the US and 1,846 owned by the USSR. The treaty also allows both parties to inspect each other's progress in eliminating the missiles to maintain transparency. So, if so much progress has been made as a result of the INF, then why is it that President Trump now insists on a US withdrawal?

President Trump has accused Russia of repeatedly violating the treaty. In fact, former President Obama first accused Russia of violations in 2014 during the Ukraine crisis, when Moscow allegedly deployed a prohibited missile. "I don't know why President Obama didn't negotiate or pull out" were the words of the current president, "...we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we're not allowed to...so we're going to terminate the agreement. We're going to pull out." Recently, the NATO confirmed Russia's violations. Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's Secretary General, urged Russia to address these concerns in a "substantial and transparent manner."

These accusations have truly created tensions between both parties of the treaty. Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov has repeatedly denied the violations. He even went as far as claiming that it was, in fact, the US who first violated the treaty, with "armed US drones" that "fly within the ranges prohibited by the treaty". As for the president, Vladimir Putin, he has replied with questionable threats such as "revenge is inevitable and they will be destroyed. And we, as victims of aggression, will go straight to heaven as martyrs while they will just croak." In general, the Kremlin sees a US withdrawal as a confirmation of how "unreliable" a partner the United States is when it comes to other countries' interests since it would be acting completely unilaterally and pulling out implies security concerns for many other countries, especially European countries.

Europe shows the most concern for the possible dissolution of the INF Treaty since it is believed that Russia's intermediate range missiles would pose the biggest threat to them. Many analysts agree that this is a particularly bad time for the US to make a decision that would further raise tensions within Europe since security-related tensions such that of immigration exist in the region already. EU spokeswoman for foreign affairs and security policy Maja Kocijancic stated that the United States and Russia should definitely engage in dialogue and try to preserve the treaty, since "the world doesn't need a new arms race."

 

 

The most unexpected and interesting role in all of this, however, is China's. It is no secret to anyone that what displeases President Trump the most about the INF Treaty is that China is not a signatory. If Russia is violating the treaty, and China, on the other hand, is not part of such an agreement that restricts its missile force, then the US seems to be at a disadvantage. "If Russia's doing it and if China's doing it and we're adhering to the agreement, that's unacceptable," stated President Trump last October. In fact, according to Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, if China were part of the INF Treaty right now, around 95% of its missile force would be violating it. When it comes to China's reaction to the White House's desire to withdraw, to "think twice" is what Beijing wishes Washington would do. Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, said US withdrawal would lead to a "multitude of negative effects."

What's now left to be seen is whether President Trump will, in fact, pull out from the treaty. Presidents Putin and Trump both met in Paris in November, but although many different issues were discussed, a potential meeting to formally discuss the future of the INF Treaty was not part of the conversation. But if the US does withdraw, will that really mean a new Cold War? According to many analysts, an arms race like the one the world was experiencing back when the treaty was originally signed, might definitely become a reality. The Kremlin has also hinted several times at the possibility of a new arms race; the Russians would be "forced to develop weapons" to "restore balance in the sphere" if the US were to pull out.

For now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on December 4 that the US "will suspend its obligations as a remedy effective in 60 days unless Russia returns to full and veritable compliance". Ten days later, Russia submitted a draft of resolution to the UN General Assembly in support of the INF Treaty calling on all sides to fulfill their obligations. It seems to be a move towards a bilateral negotiation, but 2019 will begin with uncertainty in a matter so critical as this.

Categories Global Affairs: Central Europe and Russia North America Security and defense Articles

[Robert Kagan, The Jungle Grows Back. America and Our Imperiled World. Alfred A. Knoff. New York, 2018. 179 pp.]

 

review / Emili J. Blasco

The Jungle Grows Back. America and Our Imperiled World

At this point in the century it is already clear that the consecration of the liberal system in the world, following the breakup of the communist bloc at the end of the Cold War, is not something that is going to happen inexorably, as was thought. It is not even likely. The divergent models of China and Russia are gaining adherents in the states. Democracy is on the decline, also in Western societies themselves.

It is the jungle that is growing back where a garden had been successfully spread. This is the image Robert Kagan uses in his new book to warn that the United States should not abdicate its responsibility to lead the effort to preserve the liberal world order. For Kagan, the liberal system "was never a natural phenomenon," but a "great historical aberration." "It has been an anomaly in the history of human existence. The liberal world order is fragile and impermanent. Like a garden, it is always besieged by the natural forces of history, the jungle, whose vines and weeds constantly threaten to cover it," he says. It is an "artificial creation subject to the forces of geopolitical inertia," so that the question "is not what will collapse the liberal order, but what can sustain it."

Kagan is still considered a neoconservative by the media label , even though his positions are in the mainstream of American Republicanism (the majority for decades, until the rise of Donald Trump; in fact, in the 2016 campaign Kagan supported Hillary Clinton) and his work is carried out at the rather Democratic Brookings Institution. He does advocate clear U.S. leadership in the world, but not out of self-assertion, but as the only way for the international liberal order to be preserved. It is not that, by sponsoring it, the United States has acted disinterestedly, for as one of its builders, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, said, in order to protect the "American experiment in life" it was necessary to create "an environment of freedom" in the world. But the other Western countries, and others where the regime of freedoms of democratic societies has also spread, have also benefited.

Kagan's central thesis is that while there was U.S. self-interest in creating the international architecture that ordered the world after World War II, it benefited many other countries and ensured the victory of free societies over communism. Crucial to this, according to Kagan, is that while Washington sometimes acted contrary to the values it preached, it generally abided by certain rules.

Thus, the United States "did not exploit the system it dominated to gain lasting economic advantages at the expense of the other powers of the order. Simply put: it could not use its military dominance to win the economic competition against other members of the order, nor could it treat the competition as zero-sum and insist on winning every time" (the latter is what Trump intends). It is true that the United States benefited from being the major player both economically and militarily, "but an element core topic in holding the international order together was the perception by the other powers that they had reasonable opportunities to succeed economically and even at times surpass the United States, as Japan, Germany, and other nations did at various times."

Kagan admits that Washington's willingness to engage in large doses of fair play in the economic sphere "did not extend to all areas, especially not to strategic affairs. In these, "order was not always based on the rules, for when the United States felt it necessary, rightly or wrongly, it violated the rules, including those it claimed to defend, either by carrying out military interventions without UN authorization, as it did on numerous occasions during the Cold War, or by engaging in covert activities that had no international backing."

It has been an order that, in order to function, "had to enjoy a certain Degree of voluntary acceptance by its members, to be not a competition of all against all, but a community of like-minded nations acting together to preserve a system from which all could benefit." "The order was kept in place because the other members looked upon American hegemony as relatively benign and superior to other alternatives." test of this is that Western European countries relied on Washington despite its overwhelming military superiority. "In the end, even if it did not always do so for idealistic reasons, the United States would end up creating a world unusually conducive to the spread of democracy."

Kagan disagrees that after the dissolution of the USSR the world entered a "new world order". In his opinion, what was called the "unipolar moment" did not really change the assumptions of the order established at the end of World War II. So it made no sense that, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world was thought to be entering a new era of irrepressible peace and prosperity, and that this made the gardener's role of the United States unnecessary. The withdrawal from the world carried out by Trump and initiated by Obama (Kagan already in 2012 published The World America Made, in defense of American involvement in the world), would be allowing the return of the chaotic vegetation of the jungle.

The Jungle Grows Back is in the format of a small book, typical of a restrained essay that aims to convey some fundamental ideas without trying to overwhelm the reader. Despite pointing out the dangers of the liberal order, and noting that the United States maintains an attitude of retreat, the book offers an optimistic message: "This is a pessimistic view of human existence, but it is not a fatalistic one. Nothing is determined, neither the triumph of liberalism nor its defeat".

Categories Global Affairs: North America World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Global

The text attempts to avoid stagnation, but does not open the door to decisive transformation

Cubans will vote in referendum next February 24 on the project of the new Constitution C by the National Assembly in December after a period of enquiry popular. In the preamble of the project the reference letter was introduced at the last minute to the goal communist which already existed in the 1976 Constitution, but which had not been initially incorporated in the draft, so that the final text is even less novel.

Building of the committee Central of the Communist Party of Cuba

▲ Building of the committee Central of the Communist Party of Cuba [framework Zanferrari].

article / Alex Puigrefagut

Six decades after the Revolution, Cuba leaves behind the surname Castro, with the arrival in April 2018 of Miguel Díaz-Canel as head of state, and is preparing to approve a new Constitution, which will replace the one promulgated in 1976, to symbolize this new time. This new Magna Carta, whose initial text was C by the National Assembly in July 2018, then submitted to three months of popular enquiry for the presentation of amendments and finally C as by the deputies on December 22, has as its goal main objective to seek the modernization of the Cuban State and the sustainable development of the same, without losing the essence and the main ideals of the socialist ideology of the State.

entrance At the end of the Castro era at the helm of Cuba, the State has found it necessary to include in the new essay the socioeconomic transformations carried out in the country since the previous Constitution came into force, as well as to partially modify the State structure to make it more functional. It is also worth mentioning the willingness to recognize more rights for citizens, although with limitations.

When examining the constitutional project , four aspects are particularly noteworthy: the specification of the ideology of the State, the figures and Structures of the State and the government, the question of private property and finally the redefinition of citizens' rights.

Maintenance of socialism

The text C initially by the National Assembly did not include the reference letter at goal to reach a communist society, a fundamental point that was present in the previous Constitution. The article 5 of the 1976 Magna Carta established that society "organizes and orients common efforts towards the high goals of the construction of socialism and the advance towards a communist society".

The omission of this point was really only a change of language, since at no time was the idea of socialism abandoned, in fact, the socialist character of the Cuban State was ratified. In the words of Esteban Lazo, president of the National Assembly, this new Constitution "does not mean that we are renouncing our ideas, but rather that in our vision we are thinking of a socialist, sovereign, independent, prosperous and sustainable country". However, in case there were any doubts, after the period of popular deliberation, the Assembly introduced as an amendment the express accredited specialization to communism in the preamble of the final text, given the alleged pressure from the most immobilist sectors.

The new Constitution reaffirms the socialist character of the Cuban regime, both in the economic and social spheres, giving a leading role to the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) as the highest power in society. The socialist nature of the Cuban State is underscored by the maintenance of the single-party system.

Presidential limits

The new Constitution includes some changes in the state structure. The most outstanding characteristic is that the Antillean country will have a president of the republic as head of state and a prime minister as head of government, in contrast with the current status of the same position for both functions: president of the committee of State and of Ministers. Everything indicates that this distinction will result more in a distribution of work than in a division of powers between the two positions, so this change will not be transcendental, given the control that will continue to be exercised from the PCC.

Another transformation in the political system is the elimination of the provincial assemblies for the creation of provincial governorships, with the goal to give a greater decentralization to the administrative power and a greater dependence of the legislative command on the executive.

As for the presidential term, the new Constitution limits it to five years, with the option of a single reelection for the same period. This change is important since it should lead to a rotation of members, and it is assumed that with this there would also be a renewal of ideas both within the Party and the Executive. The purpose is to avoid the stagnation of a historic generation without new ideas.

Finally, the president will be elected directly by the deputies of the National Assembly; in other words, Cuba does not give entrance to the direct election of its leaders, but maintains the indirect election system.

Private property

The document includes several forms of property, among them socialist property, mixed property and private property. The accredited specialization to the latter does not imply its formal recognition, but the confirmation of a internship whose extension the new Constitution endorses. This implies, therefore, the recognition of the market, a deeper participation of private property and the welcome to more foreign investment to enliven the country's Economics .

This need to reflect in the Constitution the greater participation of private property has occurred because, in many cases, the contribution of property and foreign investments have exceeded in the internship what was established in the previous constitutional framework . But this step will also lead to greater control in this area.

These changes in the economic sphere are aimed at goal to support the adjustments initiated by Raúl Castro a decade ago to boost economic growth and counteract the embargo established by the United States more than fifty years ago; in addition to fixing some of the country's labor force in the private sector as self-employed workers, especially in micro and small enterprises.

Citizen's rights

Finally, regarding the redefinition of citizens' rights, the constitutional project establishes a new functioning in the interaction of the State with the population through the flexibilization of economic, legal and civil rights. From the approval of the new text, the Cuban State must guarantee citizens the extension of Human Rights, although only in accordance with the international treaties ratified by the Caribbean country.

This, which despite this limitation could be seen as an opportunity for citizens, in reality has little of an opening, because although Cuba has signed United Nations agreements on political, cultural, civil and economic rights, it has not actually ratified them. Thus, in principle, Cuba should not be obliged to recognize these rights.

Another highlight of the relaxation introduced is article 40, which criminalizes discrimination "on grounds of sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic origin, skin color, religious belief, disability, national origin or any other distinction harmful to human dignity". In the initial text that went to instructions , the recognition of same-sex marriage was introduced, but citizen rejection led to an amendment that finally withdrew the express protection of same-sex marriage.

After analyzing the main novelties of the constitutional project , it can be determined that the Cuban regime perceives a certain need for change and renewal. The new Constitution goes somewhat in that direction, but although it tries to avoid stagnation, it does not open the door to a decisive transformation either: neither complete continuity -although there is more of this- nor revolution within the system. It is clear that the new generation of leaders, with Miguel Díaz-Canel at the helm, can be seen as a continuity of the Castro regime, for the simple fact that the Castros directly determined the successor, in addition to the fact that many of their ideals are the same as those of the generation that made the revolution. But on the other hand, Cuba is certainly forced to slightly modify its course in order to be more present in the international system and to seek a more functional state and government.

(Updated January 3, 2019)

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Articles Latin America

The United States remains attentive to the innovation of methods that can also serve to introduce terrorist cells or even weapons of mass destruction.

In the last ten years, the proliferation of submersible and semi-submersible, with difficult detection, has monopolized a third of the drug transport from South America to the United States. The incorporation of GPS systems by the cartels also makes the global fight against narcotics difficult. A possible use of these new methods for terrorist purposes keeps the United States on high alert.

Narco-submarine found in Ecuador's jungle in 2010

▲ A narco-submarine found in the jungle of Ecuador in 2010 [DEA].

ARTICLE / Marcelina Kropiwnicka[English version] [Spanish version].

Drug trafficking to large consumer markets, especially the United States and Europe, is especially innovative: the magnitude of the business leads to attempts in overcoming any barriers placed by the States to prevent their penetration and distribution. In the case of the United States, where the illicit arrival of narcotics dates back to the 19th century-from opium to marijuana and cocaine-, authorities have continuously managed to intercept many shipments of drugs, but traffickers find new ways and methods to introduce significant volumes of narcotics.

The most disturbing method in the last ten years has been the use of boat submersibles and semi-submersibles, which have commonly been given the name of narco-submarines. They allow several tons of substances to be transported-five times more than a fishing boat can transport-dodging the US Coast Guard's surveillance [1]. Satellite technology has also led traffickers to drop drug loads into the sea, then be collected by recreational boats without raising suspicion. Those methods are referenced in recent reports from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the US anti-narcotics agency.

Through the waters of Central America

For many years, the conventional way of transporting drugs that leave South America to the United States has been through fishing boats, speedboats and light aircraft. Advances in airborne detection and tracking techniques have pushed drug traffickers to look for new ways to take their loads to the North. Hence the development of narco-submarines, whose number, from a first interception in 2006 by the US authorities, has seen a rapid progression.

This means of transport is one of the reasons that since 2013 there has been a 10% increase in trafficking of drugs that travel from Colombia (the country that produces 93% of the cocaine consumed in the US) to Central America and Mexico, the location where the shipments are introduced to the US. According to the DEA, this corridor today represents an estimated 93% of the movement of cocaine from South America to North America, compared to 7% of the route that passes through the Caribbean islands (mainly the Dominican Republic) to reach Florida or other places on the East American coast.

For a while, among US Coast Guard service members spread a rumor that the drug cartels were using narco-submarines. Without having seen one up to that moment, the agents gave it the name of 'Bigfoot' (like the supposed ape-like animal that would inhabit Pacific forests in the US).

The first sighting occurred in November 2006, when a patrolman from the US Coast Guard detected a blurred shape in the ocean, about a hundred miles off the coast of Costa Rica. As the agents approached the blur, they discovered three tubes of plastic that emerged from the water, which came from a submersible ship that was two meters below the surface. Inside the submersible they found three tons of cocaine and four men armed with an AK-47 rifle. The coastguard named the discovery as 'Bigfoot I'.

Two years later there would be detection of a 'Bigfoot II'. In September 2008, a frigate of the US Navy working with the Coast Guard seized a similar apparatus 350 miles from the border between Mexico and Guatemala. The crew consisted of four men and the position reached 6.4 tons of cocaine.

By then, the US authorities calculated that more than one hundred submersibles or semi-submersibles had been crafted. In 2009 they estimated that they were only able to stop 14% of shipments, and that this method of transport provided at least one third of the total cocaine shipment reaching the US market. The Colombian, Mexican and Guatemalan armies have also confiscated some of these narco-submarines. In addition to being located in the Pacific, they have also been detected in the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Crafted in the jungle, perhaps the most striking discovery was in the interior of Ecuador, in the waters of a river.

Its technical innovation has often surprised counter-narcotics officials. Many of these self-propelled narco-submarines measure fifteen meters, are made of synthetic materials and fiberglass and have been designed to reduce their detection by radar or infrared. There have also been models with systems of GPS navigation to refuel and receive food at agreed points along their established route.

GPS tracking

The development and generalization of the GPS system has also served drug traffickers to introduce greater innovations. One procedure, for example, has been to fill a vessel shaped like a torpedo with drugs-like a submersible, but without a crew-, and attached to a buoy and a signal emitter. The container can hold up to seven tons of cocaine and be fastened to the bottom of a ship by a cable. If the boat is intercepted, the container can simply be dropped deeper into the water, and can later be recovered by another boat thanks to satellite locators. This makes it extremely difficult for authorities to seize the drugs and stop the traffickers.

The GPS navigation system is also used to deposit drug cargos at points in the territorial waters of the United States, where they can be collected by recreational craft or by a small group of people without raising suspicion. The package containing the cocaine is coated with several layers of material and then waterproofed with a type of foam. The package is placed inside of a canvas bag that is then deposited into the bottom of the sea to be recovered by others later on.

As indicated by the DEA in its 2017 report, "this demonstrates how trafficking organizations have evolved their methods for conducting cocaine transactions through technology Organizations transport kilograms of cocaine in waterproof packaging to a predetermined location, anchor it to the ocean floor for retrieval by other DTO [Drug Trafficking Organization] members who have the contraband GPS location. This allows members of trafficking organizations to compartmentalize, as it separates maritime transporters from land-based cocaine distributors."

 

Cocaine travel from South America to the U.S. in 2017

Cocaine routes from South America to the United States in 2017 [DEA].

 

Terrorist risk

The possibility that these difficult detection methods are being used to introduce weapons or for terrorist operations worries the United States authorities. Retired Vice Admiral James Stravidis, former commander of US Southern Command, has warned of the potential use, especially of the submersibles, "to transport more than just narcotics: the movement of cash, weapons, violent extremists, or, at the dark end of the spectrum, weapons of mass destruction".

This risk was also referred to by Rear Admiral Joseph Nimmich when, as commander of the Joint Interagency Task Force South, he faced the emergence of submersibles. "If you can carry 10 tons of cocaine, you can carry 10 tons of anything," he told The New York Times.

According to this newspaper, the furtive elaboration of homemade submarines was developed first in Sri Lanka, where the rebel group of the Tamil Tigers used them in confrontation with government forces. "Tamil will go down in history as the first terrorist organization to develop underwater weapons," said the Ministry of Defense of Sri Lanka. In 2006, as the NYT states, "a Pakistani and a Sri Lankan provided plans to the Colombians for building semisubs quickly, stealthily and out of cheap, commonly available materials."

Despite its origin, related to the Tamil rebels, and the terrorist potential presented by the submersibles used by the drug cartels, the fact is that Washington has not yet reported evidence that these new methods of drug transport developed by organized crime groups are being used by other extremist actors. Nevertheless, the US maintains on high alert due to an increased rate of shipments arriving to their destination without detection.

 

[1] REICH, S., & Dombrowski, P (2017). The End of Grand Strategy. US Maritime Pperations in the 21st Century. Cornell Univesity Press. Ithaca, NY. Pages 143-145.

The United States continues to monitor the innovation of methods that could also be used to introduce terrorist cells or even weapons of mass destruction.

In the last ten years, the proliferation of submersible and semi-submersible vessels, which are difficult to detect, has accounted for a third of drug shipments from South America to the United States. The incorporation of GPS systems by the cartels also hampers the global counter-narcotics fight. A possible use of these new methods for terrorist purposes keeps the United States on its toes.

Narco-submarine found in Ecuador's jungle in 2010

▲ Narco-submarine found in the jungle of Ecuador in 2010 [DEA].

article / Marcelina Kropiwnicka [English version].

Drug trafficking to the major consumer markets, especially the United States and Europe, is particularly innovative: the magnitude of the business leads to attempts to overcome any barriers put up by the States to prevent its penetration and distribution. In the case of the United States, where the illicit arrival of narcotics dates back to the 19th century - from opium to marijuana and cocaine - the continued efforts of the authorities have succeeded in intercepting many drug shipments, but traffickers are finding new ways and methods to introduce a significant volume of narcotics into the country.

The most disturbing method in the last ten years has been the use of submersible and semi-submersible vessels, commonly referred to as narco-submarines, which make it possible to transport several tons of drugs - five times more than a fishing boat - while evading coast guard surveillance [1]. Satellite technology has also led traffickers to leave drug loads at sea, which are then picked up by pleasure boats without arousing suspicion. Recent reports from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. counter-narcotics agency, refer to these methods reference letter .

Through the waters of Central America

For many years, the usual way to transport drugs leaving South America for the United States has been by fishing boats, speedboats and light aircraft. Advances in airborne detection and tracking techniques have pushed drug traffickers to look for new ways to move their cargo northward. Hence the development of narco-submarines, whose issue, since a first interception in 2006 by U.S. authorities, has seen a rapid progression.

This means of transport is one of the reasons why, since 2013, trafficking along the drug route from Colombia (the country that produces 93% of the cocaine consumed in the US) to Central America and Mexico, from where the shipments are smuggled into the US, has increased by 10%. According to the DEA, this corridor now accounts for an estimated 93% of the movement of cocaine from South America to North America, compared to 7% of the route that seeks the Caribbean islands (mainly the Dominican Republic) to reach Florida or other parts of the U.S. coast.

For some time, a rumor spread among the US Coast Guard that drug cartels were using narco-submarines. Without having seen one so far, the agents gave it the name of 'Bigfoot' (as an alleged ape-like animal known to inhabit the forests of the U.S. Pacific).

The first sighting occurred in November 2006, when a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat spotted a blurred shape in the ocean about 100 miles off the coast of Costa Rica. When the agents approached, they discovered three plastic tubes emerging from the water, which came from a submersible vessel making its way six feet below the surface. Inside they found three tons of cocaine and four men armed with an AK-47 rifle. The Coast Guard christened it 'Bigfoot I'.

Two years later there would be a 'Bigfoot II'. In September 2008, a U.S. Navy frigate on coast guard duty apprehended a similar craft 350 miles from the Mexico-Guatemala border. The crew consisted of four men and the cargo was 6.4 tons of cocaine.

By then, US authorities estimated that more than 100 submersibles or semi-submersibles had been manufactured. In 2009 they estimated that they were only being able to stop 14% of shipments and that this mode of transport supplied at least a third of the cocaine reaching the US market. The navies of Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala have also seized some of these narco-submarines, which in addition to being located in the Pacific have also been detected in the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Manufactured by hand in the jungle, perhaps the most striking episode was that one of them was found in the interior of Ecuador, in the waters of a river. 

Their technical innovation has often surprised counter-narcotics officials. Many of these self-propelled narco-submarines are as long as fifteen meters, are made of synthetic materials and fiberglass, and have been designed to reduce radar or infrared detection. Some models have also been fitted with GPS navigation systems so that fuel can be refueled and food can be delivered to rendezvous along the route.

GPS Location

The development and generalization of GPS has also served drug traffickers to introduce further innovations. One procedure, for example, has been to fill a torpedo-shaped container with drugs - like a submersible, but this time unmanned - attached to a buoy and a signal transmitter. The container can hold up to seven tons of cocaine and is attached to the bottom of a ship by a cable. If the ship is intercepted, it can simply drop the container deeper, only to be retrieved by another vessel thanks to the satellite locator. This makes it extremely difficult for the authorities to capture the drugs and arrest the traffickers.

The GPS navigation system is also used to deposit drug loads at points in U.S. territorial waters, where they can be picked up by pleasure boats or a small group of people without arousing suspicion. The package containing the cocaine is coated with several layers of material and then the whole thing is waterproofed with a foam subject . The package is placed inside a canvas bag which is deposited at the bottom of the sea to be later recovered by other people.

As the DEA notes in its 2017 report , "this demonstrates how drug trafficking organizations have evolved their methods for conducting cocaine transactions using technology." And quotation the example of organizations that "transport kilos of cocaine in waterproof packages to a predetermined location and attach it to the ocean floor to be later removed by other members of the organization who have GPS tracking," which "allows members of drug trafficking organizations to compartmentalize their work, separating those doing the maritime transport from the onshore distributors."

 

Cocaine travel from South America to the U.S. in 2017

Cocaine journey from South America to the United States in 2017 [DEA].

 

Terrorist risk

The possibility that these very difficult to detect methods could be used to smuggle weapons or could be part of terrorist operations is of concern to U.S. authorities. Retired Vice Admiral James Stravidis, former head of the U.S. Southern Command, has warned of the potential use of submersibles especially "to transport more than just narcotics: the movement of cash, weapons, violent extremists or, at the worst end of the spectrum, weapons of mass destruction."

This risk was also referred to by Rear Admiral Joseph Nimmich when, as commander of group South of work Joint Interagency, he was confronted with the emergence of submersibles. "If you can carry ten tons of cocaine, you can carry ten tons of anything," he told The New York Times.

According to this newspaper, the stealthy development of homemade submarines was first developed in Sri Lanka, where the rebel Tamil Tigers group used them in their confrontation with government forces. "The Tamils will go down in history as the first terrorist organization to develop underwater weapons," the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense claimed. In 2006, as the NYT states, "a Pakistani and a Sri Lankan provided the Colombians with plans to build semi-submersibles that were fast, quiet and made of cheap, commonly available materials.

Despite this origin, ultimately written request related to Tamil rebels, and the terrorist potential of submersibles used by drug cartels, Washington has reported no evidence that the new drug transportation methods developed by organized crime groups are being used by extremist actors of a different stripe. Nonetheless, the U.S. is keeping its guard up given the high rate of shipments arriving undetected.

 

 

[1] REICH, S., & Dombrowski, P (2017). The End of Grand Strategy. US Maritime Pperations in the 21st Century. Cornell Univesity Press. Ithaca, NY. Pp. 143-145.

Categories Global Affairs: North America Security and defense Articles

[Pedro Baños, El dominio mundial. Elementos del poder y claves geopolíticas. Ariel. Barcelona, 2018. 366 p.]

 

review / Manuel Lamela

  World domination. Elements of power and geopolitical keys

If your previous submission, The Keys to World Dominationserved as guide to introduce us to the vast world of geopolitics and International Office, in his new work, Colonel Pedro Baños Bajo, reveals to us and sample the key elements and instruments for world domination and how these are used by the various actors in their constant struggle for power on a global scale. We are on the verge of a paradigm shift in the international scene, and this process, as the author explains, will be led by demography and technology.

In his business to democratize geopolitics, Pedro Baños uses a clear and precise language to facilitate the understanding of the work. Numerous illustrations in the book are accompanied by brief explanations to get a broader view of the topic to be treated.

The elements of world power is the name given to the first half of the book, which is divided into nine different parts that, according to the author, are key to understanding the game of world power. In this first half of the book we will deal with current and extremely important issues on the international scene. From the hybrid threat, which is a new way of waging war, to the role of intelligence services today, and including the transcendental importance of natural resources and demographics. It is certainly a comprehensive analysis for those seeking a brief explanation of the major challenges that threaten to destabilize our current social order. It is true that some of the explanations can be defined as simple, but this need not be understood as a pejorative characteristic. The author's ability to synthesize extremely complex issues may encourage the reader's curiosity and lead him to other great works where he can delve deeper into more specific topics.

In the second part of the book we find a more concrete analysis in which the author focuses on only two factors: technology and demographics. The population imbalance, the great migratory flows and what some call the fourth industrial revolution are some of the issues that Colonel Baños highlights in his analysis. In the author's opinion, the transformations to which these two elements will be exposed will mark the course of humanity in the coming years. In this more incisive study, the author sample tells us how vulnerable human society is in the face of the future changes that are to come and how this presumed weakness will make conflicts difficult to avoid in the near future. Pedro Baños argues that despite the belief that we live in a perfectly organized and structured society, the reality is far from the latter, since it is a reduced group human being who is in charge of directing and leading the destiny of all humanity as a whole.

Despite distilling a certain pessimism throughout the work, Pedro Baños decides to conclude his analysis with a message of hope, advocating for a united humanity, manager and solidarity with its environment.

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Global

Global interest in this fashionable grain has brought additional income to Andean communities.

The localisation of quinoa production, especially in Peru and Bolivia (together they account for almost 80% of world exports), has given these nations an unexpected strategic value. The high protein component of this pseudocereal makes it attractive to countries where food security is a priority.

Quinoa field in the Andes of Bolivia

▲ Quinoa field in the Bolivian Andes [Michael Hermann-CC].

article / Elisa Teomiro

Quinoa, also known as quinoa (in Latin Chenopodium quinoa), is an ancient grain that is more than 5,000 years old and was originally cultivated by pre-Columbian Andean cultures. After the arrival of the Spaniards in America, it was partly displaced by the cereals brought from the mainland. It does not belong to the grass family but to the family of the chenopodiaceae (spinach, chard or beetroot); therefore it is more correct to consider it as a pseudocereal.

It forms the basis of the diet of the Andean population of South America, especially in the high Andean areas of Bolivia and Peru (between them, these two countries account for approximately 76% of the total volume of quinoa exported in the world, 46% Bolivia and 30% Peru). Nowadays, due to its adaptation to different climates (it survives frost, high temperatures, lack of oxygen in the air, lack of water and high salinity), its production has diversified and more countries are producing it: Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, USA and Canada, in the American continent, as well as Great Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Sweden, Holland, Spain, Australia and the USSR, outside it.

Quinoa has gone from being a complete unknown to the majority of the non-American population to experiencing a spectacular rise in popularity in a very short period of time. One of the reasons for this was the decision by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to declare 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. The FAO wanted to reward the great effort being made by the Andean peoples to preserve the grain in its natural state, as food for current and future generations. The activities carried out during that year made quinoa and its nutritional properties known to the world.

Price increase

The interest awakened by this grain tripled its price between 2004 and 2013, which curiously generated a discussion about a possible negative impact on the producing populations.article It was claimed that the high demand for this crop in developed countries had turned quinoa into a "luxury product" in producing countries, where it was already costing more than chicken or rice. It was considered that this status could cause malnutrition in the Andean population, as they could not supplement their scarce per diem expenses with quinoa.

A follow-up on this issue subsequently showed that the quinoa boom was actually helping communities at source. A study by the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations based in Geneva, conducted over the period 2014-2015, found that quinoa consumption by developed countries improved the livelihoods of small-scale producers, most of them women.

According to agreement , rising prices between 2004-2013 caused both producers and consumers in the producing regions to benefit financially from trade. Thus, there was a 46% increase in their welfare in this period, as measured by the value of goods and services consumed by households. The report also highlighted how, in contrast, the 40% drop in the price of quinoa grain, suffered towards the end of 2015, caused a decline in rural households' welfare (food consumption fell by 10% and wages by 5%). The study reached two clear conclusions: Peru's sustained decline in quinoa consumption since 2005 was probably due more to changing consumer preferences due to globalisation and increased product supply than to changes in quinoa prices; global quinoa consumption in developed countries undoubtedly contributed to the development of resource-poor communities in the highlands.

Production and trade

There are several reasons why this grain has become so attractive to consumers in Europe and the USA - increasingly also in China and Japan -: its protein content is very high, between 14% and 18%, and they are also proteins of high biological value that would allow it to be a substitute for animal protein (it contains the 10 essential amino acids for the human per diem expenses ). This factor, together with its high iron content, makes it an ideal pseudocereal for vegetarians; it does not contain gluten, so it can also be consumed by coeliacs; it has a low glycaemic content, which allows it to be consumed by diabetics; its fibre and unsaturated fatty acid content (mainly linoleic acid) is high, so all those concerned about their health have an option in quinoa. It is also a source source of vitamin E and B2 (riboflavin) and is high in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron. For all these reasons, the FAO considers that its high nutritional value financial aid helps to eradicate hunger and malnutrition.

 

Main quinoa producing countries

 

The ranking of quinoa-producing countries is headed by Bolivia (its 118,913 hectares of cultivation accounted for 60% of the total area of quinoa sown in the world in 2016), followed by Peru (64,223 hectares, representing 30% of the global area sown) and Ecuador (2,214 hectares) [Table 1]. From 1990 to 2014, the area planted with quinoa increased from 47,585 hectares to 195,342 hectares. The overall value of exports increased from USD 135.5 million in 2012 to USD 321.5 million in 2015.

In terms of export volume in tonnes, Bolivia was the leading country in 2012 (more than 25,000 tonnes), which, together with exports in 2013, represented an income for the country of 80 million dollars. In the same year, Peruvian quinoa exports exceeded 10,000 tons, which represented an income for the country of 38 million dollars. In 2014, Peru took over and dominated the market also in 2015 and 2016 [Table 2].

The USA is the main importer of quinoa in the world, with 40%; it is followed by the European Union, with more than 30% of the total (France, Holland, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Belgium mainly) and then Canada. The average price per kilo of quinoa was 3.2 d���lares in 2012 and US$6.2 in 2014. In 2015 it dropped to US$5. Per capita consumption is logically led by the two main producers: Bolivia consumes 5.2 kilos and Peru 1.8 kilos, followed at a distance by Ecuador, with 332 grams per person.

In non-producing countries, quinoa was first introduced in the organic sector, with consumers concerned with healthier diets, although today it is no longer exclusive to this market. The largest consumer of quinoa per capita worldwide is Canada, with more than 180 grams, closely followed by the Netherlands; France and Australia consume between 120 and 140 grams. In Spain, consumption is still small, at around 30 grams. Global forecasts up to 2025 are that per capita consumption will reach 200 grams (an achievement that Canada is already within reach) and that even countries that traditionally consume rice, such as Japan and South Korea, will also embrace quinoa.

Quinoa production faces future challenges in terms of both the environment and the market, subject . Before its boom in 2013, almost 60 different varieties of the grain were grown in the Andean highlands and almost all quinoa was organic. Today, rampant trade and large-scale production on large farms has reduced biodiversity to fewer than 20 different types.

 

Main quinoa exporting countries

 

Forecasts from market research commissioned by the Trade for Development Center in 2016 on current and future markets for quinoa point to a likely doubling of the global market in ten years, especially with conventional quinoa produced not only in Peru, but also in Australia, the United States and Canada. The production of organic quinoa, produced by small farmers in the highlands, will remain relatively stable. The market skill will continue to be fierce, so farmers in the Altiplano will have to look for measures to maintain a niche market with certified organic quinoa, grown using traditional and fair trade methods.

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Articles Latin America

The cancellation of the new CDMX airport, already more than 31% built, sows doubts about the economic success of the new administration.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador arrives to the presidency of Mexico facing the economic world, to which he has put up a fight with his advertisement to paralyze the works of the new airport of the capital, despite the fact that a third of the works have already been carried out. The desire to make clear to the economic power who rules the country and to bury what was to be an emblematic bequest of the PRI -whose historical hegemony he hopes to replace with his own party, Morena- may be behind the controversial decision.

Image of the projected NAICM created by Fernando Romero Enterprise, Foster and Partners

▲ Image of the projected NAICM created by Fernando Romero Enterprise, Foster and Partners.

article / Antonio Navalón

The Mexican PRI returned to the presidency of the country in 2012, led by Enrique Peña Nieto, with the promise of making a major investment in public infrastructure that would put Mexico in the world's showcase. The stellar work chosen was the construction of a new airport, whose project was commissioned to architect Norman Foster and which the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) saw as the inheritance that would always be attributed to it.

This great project was to overshadow any negative bequest of Peña Nieto's term, which has been especially marked by corruption cases and historic record violence figures. Although useful for political marketing, increasing the air traffic capacity of Mexico City (CDMX), whose metropolitan area has 23 million inhabitants, is a necessity for boosting the national Economics .

The US$13.3 billion project was one of the largest investments in the country's history. Named Nuevo Aeropuerto Internacional de Ciudad de México (NAICM, later simplified as NAIM) and located at area in Texcoco, a little further away than the current facilities in use, the new infrastructure was to be developed in two phases. The first phase consisted of the construction of a large terminal and three runways, which were initially planned to be ready by 2020, but whose entrance in service had been postponed to 2022 due to construction delays. The second phase would see the construction of three additional runways, plus a second terminal, which would be ready for operation from 2035.

Plans called for NAICM to have the capacity to transport between 70 and 135 million passengers annually, thanks to an operating volume of between 115 and 135 slots per hour. These figures gave a long-term deadline potential benefit of more than $32 billion, according to government estimates.

The project sought first of all to solve the serious air saturation problem suffered by the current Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, caused by the low performance capacity of the two runways that operate simultaneously. In addition, the construction of the NAICM was based on the hope of turning CDMX into a world logistics hub, with the potential to multiply the current airport's cargo transport capacity fourfold.

The level of freight transport in this macro project would be able to reach 2 million tons per year, thus becoming, as its promoters assured, the main distribution center in Latin America. NAICM's ambition, therefore, was to become a reference not only in the American continent but also worldwide, both in the transfer of tourists and in the transport of goods.

NAICM construction began in 2015 and to date 31% of the work has been completed. Although this Degree of completion represents a slight delay compared to the original schedule, the foundation and channeling works are already finished and high Structures intended to hold the wide roof can be seen on the surface. However, despite this progress and the investment already made, the country's new president has announced that he is completely burying the project.

Elections and enquiry

The presidential elections of July 1st were won by the leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (inaugurated on December 1st). Former leader of the PRI, thanks to which he served as mayor of the capital, over time he drifted to the left: he first joined the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and, after losing two elections for the presidency of the country, he created the National Regeneration Movement (Morena). In July, Morena won a majority in both chambers of congress and also conquered the CDMX government, giving AMLO, as the new president is commonly known, broad powers to carry out his policies. While he fell 17 votes short of a qualified majority in the Senate that could change the Constitution, he could gain allies for that purpose.

During the election campaign, Lopez Obrador defended the cancellation of the new airport project alleging its high cost, and raised the possibility that, as an alternative, some improvements could be made to the current airport and the Santa Lucia airport, a military base in the area of the Mexican capital that could be enabled for international flights. But Morena's candidate assured that he would make a enquiry to know the opinion of the Mexican people and that he would abide by the results.

Without waiting to take office as President, Lopez Obrador had Morena carry out this enquiry, which was not organized by the Government but by a political party, and furthermore did not take place in the whole country but in 538 municipalities out of the 2,463 that exist in Mexico. The ballot boxes, set up between October 25 and 28, voted "no" to NAICM: with a participation of only 1% of the national electoral body, 69% voted for the alternative of Santa Lucia and 29% voted to continue the works in Texcoco. López Obrador announced that, in application of result, he will halt the works for the new airport, despite the investment already made.

Some popular movements and also naturalists calling for the preservation of the natural environment applauded the advertisement, but there were also protest marches against the decision in the streets of downtown CDMX. The private sector has greatly regretted the purpose decision to cancel the NAICM project . Leading businessmen in the country and organizations such as the Confederation of Mexican Industrial Chambers (CONCAMIN), which represents 35% of Mexican GDP and 40% of employment in the country, came out in defense of the original project and asked López Obrador to reconsider his decision. Their argument is that any alternative will fall short of the demands of growing air traffic, weighing down the country's development . They also argue that any decision other than continuing with the construction of the NAICM will be more expensive than completing the planned airport [1].

 

Airport Infrastructure Proposals

 

Economic impact

For CONCAMIN, "the current airport lacks the infrastructure and any improvement would not fix the fundamental problems it has", and a bet on the Santa Lucia base "would be a waste of time and money, which will create problems rather than solve them", according to the president of this business association , Francisco Cervantes.

José Navalón, of CONCAMIN's Foreign Trade and International Affairs Commission, of which he is a member, warns that López Obrador's decision will be a major blow to Mexico's macroeconomic and financial system. In his words, "it is still too early to assess possible consequences, but it will be necessary to see if Mexico has the appropriate airport infrastructure, in terms of competitiveness and connectivity, for what is the second largest Economics in Latin America". In any case, for the moment "there has been a problem of lack of confidence in the markets, which has been immediately reflected in the fall of the peso and the markets" [2].

Indeed, while López Obrador was greeted in July with a rise in the markets, because his resounding victory seemed to augur stability for Mexico, his inauguration in December is being accompanied by an "exodus" of investors. The peso has fallen nearly 10% against the dollar in August, the stock market is down 7.6% and in October alone investors sold 2.4 billion dollars in Mexican bonds.

"The main questions that investors are asking today," Navalón continues, "is whether it is safe to invest in Mexico and how often this subject of decisions that do not follow any subject of legality will be taken," as important companies will be affected by the cancellation of a project in progress. He also warns that "the election of Bolsonaro in Brazil, whose profile is a magnet for foreign investment, may directly affect investment in Mexico".

The big question is why López Obrador maintains his decision against the new airport, in spite of the economic penalty it will mean for the Government and the risk of investor flight. We must understand that Mexico has always been a country that has been led by economic power. With its attitude towards NAICM, it aims to clearly mark the line of separation between political and economic power, making it clear that the era of economic power is over. A second reason is that NAICM was going to be the PRI's inheritance and López Obrador probably seeks to destroy any subject of association of this macro project with the party he intends to bury.

 

REFERENCES

[1] CONCAMIN Document "Airport Proposals" 2018.

[2] Personal interviews with Francisco Cervantes and José Navalón.

Categories Global Affairs: North America World order, diplomacy and governance Articles Latin America

Content publisher

degree program for space resources: from mining to route control

▲ proposal of lunar base for obtaining helium, taken from ExplainingTheFuture.com [Christopher Barnatt]. GLOBAL AFFAIRS JOURNAL / Emili J. Blasco [8-page document.... ReadmoreAboutRace for space resources: from mining to route control "

Electricity connection between Ceuta and the mainland: a matter of energy and environmental security

The routeing of a submarine cable for power transmission to Spain's place has been stalled since 2016 The project of electrical interconnection between Ceuta and the Peninsula, of the network Eléctrica... ReadmoreAboutElectrical interconnection between Ceuta and the Peninsula: a matter of energy and environmental security "

Ecuador misses out on OPEC exit and loses oil production

The country left the cartel in order to expand its pumping, but the Covid-19 crisis has cut extraction volumes by 10.8%. Construction of a variant of the pipeline that crosses the... ReadmoreAboutEcuador misses out on OPEC exit and loses oil production "

Argentina sees Vaca Muerta as a lifeline, but more capital is lacking for its development

The hydrocarbon field is the central axis of the Gas 2020-2023 Plan of President Alberto Fernández, which subsidizes part of the investment Activity of YPF, Argentina's state-owned oil and gas... ReadmoreAboutArgentina sees Vaca Muerta as a lifeline, but more capital is needed for its development "

Liquefied natural gas changes the game in the American hemisphere

U.S. LNG sales to its neighbors and exports from Latin American and Caribbean countries to Europe and Asia open new perspectives Not to depend on gas pipelines, but to be able to buy or sell... ReadmoreAboutLiquefied natural gas is a game changer in the American hemisphere "

Could Spain partner up with Morocco in the field of solar energy?

The two countries are greatly exposed to solar radiation and they already share electricity interconnectors Spain was an early developer of solar energy, but it didn't keep the pace with the... ReadmoreAboutCould Spain partner up with Morocco in the field of solar energy? "

Suriname follows Guyana in the oil miracle

The finding of a "significant" amount of oil in off-shore wells places the former Dutch colony in the footsteps of neighboring Guyana. The intuition has proved to be right and the... ReadmoreAboutSuriname follows Guyana in the oil 'miracle' "

Climate Refugees will raise, nations should find the way for shelter them

▲ Flood rescue in the Afghan village of Jalalabad, in 2010 [NATO]. ESSAY / Alejandro J. Alfonso In December of 2019, Madrid hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25,... ReadmoreAboutClimate Refugees will raise, nations should find the way for shelter them "

The new oil price war

March and April 2020 will be remembered in the oil industry as the months in which the perfect storm occurred: a drop of more than 20% in global demand at the same time that the oil industry... ReadmoreAboutThe new oil price war "

Was the Madrid COP25 useful?

The UN Conference did little to increase international commitment to climate change action, but did at least boost the assertiveness of the EU In recent years, the temperature of the Earth has... ReadmoreAboutWas the Madrid COP25 useful? "

Illegal mining, the other destruction of Amazonia

Gold mining and oil transport pollute Amazonian rivers It is not only the fires that are negatively affecting the Amazon, which is undergoing an accelerated reduction of... ReadmoreAboutIllegal mining, the other destruction of the Amazon "

Central America harnesses its volcanoes for power generation

Geothermal energy already accounts for 7.5% of the Central American electricity mix, with installed capacity still far below the estimated potential. Volcanic activity and tectonic movement... ReadmoreAboutCentral America harnesses its volcanoes for power generation "

Jordan River Basin: Hydropolitics as an arena for regional cooperation

▲Satellite imagery of the Jordan River [NASA]. ANALYSIS / Marina Díaz Escudero Water is an essential natural resource, not only for individual survival on Earth, but also for nation-states... Read moreAboutJordan River Basin: Hydropolitics as an arena for regional cooperation "

What Bolivia will do with its natural gas when Brazil and Argentina no longer need it

The upcoming gas self-sufficiency of its two major gas-buying neighbors forces the Bolivian government to seek alternative markets Yacimientos Pretrolíferos Fiscales gas plant in... ReadmoreAboutWhat Bolivia will do with its natural gas when Brazil and Argentina no longer need it "

Blood diamonds keep going through Antwerp

The Belgian city, the world's capital of diamonds, has applied more regulations, sanctions and scrutiny on the industry, but still there are some bad practices ▲ The diamond industry has... ReadmoreAboutBlood diamonds keep going through Antwerp "

Climate Summit 2018, a step forward

The meeting COP24 made progress in regulating the Paris agreement , but "carbon markets" remained blocked. Mobilizations in favor of governments taking more drastic measures... ReadmoreAboutClimate Summit 2018, a step forward "

The new oil Guyana and its international projection

One of the poorest countries in the Americas may become the world's largest oil producer per capita, disrupting the relationship with its neighbors. The promising oil discoveries... ReadmoreAboutThe new oil Guyana and its international projection "

Guarani Aquifer: better than others, but survival not assured

Geopolitical misgivings about perceived foreign interests should not distract beneficiary countries from implementing sustainable use. The Guarani Aquifer has given rise to a... ReadmoreAboutAquifer Guarani: better than others, but survival not assured "

The quinoa boom

Global interest in this fashionable grain has brought additional income to Andean communities. The localization of quinoa production, especially in Peru and Bolivia (together they account for... ReadmoreAboutThe quinoa boom "

Boosting the gas connection of the Three Seas Initiative countries

Poland-Germany struggle for influence in the European region between the Baltic, the Adriatic and the Black Sea The latest summit of the Three Seas Initiative (TMI) was attended by the... ReadmoreAboutBoosting the gas connection of the Three Seas Initiative countries "