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

[A. Patanru, M. Pangestu, M.C. Basri (eds), Indonesia in the New World: Globalisation, Nationalism and Sovereignty. ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute. Singapore, 2018. 358 p.]

review / Irati Zozaya

Indonesia in the New World: Globalisation, Nationalism and SovereigntyThe book consists of fifteen articles, written by different experts, on how Indonesia has dealt with globalisation and what effect it has had on the country. The texts have been coordinated by Arianto A. Patunru, Mari Pangestu and M. Chatib Basri, Indonesian academics with experience also in public management having served as ministers in different governments. The articles combine general approaches with specific aspects, such as the consequences of the opening up to international trade and investment in the mining industry or the nationalisation of foodstuffs.

To explain Indonesia's present-day status , the book occasionally recapitulates periods of its history. In fact, one of the concepts that crops up frequently in the book is that of nationalism: it could be said, according to the authors, that this is what has most marked Indonesia's relationship with the world, beyond who has led this country of 260 million inhabitants at any given time.

The first part of the book reference letter looks more generally at Indonesia's experience with globalisation, nationalism and sovereignty. It begins by showing the colonial era and how, under Dutch and British pressure to open up to the world, a strong nationalist sentiment began to emerge. After the occupation by Japan during World War II, total autarchy was introduced, leading to a problem that is still very present in Indonesia today: internship smuggling. In 1945 the country achieved its long-awaited independence under President Sukarno, who closed Indonesia to the rest of the world in order to focus on reasserting national identity and developing its capabilities. This led to the deterioration of the Economics and subsequent hyperinflation, which ushered in a new era: the New Order.

In 1967, with Suharto's accession to the presidency, a cautious opening to foreign trade and investment flows began. However, Suharto repressed political activity and during his rule the military gained much influence and the government retained control over Economics. Moreover, the end of his presidency coincided with the Asian financial crisis (1997-1998), which led to a fall in the country's economic growth and a slowdown in poverty reduction, and consequently a growth in inequality. The financial crisis undermined confidence in the president and culminated in the collapse of the New Order.

The next period covered is the Reformasi, an era that marked the beginning of a more open and democratic political climate. The next two presidents, Abdurrahman Wahid (1999-2001) and Megawati Soekarnoputri (2001-2004), were more concerned with economic recovery and democratic consolidation, and a protectionist system endured in terms of Economics. The book does not focus much on the next president, Yudhoyono (2004-2014), noting only that he was an internationalist who maintained a more cautious and ambivalent stance on economic issues.

Finally, in the 2014 elections, Joko Widodo came to power and holds the position presidency today. Under him, Indonesia has returned to the path of economic growth and stabilised as a reasonably successful democracy. As the president, commonly known as Jokowi, has taken further steps to emphasise political sovereignty and promote economic autarky and national cultural renaissance, his term has been characterised as 'new nationalism'. In his political speech , Jokowi puts Indonesia as goal of foreign conspiracies and calls for vigilance against such threats. However, the country maintains an ambivalent stance towards international openness and cooperation since, although trade restrictions have increased again in recent decades, Jokowi emphasises global engagement and has revived regional negotiations.

All this has led to public dissatisfaction with globalisation, with up to 40% of citizens believing that globalisation threatens national unity. One of the most negative and important effects in Indonesia is that of workers who have been forced to migrate and work abroad under very poor conditions. However, the later parts of the book also show the positive consequences of globalisation in Indonesia, including higher productivity, increased wages and economic growth. The authors therefore emphasise the importance of constructing a narrative that can generate public and political support for the country's openness and counter the growing anti-globalisation sentiment.

As is the case with a book that is the sum of articles by different authors, its reading can be somewhat tiresome due to a certain reiteration of content. However, the variety of signatures also means a plurality of approaches, which undoubtedly provides the reader with a wealth of perspectives.

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

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

Spain sells less defence materiel to Latin American countries than it should, given the volume of trade.

  • 2019 saw a recovery in Spanish arms sales to Latin America, surpassing 2018 figures, which were the lowest in a long time.

  • In the last five years, Spain has sold 691.2 million euros worth of defence material to the region, 3.6% of its world arms exports.

  • Mexico (24.8%), Ecuador (22.5%), Brazil (16.1%), Peru (14.4%) and Colombia (8.6%) are the five countries that purchased the most material from Spain in the last five years.

Airbus NH90 helicopter, final assembly at Airbus Military facilities in Spain [Airbus] [Airbus].

Airbus NH90 helicopter, final assembly at Airbus Military facilities in Spain [Airbus].

report SRA 2020 / Álvaro Fernández[PDF version].

Latin American countries constitute a area of clear commercial interest for Spain. However, despite being the seventh largest arms exporter in the world and therefore particularly active in this sector, Spain sells less defence material to Latin America and the Caribbean than it would be entitled to in terms of its overall export quota to the region.

While between 2014 and 2018 Spain's overall export of products to Latin America remained between 5.3% and 6.5% of its global exports, in the case of the arms sector it was around 3.2% in 2016 and 2017 and fell to 1.06% in 2018. It is to be expected that this minimum percentage will have risen again in 2019, a year for which there is still no official data complete, but in view of those of the first semester it would seem that it will not even be close to 3%.

The explanation for this lower weight of arms exports in Spain's overall exports to Latin America can be found in two facts. One is the lower budget devoted to the purchase of this subject of material by most Latin American countries, compared to some large buyers(in 2018 Spain's first customer was Germany - in turn the fourth largest exporter in the world -, which accounted for 33% of Spanish sales). The other is that Latin American nations have other important market options: the United States, Russia and China (first, second and fifth largest arms exporters in the world; France is the third).

In 2018 there was a significant drop in Spanish defence exports to Latin America, which amounted to 38.3 million euros, well below any of the previous years. The partial data for 2019 indicates a recovery, although without reaching the figures recorded in 2015, when a peak of €239.4 million was reached, or those of the previous years of 2016 and 2017, when they were €130.7 million and €139.3 million, respectively.

The decrease in 2018 corresponds to a lower purchase list from most Latin American customers. Of the five largest customers over the past five years, Colombia was the only one to maintain a similar level of purchases, amounting to €11 million. Colombia and the next largest buyer, Mexico, were the only ones to slightly increase their imports in 2017, although they were lower than in previous years. The reduction was significant for the next two customers in 2018, Brazil and Peru. This year marked a further reduction in imports from Ecuador, which has continuously cut its order book from Spain over the last five years.

The figures considered in this article only take into account defence material, not other subject material, which the administrative office considers separately, such as riot control material, hunting and sporting weapons, as well as dual-use technology products.



General and Latin American sales

Spain has around 130 companies dedicated to the arms sector. These include Airbus Military, Navantia and Indra, which are among the world's top 100 defence and security companies. Most of the sector are private companies, although there are some unique cases of public ownership, such as Navantia, dedicated to shipbuilding, both civil and military, created in 2005 when the assets of another public company, business , group IZAR, were spun off.

According to the official data of the administrative office of State for Trade, the issue of defence material exports has been increasing notably over the last few years. More than half of Spanish arms exports during 2018 and the first semester of 2019 were destined for countries belonging to NATO or the European Union. In 2017, exports exceeded 4.3 billion euros, after several years of increases in this market. In contrast, arms worth €3,720.4 million were sold in 2018, which was 14.4% less. In the first semester of 2019, however, an improvement was recorded, reaching €2,413 million, an increase of 41.5% compared to the same period last year.

In terms of trade with Latin America, between 2014 and 2018 Spain sold €691.2 million worth of military equipment to the region, representing 3.6 per cent of Spain's total arms exports of €19,042 million.

Over the five years as a whole, the leading importer was Mexico, which with purchases worth 171.4 million euros (of which 140.9 million euros corresponded to 2015 alone), acquired a quarter (24.8 per cent) of the defence materiel sold by Spain to Latin America over the five-year period. The second most important country was Ecuador, with 155.7 million and 22.5 per cent (slightly more than half -85.9 million- were purchases made in 2014 alone). It is followed by Brazil, which made more regular purchases over this time, with 111.8 million and 16.1%); Peru, with 99.5 million and 14.4% (the largest amount -78.4 million- was executed in 2017), and Colombia, with 59.5 million and 8.6%.



Some countries

Mexico has been the leading purchaser of Spanish defence material in the last five years (2014 and 2018) due to purchases made in 2015, when it acquired four transport aircraft, worth 127.2 million euros. In 2018 it only imported €10.1 million worth of parts, pieces and spare parts for Spanish-made aircraft, engine equipment for an aircraft derived from a European cooperation programme and instruments for an air surveillance system.

Brazil is one of the countries with the greatest diversity in the destination of its imports. In recent purchases, 19.7% went to private business , 74.2% to the Armed Forces and the remaining 5.9% to individuals. In 2018, it purchased 7.9 million euros worth of pistols, rifles and magazines for private individuals, as well as day sights, armoured vehicle parts, and Spanish and US-made aircraft parts for the Armed Forces.

Colombia imported in 2018 a total of 11 million euros in spare parts for the maintenance of artillery howitzers, artillery ammunition, spare parts for Spanish and US-made armoured vehicles, and parts for Spanish-made transport aircraft.

Until a few years ago, Venezuela was an important client for the Spanish arms industry. However, following the authoritarian drift taken by Nicolás Maduro's government, relations in this field have weakened. As recently as 2015, Spain sold 15.3 million euros worth of defence material to Maduro, in operations that were shrouded in controversy as some of the exported equipment could be used in the severe repression carried out against its citizens. Since then, with the increase in tensions between the Chavista regime and the United States or the European Union, a series of restrictions have been placed on the export of this subject material to Venezuela. Thus, sales went from having a value of 3.3 million euros in 2017 to just 44,000 euros in 2018, corresponding to payment for spare parts and parts for the modernisation of French-made armoured vehicles, in a transaction that was approved before the trade restrictions of this subject imposed by the EU.

The official data provided by administrative office distinguishes between authorised exports and realised exports. Authorisations do not always materialise in actual sales and sometimes these are executed in subsequent years. The difference is particularly notable in Venezuela, whose political status forced the restriction of exports to that country. In 2018, Spain suspended four licences already approved for Caracas, relating to helicopter maintenance and the provision of electro-optical supplies and systems. In addition, extensions to contracts for the modernisation of battle tanks were denied.

Bolivia and Nicaragua have stopped buying defence materiel from Spain: while between 2014 and 2018 they made no purchases, between 2007 and 2013 they imported 1.5 million and 62,000 euros, respectively.

Cuba, which had a peak in purchases in 2015 at €208,080, in 2018 spent €20,600 on pistols and pistol barrels for the police.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Articles Latin America

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

The COVID-19 pandemic that Spain has been experiencing since the beginning of 2020 has brought to light the commonplace, no less true for having been repeated, that the concept of national security can no longer be limited to the narrow framework of military defence and demands the involvement of all the nation's capabilities, coordinated at the highest possible level which, in Spain's case, is none other than that of the Presidency of the Government through the National Security committee .[1]

Consistent with this approach, our Armed Forces have been directly and actively involved in a health emergency that is a priori far removed from the traditional missions of the nation's military arm. This military contribution, however, responds to one of the missions entrusted to the Armed Forces by the Organic Law of National Defence, in addition to a long tradition of military support to civil society in the event of catastrophes or emergencies. [2] In its execution, units of the three armies have carried out tasks as varied and apparently unrelated to their natural activity as the disinfection of old people's homes or the transfer of corpses between hospitals and morgues.

This status has stirred up a certain discussion in specialised and professional circles about the role of the armed forces in present and future security scenarios. From different angles, some voices are calling for the need to reconsider the missions and dimensions of armies in order to align them with these new threats, not with the classic war between states.

internship This view seems to be supported by the apparently empirical observation of the current absence of conventional armed conflicts - understood as those that pit armies with conventional means against each other manoeuvring on a battlefield - between states. Based on this reality, it is concluded that this form of conflict is practically banished, being little more than a historical relic replaced by other less conventional and less "military" threats such as pandemics, terrorism, organised crime, fake news, disinformation, climate change or cyber threats.

The corollary is obvious: it is necessary and urgent to rethink the missions, dimensions and equipment of the Armed Forces, as their current configuration is designed to confront outdated conventional threats, and not for those that are emerging in the present and future security scenario.

A critical analysis of this idea sample, however, paints a somewhat more nuanced picture. From a purely chronological point of view, the still unfinished Syrian civil war, admittedly complex, is closer to a conventional model than to any other subject and, of course, the capabilities with which Russia is making its influence felt in this war by supporting the Assad regime are fully conventional. In 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and occupied South Ossetia and Abkhazia in a conventional offensive operation. In 2006, Israel faced a hybrid enemy in South Lebanon in the form of Hezbollah - indeed, this was the model chosen by Hoffman as the prototype for the term "hybrid" - which combined elements of irregular warfare with fully conventional ones. [3] Earlier still, in 2003, the US invaded Iraq in a massive armoured offensive.[4]

If the case of Syria is eliminated as doubtfully classifiable as conventional warfare, it can still be argued that the last conflict of this nature - which, moreover, involved territorial gain - took place only twelve years ago; a short enough period of time to think that conclusions can be drawn that conventional warfare can be dismissed as a quasi-extinct procedure . In fact, the past has recorded longer periods than this without significant confrontation, which might well have led to similar conclusions. In Imperial Roman times, for example, the Antonine era (96-192 AD), saw a long period of internal Pax Romana briefly disrupted by Trajan's campaigns in Dacia. More recently, after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo (1815), the Central Powers of Europe experienced a long period of peace lasting no less than thirty-nine years. [5] Needless to say, the end of both periods was marked by the return of war to the foreground.

It can be argued that status is now different, as humanity today has developed a moral rejection of war as a destructive and therefore unethical and undesirable exercise. This distinctly Western-centric - or, if you prefer, Eurocentric - stance takes the part for the whole and assumes this view to be unanimously shared globally. However, the experience of the Old Continent, with a long history of destructive wars between its states, a highly ageing population, and little appetite to remain a relevant player in the international system, may not be shared by everyone.

Western rejection of war may, moreover, be more apparent than real, being directly related to the interests at stake. It is conceivable that, faced with an immediate threat to its survival, any European state would be willing to go to war, even at the risk of becoming a pariah ostracised by the international system. If, at that point, such a state had sacrificed its traditional military muscle in favour of fighting more ethereal threats, it would have to pay the price associated with such a decision. Bear in mind that states choose their wars only up to a point, and may be forced into them, even against their will. As Trotsky said, "you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you".

The analysis of the historical periods of peace referred to above suggests that, in both cases, they were made possible by the existence of a power moderator stronger than that of the political entities that made up the Roman Empire and post-Napoleonic Europe. In the first case, this power would have been that of Rome itself and its legions, sufficient to guarantee the internal order of the empire. In the second, the European powers, at odds for many reasons, nevertheless stood united against France in the face of the possibility that the ideas of the French Revolution would spread and undermine the foundations of the Ancien Régime.

Today, although it is difficult to find a verifiable cause-effect relationship, it is plausible to think that this "pacifying" force is provided by American military power and the existence of nuclear weapons. Since the end of World War II, the United States has provided an effective security umbrella under whose protection Europe and other regions of the world have been spared the scourge of war on their territories, developing feelings of extreme rejection of any form of war.

On the basis of its unrivalled military might, the United States - and we with it - have been able to develop the idea, supported by the facts, that no other power will be so suicidal as to engage in open conventional warfare. The conclusion is clear: conventional war - against the United States, I might add - is, at internship, unthinkable.

This conclusion, however, is not based on a moral preference, nor on the conviction that other forms of warfare or threat are more effective, but simply on the realisation that, faced with America's enormous conventional power, one can only seek asymmetry and confront it by other means. To paraphrase Conrad Crane, "there are two kinds of enemy: the asymmetrical and the stupid".[6]

In other words, classical military power is a major deterrent that financial aid helps explain the leave recurrence of conventional warfare. Not surprisingly, even authors who preach the end of conventional war advocate that the United States should retain its conventional warfare capability.[7]

From North America, this idea has permeated the rest of the world, or at least the European cultural sphere, where it has become a truism that, under the guise of incontestable reality, obviates the possibility of a conventional war being initiated by the United States - as happened in 2003 - or between two nations of the world, or within one of them, in areas where armed conflict continues to be acceptable tool .

In an exercise in cynicism, one might say that such a possibility does not change anything, because it is none of our business. However, in today's interconnected world, there will always be the possibility that we will be forced to intervene for ethical reasons, or that our security interests will be affected by events in countries or regions a priori geographically and geopolitically distant from us, and that, probably hand in hand with our allies, we will be involved in a classic war.

While still in place, the commitment of US military power to Western security is under severe strain as America is increasingly reluctant to take on this role alone, and demands that its partners do more for its own security. We are not suggesting here that the transatlantic link will break down immediately. It seems sensible, however, to think that maintaining it comes at a cost to us that could drag us into armed conflict. It is also worth asking what might happen if one day the US commitment to our security were to lapse and we had transformed our armed forces to focus exclusively on the "new threats", dispensing with a conventional capability that would undoubtedly lower the cost that someone would have to incur if they decided to attack us with such means subject .

A final consideration has to do with what appears to be China's unstoppable rise to the role of major player in the International System, and with the presence of an increasingly assertive Russia, which is demanding to be considered a major global power once again. Both nations, especially the former, are clearly undergoing a process of rearmament and modernisation of their military, conventional and nuclear capabilities that does not exactly augur the end of conventional warfare between states.

To this must be added the effects of the pandemic, which are still difficult to glimpse, but among which there are some worrying aspects that should not be overlooked. One of these is China's effort to position itself as the real winner of the crisis, and as the international power of reference letter in the event of a repeat of the current global crisis. Another is the possibility that the crisis will result, at least temporarily, in less international cooperation, not more; that we will witness a certain regression of globalisation; and that we will see the erection of barriers to the movement of people and goods in what would be a reinforcement of realist logic as a regulatory element of International Office.

In these circumstances, it is difficult to predict the future evolution of the "Thucydides trap" in which we currently find ourselves as a result of China's rise. It is likely, however, to bring with it greater instability, with the possibility of escalation into a conventional subject conflict, whether between great powers or through proxies. In such circumstances, it seems advisable to be prepared for the most dangerous scenario of open armed conflict with China to materialise, as the best way to avoid it, or at least to deal with it in order to preserve our way of life and our values.

Finally, one cannot overlook the capacity of many of the "new threats" - global warming, pandemics, etc. - to generate or at least catalyse conflicts, which can indeed lead to a war that could well be conventional.

From all of the above it can be concluded, therefore, that if it is true that the recurrence of conventional warfare between states is minimal nowadays, it seems risky to think that it might be put away in some obscure attic, as if it were an ancient relic. However remote the possibility may seem, no one is in a position to guarantee that the future will not bring conventional war. Neglecting the ability to defend against it is therefore not a prudent option, especially given that, if needed, it cannot be improvised.

The emergence of new threats such as those referred to in this article, perhaps more pressing, and many of them non-military or at least not purely military, is undeniable, as is the need for the Armed Forces to consider them and adapt to them, not only to maximise the effectiveness of their contribution to the nation's effort against them, but also as a simple matter of self-protection.

In our opinion, this adaptation does not entail abandoning conventional missions, the true raison d'être of the Armed Forces, but rather incorporating as many new elements as necessary, and ensuring that the armies fit into the coordinated effort of the nation, contributing to it with the means at their disposal, considering that, in many cases, they will not be the first response element, but rather a support element.

This article does not argue - it is not its goal- either for or against the need for Spain to rethink the organisation, size and equipment of its armed forces in light of the new security scenario. Nor does it enter into the question of whether it should do so unilaterally, or at agreement with its NATO allies, or by seeking complementarity and synergy with its European Union partners. Understanding that it is up to citizens to decide what armed forces they want, what they want them for, and what effort in resources they are willing to invest in them, what this article postulates is that national security is best served if those who have to decide, and with them the armed forces, continue to consider conventional warfare, enriched with a multitude of new possibilities, as one of the possible threats the nation may have to face. Redefining the adage: Si vis pacem, para bellum etiam magis.[8]

[1] Law 36/2015, on National Security.

agreement [2] According to article 15. 3 of Organic Law 5/2005 on National Defence, "The Armed Forces, together with the State Institutions and Public Administrations, must preserve the security and well-being of citizens in cases of serious risk, catastrophe, calamity or other public needs, in accordance with the provisions of current legislation". These tasks are often referred to as "support to civil society". This work consciously avoids using that terminology, as it obviates that this is what the Armed Forces always do, even when fighting in an armed conflict. It is more correct to add the qualifier "in the event of a disaster or emergency".

[3] Frank G. Hoffman. Conflict in the 21st Century; The Rise of Hybrid Wars, Arlington, VA: Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, 2007. On the conventional aspect of Israel's 2006 war in Lebanon see, for example, 34 Days. Israel, Hezbollah, and the War in Lebanon, London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.

[4] Saddam's response contained a significant irregular element but, by design, relied on the Republican National Guard Divisions, which offered weak armoured and mechanised resistance.

[5] Azar Gat, War in Human Civilization, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 536. This calculation excludes peripheral Spain and Italy, which did experience periods of war in this period.

[6] Dr. Conrad C. Crane is . Crane is Director of the Historical Services of the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and principal author of the celebrated "Field guide 3-24/Marine Corps Warfighting Publication 3-33.5, Counterinsurgency. "

[7] Jahara Matisek and Ian Bertram, "The Death of American Conventional Warfare," Real Clear Defense, November 6th, 2017. (accessed May 28, 2020).

[8] "If you want peace, prepare even more for war".

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Analysis Global

The bi-national Colombian-Venezuelan guerrilla character provides the Maduro regime with another shock force in the face of external military harassment or a coup.

  • The ELN has reached some 2,400 fighters between the two countries; its main funding now comes from illicit businesses in Venezuela, such as drugs and illegal mining.

  • FARC dissidents number at least 2,300; the group with the greatest projection is the one led in Venezuela by Iván Márquez, former FARC leader issue two.

  • Elenos' and ex-FARC cooperate operationally in certain activities promoted by the Maduro regime, but their future organic convergence is unclear.

FARC dissidents led by Ivan Marquez announce their return to arms, August 2019 [video image].

FARC dissidents led by Iván Márquez announce their return to arms, August 2019 [video image].

report SRA 2020 / María Gabriela Farjardo[PDF version].

The consolidation of the two main Colombian guerrilla groups - the ELN and some remnants of the former FARC - as active forces also in Venezuela, thus articulating themselves as Colombian-Venezuelan groups, constitutes one of the main notes of 2019 in the field of regional security in the Americas.

Both groups are said to have around 1,700 troops in Venezuela (two thirds of them from the ELN), of which a third (570) are said to be recruited from among Venezuelans. Used by the Chavista regime for guerrilla training of its irregular forces and as a shock force in the event of external military harassment or a coup, the ELN and ex-Farc are involved in drug trafficking, smuggling and the extraction of gold and other illegal mining, both in areas close to the border with Colombia, where they have operated for many years, and in the Venezuelan interior, such as the mining-rich states of Amazonas and Bolívar.

Following the agreement peace agreement signed between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in November 2016, the National Liberation Army (ELN) began a process of expansion that allowed it to fill the vacuum left by the FARC in various illicit activities, although its estimated issue of 2,400 troops is a far cry from the more than 8,000 that the FARC had at the time of its demobilisation. Although it has had to compete with FARC remnants that are still active as mafia elements, the ELN has become Colombia's main guerrilla force, also focused on organised crime. The ELN's 17 January 2019 attack on the Police Cadet School in Bogotá, in which 22 people were killed, marked the end of an agonising peace dialogue with the government and a flight forward as a criminal organisation.

In the process, the ELN has also been establishing itself in Venezuela, not only in border areas and as a place of refuge and hiding place as before, but also in other parts of the neighbouring country and as an area of activity. The same has happened with the FARC dissidents led by Iván Márquez, Jesús Santrich and El Paisa, who on 29 August announced their return to arms, in a video presumably recorded in Venezuela. The interest of Nicolás Maduro's regime in having the help of such armed elements has meant that the ELN and the ex-FARC of Márquez, who was the FARC's issue 2 and its chief negotiator in the peace negotiations held in Havana, have become bi-national groups, also recruiting Venezuelans.


The growing presence of these groups in Venezuela has been reported by the Colombian authorities. The commander of the Armed Forces, General Luis Navarro, indicated in mid-year that some 1,100 ELN members (just over 40 per cent of the organisation's 2,400 fighters, although other sources consider this total figure to be leave ) were taking refuge in Venezuela, and that group had at least 320 Venezuelan citizens in its ranks.

Meanwhile, during his visit to the UN General Assembly in late September, President Iván Duque raised the ELN's presence in Venezuela to 1,400 troops. Duque indicated that there were 207 geographical points controlled by the ELN on Venezuelan soil, including several training camps and twenty airstrips for drug trafficking, as documented in a controversial dossier that was not released to the public because it contained some test erroneous photographs.

A few days earlier, Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo had told the OAS about the location of ELN fronts and FARC dissidents in Venezuela and referred to their close connections with the Chavista regime. "The links would be with members of the armed forces, the national guard, military intelligence, as well as irregular groups such as the Bolivarian Liberation Force," he said.

Other details were investigated by the Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP), which in its report stated that the ELN finances itself through criminal activities such as extortion and maintains control of gasoline smuggling and mining in several regions of Colombia and Venezuela. In Venezuelan territory, with a presence in at least twelve of its 24 states, it controls gold mines in Bolivar state, hundreds of kilometres from the Colombian border, and coltan mining activities in Amazonas state. According to information attributed to Colombian intelligence, these illicit activities account for 70 percent of their profits. source Thus, the ELN's base of operations in Venezuela is currently the largest source of income for the insurgent group .



FARC dissidents

As for FARC dissidents, Colombian government sources put the number of FARC dissidents at around 2,300 in mid-2019 (including non-demobilised elements, others who have returned to arms and new recruits). While this is close to the figure offered for the ELN, it should be borne in mind that FARC dissidents are atomised.

Some 600 of them are reportedly in Venezuela, including some 250 Venezuelans who have joined their ranks (almost 10 per cent of their total strength). Although these are separate groups that operate on their own, most attention has been given to the one led by Iván Márquez, due to its coordination with the Maduro regime. One episode involving this group was the alleged assassination attempt in Colombia on Rodrigo Londoño, who led the FARC as Timochenko and who has remained loyal to the peace accords. Londoño accused Márquez and El Paisa of ordering the action, foiled by Colombian security forces and unveiled in January 2020, so that other ex-guerrillas would return to arms as they ran out of leadership in civilian life.

Internal documentation of the Venezuelan secret services published by Semana reveals the close relationship between the Maduro government, the ELN and the ex-FARCpartnership . "The regime went from hiding fugitive guerrillas in the early 2000s to serving as the headquarters of operations for these groups. Not only do they prepare militarily, but they also train the militias and the so-called colectivos in guerrilla warfare tactics and strategies," the weekly said.

All this is producing an operational convergence in Venezuela between the ELN and the ex-FARC. However, status does not necessarily lead to a merger of the two groups, which in Colombia maintain their differences, further encouraged by the aspirations of the different criminal groups into which the FARC dissidents have split, and which are referred to in the plural for a reason.

signature On the other hand, the implementation of the Peace Accords was framed in 2019 in a growing climate of insecurity caused by the murder during the year of 77 former FARC guerrillas (173 since the peace agreement was signed in 2016) and 86 local social leaders, according to the report of the UN's University Secretary, António Guterres. Colombian organisations put the latter figure higher, such as the high school of programs of study for development and Peace(Indepaz), which reports 282 homicides, often linked to the attempt to replace coca with legal crops in regions where drug trafficking is active. In any case, this is a decrease compared to 2018, something that can be attributed to the fact that the new territorial distribution of armed groups has already been consolidated and they have less effective resistance.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Articles Latin America

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