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Abstract: Peacebuild, in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) convened the third in a series of six workshops on peacebuilding and conflict prevention policy issues on 31st May 2011 in the CANADEM conference room in Ottawa. The purpose of the workshop series is to exchange current information and analysis among expert civil society practitioners, academics and Government of Canada officials aimed at developing policy and programming options to respond to new developments and emerging trends.
This workshop examined the dynamics of peace and conflict, including drug violence and crime, in Latin America. This policy brief provides a synopsis of the findings and analysis from discussion and the papers presented during the event, highlighting key recommendations to improve prevention and responses to conflict and crime that emerged from the workshop.
Abstract: Femicide, the killing of women by men because they are
women, is a worldwide phenomenon. Victims of femicide are
often mutilated, raped and tortured before their deaths. These
acts of extreme violence are most likely to occur in
environments where every day forms of violence are accepted,
and impunity is facilitated by the government’s refusal to deal
with the problem. Femicide is considered to be the most
extreme form of misogynistic violence, one which stems from
the violation of human rights of women in the public and
private sphere. In Mexico, particularly on the Mexico-US
border, the killing of women first made international headlines
in 1993, as a growing number of female bodies started to
emerge at the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez. Since then, the
number of femicides continues to rise despite international
pressure and government-led initiatives. In 2007, for example,
the federal government promulgated a law that sought to
prevent all forms of violence against women, La Ley General
de Acceso a las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violence. Four
years after the passing of the law, the levels of gender-based violence remain the same, while the number of femicides
continues to increase, rendering the law inoperable. From
1993 to 2005, approximately 370 women were killed in
Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua City.
Abstract: Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) moved into North Sudan's South Kordofan state capital Kadugli at the start of the month, triggering large-scale fighting with Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) units from the region. The UN reported heavy bombardment of villages by the SAF, widespread civilian casualties and at least 73,000 people forced to flee. It also accused the government of blocking aid deliveries and intimidating peacekeepers.
Violence spilled over into South Sudan, with several villages bombed by the North. On 28 June the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (North) signed an agreement on political and security arrangements for South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
In Afghanistan, a standoff between parliament and President Hamid Karzai threatens to deepen the country's political crisis.
Proposals by Senegal's ruling party to amend the constitution were condemned by opposition politicians as undemocratic and sparked unprecedented violent protests.
Myanmar/Burma saw its worst clashes since 2009, as fighting broke out between government forces and the Kachin ceasefire group. Tens of thousands have been displaced and some 20 reportedly killed.
In Mexico, a number of incidents highlighted the deterioration in security around Monterrey, the country's second city, industrial hub and capital of Nuevo León state.
In Venezuela, speculation about President Hugo Chávez's health intensified, leading to infighting within his ruling PSUV party and highlighting the country's lack of alternative leadership.
Abstract: Colombia currently accounts for the vast bulk of cocaine produced in
Latin America. In 2009, the country produced 270 metric tons (MT)
of cocaine, making it the principal supplier for both the United States
and the worldwide market. Besides Colombia, Peru and Bolivia constitute
two additional important sources of cocaine in Latin America.
In 2009, these two countries generated enough base material to respectively
yield 225 and 195 MT of refined product.
Between 60 and 65 percent of all Latin American cocaine is trafficked
to the United States, the bulk of which is smuggled via the eastern
Pacific/Central American corridor. The remainder is sent through
the Caribbean island chain, with the Dominican Republic, Puerto
Rico, and Haiti acting as the main transshipment hubs. In both cases,
Mexico serves as the main point of entry to mainland America, presently
accounting for the vast majority of all illicit drug imports to the
Abstract: This report urges Congress and the Administration to strengthen firearms laws to stem drug-relating violence, citing report that 70% of weapons recovered in Mexico originated from the United States.
Firearms are trafficked from the United States to Mexico and into the hands
of the country’s drug trafficking organizations. Congress has been virtually
moribund while powerful Mexican drug trafficking organizations continue to gain
unfettered access to military-style firearms coming from the United States.
In a June 2009 report, the Government Accountability Office stated that
around 87 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced over the
previous five years originated in the United States.
In a June 9, 2011 response to an inquiry from Senator Feinstein, Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Acting Director Kenneth
Melson stated that of the 29,284 firearms recovered in Mexico in 2009 and 2010
and submitted to the ATF National Tracing Center, 20,504 were United Statessourced.
A country of origin for the remaining firearms could not be determined
by ATF. A copy of this letter and the request letter from Senator Feinstein are
attached in the report appendix.
In 2009, according to tracing data from the ATF, the most frequently
recovered caliber of firearms in Mexico included .223 caliber, 7.62 mm, 9 mm, .22
caliber and 5.7 mm. Other than the .22 caliber, these firearms are the most
commonly found assault rifle and assault pistol calibers in the United States.
Firearms recovered in Mexico overwhelmingly come from the Southwest
border. The Government Accountability Office found that between Fiscal Year
2004 and 2008, approximately 70 percent of firearms traced in Mexico to an
original owner in the United States came from Texas (39 percent), California (20
percent), and Arizona (10 percent).
Abstract: Russia and Mexico, two of the world’s most murderous countries for the press, are heading in different directions in combating deadly anti-press violence, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found in its newly updated Impunity Index. The index, which calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population, found improvement in Russia as journalist murders ebbed and prosecutors obtained two high-profile convictions. But deadly anti-press violence continued to climb in Mexico, where authorities appear powerless in bringing killers to justice.
Colombia continued a years-long pattern of improvement, CPJ’s index found, while conditions in Bangladesh reflected a slight upturn. But the countries at the top of the index—Iraq, Somalia, and the Philippines—showed either no improvement or even worsening records. Iraq, with an impunity rating three times worse than that of any other nation, is ranked first for the fourth straight year. Although crossfire and other conflict-related deaths have dropped in Iraq in recent years, the targeted killings of journalists spiked in 2010.
“The findings of the 2011 Impunity Index lay bare the stark choices that governments face: Either address the issue of violence against journalists head-on or see murders continue and self-censorship spread,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Convictions in Russia are a hopeful sign after years of indifference and denial. But Mexico’s situation is deeply troubling, with violence spiking as the government promises action but fails to deliver.”
CPJ’s annual Impunity Index, first published in 2008, identifies countries where journalists are murdered regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. For this latest index, CPJ examined journalist murders that occurred between January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2010, and that remain unsolved. Only the 13 nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on the index. Cases are considered unsolved when no convictions have been obtained.
Impunity is a key indicator in assessing levels of press freedom and free expression in nations worldwide. CPJ research shows that deadly, unpunished violence against journalists often leads to vast self-censorship in the rest of the press corps. From Somalia to Mexico, CPJ has found that journalists avoid sensitive topics, leave the profession, or flee their homeland to escape violent retribution.
Abstract: This short essay is about impression—gut feelings combined with a certain amount of analytical skill—about recent trends taking place in Mexico concerning the ongoing criminal insurgencies being waged by the various warring cartels, gangs, and mercenary organizations that have metastasized though out that nation (and in many other regions as well). The authors spent over eight hours sequestered together about a month ago on a five-hundred mile there and back again road trip to attend a training conference as instructors for the Kern County Chiefs of Police. Our talks centered on Mexican Drug Cartels, 3rd Generation Gangs, 3rd Phase Cartels, Criminal Insurgency Theory, etc.
Our impression is that what is now taking place in Mexico has for some time gone way beyond secular and criminal (economic) activities as defined by traditional organized crime studies.3 In fact, the intensity of change may indeed be increasing. Not only have de facto political elements come to the fore—i.e., when a cartel takes over an entire city or town, they have no choice but to take over political functions formerly administered by the local government— but social (narcocultura) and religious/spiritual (narcocultos) characteristics are now making themselves more pronounced. What we are likely witnessing is Mexican society starting to not only unravel but to go to war with itself.
Abstract: Criminal violence has taken on epidemic proportions in several Latin American countries. While the violence has complex causes and expressions, a major reason behind the current surge in levels is the strengthening of transnational criminal organisations (TCOs), most of which are based on illicit drug trafficking. TCOs have fuelled a deepening of multi-faceted state crises, which in some cases may be characterised as the “criminalisation of the state”. The seminar on which this report is based focused on the causes of this wave of violence and policy responses at different levels.
The main conclusion from the seminar was that, while US policy includes an array of measures, it is still heavily focused on military assistance and a “supply-side” approach to curbing the flow of drugs and other illicit goods into the US. National responses have in many cases mirrored this approach, focusing on strengthening police controls and in some cases deploying military forces. Regional responses have so far proven weak, yet there are important initiatives in the pipeline. The idea of an alternative agenda is also gaining support both nationally and regionally. This includes measures to decriminalise the production and possession of soft drugs, bolster police and judicial reform, and focus on treatment and finding alternative livelihoods for growers.
Abstract: The latest volume is a collection of English and Spanish articles by academics and practitioners from the Americas who share their perspectives, experience and lessons learned on a multitude of core issues within or closely related to peace operations.
The articles discuss a number of topics including:
- The role of military observers and police in peace operations
- The participation of women and training requirements for addressing gender issues
- Challenges to police reform
- Confidence-building initiatives.
The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre has been engaged in Latin America for a number of years, but its presence has also become more noticeable with the development of the Latin America Peacekeeping Capacity Building project in 2009, funded by the Government of Canada. Working closely with members of the Latin American Association of Peacekeeping Training Centres (ALCOPAZ), the project was designed to enhance the Latin American peacekeeping training centres’ ability to contribute civilian, military and police personnel to United Nations peace operations. This project has led to the undertaking of a number of activities with partners in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and others.
These activities allowed the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre to identify several focus areas that will guide its partnership with Latin America in the coming years, such as the participation of women in peace operations, support to ALCOPAZ and new peacekeeping training centres in the region, and police training for peace operations.
Abstract: Over recent years, drug-related violence in Mexico has featured prominently in international
media coverage. Paradoxically, this comes at a time when several Mexican media outlets have
been forced into self-censorship, due to threats from drug traffickers. Until August 2010, the
death toll from narco-violence was thought to be just under 25,000 for the preceding 44
months. Overnight, that figure had to be revised upwards by an additional 3000, due to the
revelation of secret statistics compiled by the Mexican intelligence service.
Despite the best efforts of the Mexican government, violence levels have continued rising.
military-led offensive of unprecedented intensity and duration has failed to curb the power of
drug trafficking organizations. Instead, these organizations have diversified into other
criminal activities, such as kidnapping and extortion. With the victims of such crime being
ordinary Mexicans, patience with the government and its counternarcotics policy is running
low. War-weariness has started to permeate through Mexican society.
Abstract: The most dangerous threat to the United States and its allies in the Western Hemisphere is the growth of powerful transnational criminal organizations in Mexico and Central America, according to the authors of Security Through Partnership: Fighting Transnational Cartels in the Western Hemisphere. In this policy brief, authors Bob Killebrew and Matthew Irvine write that increased regional cooperation – which has been a topic of President Obama’s Latin America tour – is needed to combat the growing violence and instability in the Western Hemisphere.
Killebrew and Irvine recommend that the United States and its regional partners:
• Prioritize attacking cartels: While mitigating the effects of illegal drugs is an important policy issue in the concerned countries, the United States and its regional partners should target the cartel networks throughout the region as the primary threat.
• Work regionally: The United States and its partners stand the best chance of securing the region against the most dangerous cartels by deploying a regional security strategy, rather than directing efforts to just one area, one border or one country.
Abstract: Latin American history shows that the work of journalists
has frequently placed them in danger—but the nature of
the danger has changed over time. From 1960 to 1980,
independent journalism was threatened by military regimes
whose goals were to hide information from the public and
to overtly censor the media. While a return to democracy has
brought with it a greater flow of information, the holdover of
laws inhibiting free speech and the enduring culture of secrecy
has kept many journalists from covering malfeasance by those
Recently, journalism in Latin America is again threatened by
criminal interests. In countries such as Mexico and Colombia,
violence against journalists and the impunity enjoyed by the
perpetrators of these crimes remain a daunting challenge.
According to the Inter American Press Association and the
Bogotá-based Press Freedom Foundation, between 1987 and
2008 over 120 journalists were murdered in Colombia. The
OAS Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression reports that
of 31 Colombian journalists murdered from 1998 to 2005 for
reasons tied to their profession, only six cases have gone to
trial. Fully 80 percent of investigations have been shelved or
dismissed for lack of evidence, and not one intellectual author
of these crimes has been convicted.
Abstract: Violence and everyday insecurity are amongst the root causes of poverty: a simple and true statement that has at last been
acknowledged in several international agreements, including the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence (2008) and Dili Declaration
(2010). Several new funding mechanisms have even been established to support efforts to reduce violence, including
those that address the special security needs of excluded groups, women, youth and children. What recent policies have failed
to adequately consider, however, is that poor and dispossessed people often perceive the state as a perpetrator or accomplice -
whether by active complicity or passive omission – in the violence visited upon them. For policymakers and practitioners eager
to move beyond top-down approaches to reducing insecurity and violence, this policy briefing offers insights into how local
residents can be directly involved in finding solutions for their security and livelihood needs. Research from a range of contexts
characterised by violence and everyday insecurity suggests that external actors can help to broaden spaces where citizens can
take action in non-violent, socially legitimate ways, but that success depends on gaining a locally nuanced understanding of the
complex relationship between violent and non-violent actors, and between forms of everyday violence and political violence.
Abstract: Militia, freedom fighters, rebels, terrorists,
paramilitaries, revolutionaries, guerrillas, gangs,
quasi-state bodies... and many other labels. In this
issue of FMR we look at all of these, at actors defined
as being armed and being ‘non-state’ – that is to say,
without the full responsibilities and obligations of the
state. Some of these actors have ideological or political
aims; some aspire to hold territory and overthrow a
government; some could be called organised groups,
and for others that would stretch the reality. Their
objectives vary but all are in armed conflict with the
state and/or with each other. Such actors, deliberately or
otherwise, regularly cause the displacement of people.
This issue of FMR
focuses more on the consequences of their violence and
its effects on people, and suggests ways in which these
might be mitigated. The articles included here reflect the
views of civil society groups and individuals in regular
contact with non-state armed groups, of academics and
governments, and of organisations that have years of
experience in engaging – creatively and productively –
with non-state armed groups.
This issue also includes a range of articles discussing
subjects as varied as the labelling of migrants, solar
energy in camps, gang persecution, and scoring states’
performance in respect of the rights of refugees.
Abstract: This policy brief offers eight targeted policy recommendations for combating the convergence of terrorism, crime, and politics. Rather than simply warning about the potential for interaction and synergy among terrorist, criminal, and political actors, this policy brief aims to explore possibilities for exploiting their divergences. In particular, it emphasizes the need to grapple with the economic, political, and combat power that some terrorist groups enjoy through their involvement in crime and conflict.
Abstract: Since the 1970s, the cross-border trade in drugs and guns has brought both immense profits and
terrible destruction to the United States and Mexico. Some estimates place the annual profits of
Mexico’s drug trade at 3 percent to 4 percent of the country’s GDP—on the order of $30 billion per
year—and around half a million people are said to earn a substantial portion of their income through
the narcotics business. The business, however, is not without its risks and costs. Since Mexico’s
president, Felipe Calderón, effectively declared war on the drug cartels in 2006, more than 30,000
people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico.
Nor is the United States immune from the effects of the drug trade. The ruthlessness of drug
trafficking organizations is well-known in this country already, particularly, though not exclusively, in
the inner cities, and the violence of Mexico’s drug war is now beginning to spill over the border.
Border patrols are already costing the country more than $3 billion per year while obstructing billions
more in legitimate trade. Yet the United States is hardly an innocent victim. Nearly half of adult
Americans admit to having tried drugs in the past, and the United States remains the world’s largest
consumer of illegal drugs. It is also the world’s largest supplier of weapons, which fuel the drug war in
a more direct way. Fully 10 percent of America’s gun dealers line the Mexican border, and the
country’s permissive gun laws make it an inexpensive and convenient source of powerful guns,
ammunition, and explosives.
In this Council Special Report, David A. Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the
University of San Diego, analyzes the steps that the United States and Mexico can take to more
effectively combat drug violence.
Abstract: How does violence affect the everyday lives of citizens in countries, regions
and cities of the global South? This has been the central theme of five years’
work in the Violence, Participation and Citizenship (VPC) group of the
Development Research Centre (DRC) on Citizenship, Participation and
Accountability, an international research partnership coordinated by IDS from
2000–2010. While other DRC researchers studied new forms of citizenship that
could help make rights real, the VPC group undertook projects in four countries
to examine how violence affects the exercise of meaningful citizenship and how
efforts to open space for citizenship in such contexts affect the use of violence.
VPC set out to explore these dynamics in partnership with organisations and
community members in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro), Jamaica (Kingston), Mexico
(Chiapas and Guerrero States) and Nigeria (Kaduna, Kano and Plateau
States). Our investigative frame, developed as a group, was a set of questions
about the scope for participatory social action, the exercise of citizenship, and
processes of peaceful social transformation in contexts of violence.
Abstract: The research for this volume is the product of a project on U.S.-Mexico Security
Cooperation jointly coordinated by the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center
and the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego. As part of the project, a
number of research papers were commissioned that provide background information on
organized crime in Mexico, the United States, and Central America, and analyze specific
challenges for cooperation between the United States and Mexico, including efforts to
address the consumption of narcotics, money laundering, arms trafficking, intelligence
sharing, police strengthening, judicial reform, and the protection of journalists.
While understanding the nature and extent of the violence afflicting Mexico in recent times is important, we also recognized that the violence itself is more symptom
than cause of the underlying problem. For this reason, we thought it important
to focus this project’s research on a series of key issues that are feeding the growth
of organized crime and related violence in Mexico. We also found it important to
examine several policy areas where reform and action by one or both governments
could contribute to a long term sustainable approach to weakening the grip of organized
crime and illegal drugs on both countries.
Abstract: In Mexico, the violence generated by drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) in recent years has
been, according to some, unprecedented. In 2006, Mexico’s newly elected President Felipe
Calderón launched an aggressive campaign—an initiative that has defined his administration—
against the DTOs that has been met with a violent response from the DTOs. Government
enforcement efforts have had successes in removing some of the key leaders in all of the seven
major DTOs. However, these efforts have led to violent succession struggles within the DTOs
themselves. In July 2010, the Mexican government announced that more than 28,000 people had
been killed in drug trafficking-related violence since December 2006, when President Calderón
came to office.
This report provides background on drug trafficking in Mexico, identifies the major drug
trafficking organizations operating today, and analyzes the context, scope, and scale of the
violence. It examines current trends of the violence, analyzes prospects for curbing violence in
the future, and compares it with violence in Colombia.
Abstract: In 2006, the Mexican government of Felipe Calderón launched a military offensive
against the country’s drug cartels. The intervention of the armed forces in cornering
rival groups reportedly sparked vicious turf wars over previously agreed trafficking
routes. As many as 31,000 people have died in the ensuing wave of violence, and some refer to the situation as one of armed conflict or insurgency.
2010 has seen
the worst violence so far, particularly in northern areas bordering the United States,
where coveted trafficking routes are concentrated.
The cartels do not have an ideology or political agenda that challenges the state, but
they have increasingly attacked public officials, judges and investigators, leading
some commentators to talk about the growing “Colombianisation” of Mexico.
The cartels have assassinated as many as 11 mayors of small towns, and they have also
targeted and killed journalists.
The forced displacement caused by this worsening violence has been largely
overlooked. Figures for displacement caused by drug cartel violence are hard to come
by, but estimates place the number of people who have fled their homes at around
230,000. Roughly half of those are thought to have crossed into the United States,
which would leave about 115,000 people living as internally displaced people (IDPs)
Abstract: Across the globe today, you'll find almost three dozen raging conflicts, from the valleys of Afghanistan to the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the streets of Kashmir. But what are the next crises that might erupt in 2011? Here are a few worrisome spots that make our list. [Captions provided by International Crisis Group]
Abstract: In our 2010 annual report on Mexico’s drug cartels, we assess the most significant developments of the past year and provide an updated description of the dynamics among the country’s powerful drug-trafficking organizations, along with an account of the government’s effort to combat the cartels and a forecast of the battle in 2011. In 2010, the cartel wars in Mexico have produced unprecedented levels of violence throughout the country. No longer concentrated in just a few states, the violence has spread all across the northern tier of border states and along much of both the east and west coasts of Mexico. This year’s drug-related homicides have surpassed 11,000, an increase of more than 4,400 deaths from 2009 and more than double the death toll in 2008.
Abstract: Once a “Lone Ranger” in the drug trade, La Familia has cast its lot with the infamous and powerful Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels in their battle against Los Zetas, founded by ex-Special Forces members who formed the Gulf Cartel’s Praetorian Guard before striking out on their own. If La Familia and the Sinaloa Cartels displace the paramilitaries, they will have access to Nuevo Laredo, the major portal for the binational flow of narcotics, money, and weapons.
This monograph examines the profound changesThis monograph examines the profound changes sweeping Michoacán in recent years that have facilitated the rise and power of drug traffickers; the origins and evolution of La Familia, its leadership and organization, its ideology and recruitment practices, its impressive resources, its brutal conflict with Los Zetas, its skill in establishing dual sovereignty in various municipalities, if not the entire state; and its long-term goals and their significance for the United States. The conclusion addresses steps that could be taken to curb this extraordinarily wealthy and dangerous criminal organization.
Abstract: Mexico closed the decade with an unprecedented level of violence, and a record number
of drug-related killings in 2009. In light of the spectacular nature of this violence
and the challenge it represents for the Mexican state, it raises serious concerns for the
Mexican public, for policy makers, and for Mexico’s neighboring countries. This report
provides an overview of the trends found in available data on drug-related killings in
Mexico, and offers some brief observations about the causes of violence and the effectiveness
of recent efforts to combat organized crime.
Abstract: U.S. demand for illicit drugs creates markets for Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and helps foster violence in Mexico. This paper examines how marijuana legalization in California might influence DTO revenues and the violence in Mexico. Key findings include: 1) Mexican DTOs' gross revenues from illegally exporting marijuana to wholesalers in the United States is likely less than $2 billion; 2) The claim that 60 percent of Mexican DTO gross drug export revenues come from marijuana should not be taken seriously; 3) If legalization only affects revenues from supplying marijuana to California, DTO drug export revenue losses would be very small, perhaps 2–4 percent; 4) The only way legalizing marijuana in California would significantly influence DTO revenues and the related violence is if California-produced marijuana is smuggled to other states at prices that outcompete current Mexican supplies. The extent of such smuggling will depend on a number of factors, including the response of the U.S. federal government. 5) If marijuana is smuggled from California to other states, it could undercut sales of Mexican marijuana in much of the U.S., cutting DTOs' marijuana export revenues by more than 65 percent and probably by 85 percent or more. In this scenario, the DTOs would lose approximately 20% of their total drug export revenues.