Central America

Latin America Delivers A Swift Kick

April 30, 2012 by

On one level, April’s hemispheric summit meeting was an old fashioned butt kicking for Washington’s policies in the region. The White House found itself virtually alone—Dudley Do Right Canada its sole ally—on everything from Cuba to the war on drugs. But the differences go deeper than the exclusion of Havana and the growing body count in Washington’s failed anti-narcotics strategy. They reflect profound disagreements on how to build economies, confront inequity, and reflect a new balance of power in world affairs.

Latin America’s Shift on Drug Policy

April 16, 2012 by

I recently read an interesting and smart piece on one of Foreign Policy’s blogs which charted some notable policy shifts among current Latin American heads of state as it relates to drugs. It is true that, more than two years ago, the former leaders of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico all (rightly) claimed that the “war on drugs” had been unsuccessful. It is also true that the current presidents of Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala (among others) have also called for a rethink on the current prohibition regime.

Qualifying U.S. Military Aid to Guatemala

January 29, 2012 by

Public security is a growing concern in Guatemala as violent Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), most notably Los Zetas, make their way down into that country. Indeed, Guatemalans elected Otto Perez Molina to the presidency on January 14, 2011 attracted by his promise to take an “iron fist” approach to organized crime. In part, this “iron fist” approach means relying more on the military for security.

The Peace Corps, Drugs and US Foreign Policy

January 29, 2012 by

A few months ago, President Barack Obama was celebrating the “profound” relationship between the United States and Honduras. This happened in spite of the fact that current President Porfirio Lobo’s rise to power was aided by a June 2009 coup. Even though Obama publicly denounced the coup, the administration’s response was timid. It did not take the Obama administration long to warm up to the ouster of democratically elected Manuel Zelaya.

Amnesty and Guatemala’s Civil War

December 29, 2011 by

Guatemala’s civil war was, by far, Latin America’s bloodiest—leaving approximately 200,000 people dead. A United Nations-supported truth commission found that more than 90 percent of the human rights violations were committed by the military, including over 600 massacres in primarily indigenous villages. Since the conclusion of the war in 1996, the pursuit of accountability has not gone well.

The Peace Corps and Violence in Central America

December 23, 2011 by

In Central America, the Peace Corps is getting leaner. The organization has recently announced that it will be pulling out of Honduras. The Peace Corps has also put a hold on sending new training groups to Guatemala and El Salvador. There is no question that these countries are dangerous. Honduras, for example, has a murder rate of nearly 82 people per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest in the world.

Democratic Speed Bumps in Latin America

December 11, 2011 by

After a decade of growing popularity, democracy has hit a slump in Latin America. A recent Latinobarómetro poll cited by The Economist in late October underscores this point. In all but three Latin American countries, fewer people than last year believe that democracy is preferable to any other type of government. In the cases of Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, the drop in support for democracy is significant.

Old Habits Die Hard: What the Election of Otto Peréz Means for Guatemala

November 7, 2011 by

On November 6, Otto Peréz-Molina was voted Guatemala’s next president, making him the first military man to lead the country since 1986, the year the nation became reacquainted with democracy after decades of dictatorship. A prominent military figure in the 1980s and 1990s, he was active during the bloodiest period of the thirty-six year civil conflict that left some 200,000 people dead.

Guatemala’s presidential elections: slow road to recovery

November 4, 2011 by

On September 11, Guatemalans voted to elect 158 members of Congress, mayors in all 333 municipalities, 20 members to the Central American Parliament and president and vice president. On November 6 they will vote in the presidential run-off election. Guatemala has a multi-party system. It is a presidential system elected by absolute majority.

Guatemala: A narco state?

August 14, 2011 by

It was National Armed Forces Day, a holiday in Guatemala, and I was standing on the field of the Mariscal Sabala Military Base in Guatemala City talking to a high-ranking member of the government as we watched a show of aerial skill put on by the air force and special forces commandos. The exhibition began with a large US made Bell UH1H military helicopter, similar to the kind used in the Vietnam War, from which a half dozen or so soldiers jumped out.