Posts tagged ‘Mexico’
Guarding the Rainforest.
Illegal logging in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest is down — thanks largely to armed militias of indigenous peoples guarding their reserves, which make up about a fifth of the Amazon region.
Armed with shotguns and other assorted weaponry, these ragtag guardians have stopped illegal loggers, tied them up, torched their trucks and tractors and chased them off, the Washington Post reports in a front page story Wednesday (October 7).
As a result, such logging has sharply declined in these territories. But the indigenous groups have faced reprisal attacks and death threats for their actions, raising fears of more violence in an area known for its lawlessness, according to the Post. In a rare visit to the reserves permitted by the indigenous tribes, Washington Post journalists found that many residents support the militias. But others are uneasy about relying on informal armed groups to resolve a problem that should fall to the Brazilian government.
The clashes highlight the continuing grave threat to the Amazon, the world’s biggest remaining rain forest, which plays a crucial role in maintaining the world’s climate and biodiversity. From 2005 to 2012, deforestation plunged in Brazil, as the government increased its conservation efforts and cracked down on illegal loggers. But since then, the numbers have begun to creep up again. In 2014 alone, almost 2,000 square miles of Amazon rain forest were cleared by farmers, loggers and others the Post said.
The Brazilian government sees the rain forest and the waters of the Amazon as key natural resources that needs to be guarded as much as oil reserves off the Atlantic Coast of Brazil
A 2014 report by the World Resource Institute, a Washington-based think tank, found that rural communities and indigenous peoples across the world have government-recognized rights to forests containing 37.7 billion tons of carbon—equivalent to 29 times the annual emissions from all passenger vehicles in the world. In total, deforestation and other land uses represents 11 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
In Brazil alone, the report stated, strong legal rights could contribute to preventing 27.2 million hectares of deforestation by 2050, translating to 12 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions that don’t get into the atmosphere. That’s the same as about three years’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions from all Latin American and Caribbean countries.
President Dilma Rousseff has promised to reduce illegal logging in the Amazon by 2030. She and President Obama in a visit to Washington over the summer, have agreed to work more closely on curbing deforestation of the Amazon and boosting renewable energy.
Meanwhile, a Brazilian audit court has ruled that Rousseff broke the law in managing last year’s budget, according to the BBC.
The government was accused of borrowing money illegally from state banks to make up for budget shortfalls. The opposition says the court’s ruling – which reports to Brazil’s Congress – paves the way for impeachment proceedings against Ms. Rousseff, the BBC said. She was re-elected less than a year ago but has record low popularity ratings, according to the BBC. The Brazilian government says it would challenge Wednesday’s ruling in the Supreme Court
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Bringing Back Police.
The United Nations’ top human rights official wants the Mexican government to set a timetable for replacing military personnel in law enforcement duties with well-trained police.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein said Wednesday (October 7) that the government should return soldiers to their barracks because military forces aren’t designed to do police work, the Associated Press reported.
Mexican soldiers and marines began leading the fight against cartels after many police units proved too corrupt or inefficient to take them on. Zeid was scathing in his assessment of how Mexico’s police, judicial and investigative system have failed Mexicans, leading to 26,000 disappearances and thousands of killings that remain unsolved, the AP said.
Zeid said Mexico’s defense secretary, General Salvador Cienfuegos, told him the army doesn’t desire a policing role. But Zeid added that better police forces have to be trained before Mexico’s army withdraws or the military will leave a vacuum.
LAT AM REVIEW: Colombian Attack; Mexican Drug Lord Seized, U.S. Coast Guard Focus on Western Hemisphere, Rio Defense Expo
U.S. Condemns Rebel Attack.
Eleven Colombian soldiers were killed in fighting with Marxist guerrillas last week (April 14), prompting Colombia’s president to resume air attacks against rebel camps.
The attack and the government’s response have many observers worried they could jeopardize peace talks seeking to end a 50-year insurgency that has cost thousands of lives in Colombia.
A spokesman for the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — which has been trying to overthrow the government since the 1960s — claimed the soldiers initiated the fighting near Cauca in western Colombia. But President Juan Manuel Santos called it a deliberate attack by the FARC and ordered the resumption of bombing raids on rebel targets. Seventeen other soldiers were wounded in the skirmish and one guerrilla was also killed.
Despite the violence, the Voice of America reported the two-year-old peace talks resumed on Thursday (April 16) in Havana, Cuba where Colombian government officials and FARC commanders are trying to negotiate an end to a war that has killed 220,000 and displaced millions since 1964.
The U.S. State Department issued a statement April 17 condemning “the brutal attack in Cauca orchestrated by the FARC.” The brief statement called the attack a “direct violation of the unilateral ceasefire FARC committed to” last December. “We support President Santos’ decision to continue negotiations but also lift his halt of aerial bombardment of FARC,” the statement added.
The State Department said it reaffirms “our continuing support to the government of Colombia in its efforts to end the nation’s 50 year conflict.”
In February, the FARC said it would stop recruiting fighters younger than 17. Then in March, the two sides announced an initiative to work together to remove land mines, the New York Times reported. Soon afterward, Santos ordered a one-month halt to the aerial bombing of FARC encampments. Just a week prior to the latest attack, the president extended the bombing respite for another month.
Since the peace talks began, there have been other clashes with the FARC that resulted in a large number of casualties. In July 2013, the military reported that 15 soldiers died when the rebels attacked an oil pipeline, the Times added.
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Mexican Drug Lord Captured.
The head of another transnational drug cartel has been captured.
On Sunday (April 19) Mexican authorities said they have captured the man who has led the Juarez drug cartel since last year’s arrest of then-leader Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, the Associated Press reported.
National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said Jesus Salas Aguayo was caught Friday (April 17) about 130 kilometers south of the border metropolis of Ciudad Juarez. One of Salas’ bodyguards was killed and another was arrested.
Rubido said Salas Aguayo is linked to a 2010 car bombing in Ciudad Juarez, as well as a 2012 bar attack that killed 15, and the 2009 slaying of a protected witness in El Paso. The website of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says Salas Aguayo is wanted in the United States for possession and distribution of narcotics and for conspiracy.
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Coast Guard Focus.
The U.S. Coast Guard says it’s not enough to seize thousands of pounds of cocaine at sea or even arrest the people transporting illegal drugs by boat.
Instead, it’s crucial to defeat the transnational organized crime (TOC) networks behind the illicit commerce in narcotics and people, according to the Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere Strategy.
“Last year alone. the Coast Guard took 91 metric tons of cocaine out of the [trafficking] stream,” Lieutenant Commander. Devon Brennan told a briefing on the first day of the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition. He noted that seizure figure is three times the amount of drugs seized by all U.S. law enforcement agencies “including along the southwestern border.”
But going after transnational cartels is only part of the Coast Guard’s regional strategy. “In the next decade, the Coast Guard must confront significant challenges to maritime safety, efficiency and security in the Western Hemisphere,” the Strategy states, identifying three priorities over the next 10 years: combatting [criminal] networks, Securing Borders and Safeguarding Commerce.
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Brazil Defense Expo.
One of the biggest defense conferences in the Americas, Latin America Aero & Defense (LAAD 2015), just ended in Rio de Janeiro.
“Despite budgetary uncertainties, the Brazilian Army remains steadfast in the pursuit of its key strategic projects,” according to IHS Jane’s website.
The army’s seven key strategic projects include the SISFRON border-monitoring system; a cyber defense project; the Guarani Strategic Project for (PEE Guarani) for a family of wheeled amphibious armored personnel carriers (APCs); and the Attainment of Full Operational Capability (OCOP) project, which aims to equip the army at a minimum level of readiness to guarantee the homeland defense mission.
Brazil’s defense strategy includes air and naval asset acquisitions to assert Brazilian control over its deepwater offshore oil reserves and to secure the waters of the Amazon Basin, which Brasilia considers a natural resources commodity as valuable as oil.
National Guard, Immigration Bill.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has ordered up to 1,000 National Guardsmen to the border with Mexico to help deal with the crisis of thousands of children crossing over from Mexico.
More than 57,000 unaccompanied minors — mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have crossed illegally since October, reports USA Today, noting the influx of children has overwhelmed federal detention centers and Border Patrol offices.
The state acion is estimated to cost Texas taxpayers $12 million a month once it gets underway. No starting date has been set yet. Most of the children are reportedly fleeing drug trafficking and gang violence in their home countries.
Meanwhile, at immigration bill meant to deal with the illegal child immigrant issue is on life suport on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner called off a vote on a border assistance bill until Friday (August 1). The day Congress was supposed to take off for a month-long recess, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. And a vote on the Senate version of the bill was blocked until after August.
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Gaza Fallout in Latin America
The fighting in Gaza beween the Israel Defense Force and Hamas may be a world away, but it is starting to have diplomatic repercussions in Latin America.
This week El Salvador became the fifth Latin American country to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv and not because of safety and security fears. San Salvador recaled its envoy to protest the IDF’s continued operations in Gaza and the disastrous effect it is having on civilians.
Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru have previously called their ambassadors, according to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. Israel’s Foreign Ministry expressed deep disappointment with what it called with their “hasty decision” to call diplomats hom for consultation. Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the ministry, told Haaretz that such actions “constitutes encouragement for Hamas, a group recognized as a terrorist organization by many countries around the world.”
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Argentina’s rocky economy may be in for another shock as the country is on the verge of defaulting on billions of dollars of government bonds. If Buenos Aires doesn’t pay up, it will be country’s second default in 13 years.
Argentina has been battling a group of hedge funds since it defaulted on its bond obligations in 2001. Argentina offered new bonds worth much less than the orginal ones but has been its obligations on them. A small group of bondholders want to be paid in full and the Argentine government has resisted. But a judge in New York has ruled that banks using Argentina’s money to pay the holders of the lesser bonds would be in violation of a previous court order.
The dispute, which weighs heavilly on the Argentine economy, has most likely “pushed up borrowing costs for Argentine companies and depleted economic confidence in a country that is already facing high inflation and sagging growth,” the New York Times explains.
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Venezuelan Official Faces Drug Charges
The former head of Venezuela’s military intelligence is accused of corruption and drug dealing by the United States. Hugo Carvajal was arrested on request
of the U.S. State Department when he got off a plane in Aruba last week.
But officials in the Caribbean Island nation had to let him go — because he had diplomatic immunity — and sent him back to Venezuela even though the U.S. wanted to extradite him. Indictments unsealed after his arrest accused him of being on the payroll of drug traffickers and coordinating massive cocaine shipments, the New York Times reported.
The indictments “open a window onto accusations of ties between Venezuelan military and law enforcement officers and Colombian drug traffickers, a connection that officials in Washington have long warned about and that has been roundly dismissed by authorities” in Venezuela, according to the Times.
Carvajal was traveling on a diplomatic passport as Venezuela’s new consul in Aruba. He was a long-time confidant of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.
Soldiers vs Vigilantes vs Drug Gangs
The Mexican government’s attempts to quell violence between vigilantes battling drug gangs in the southwesterrn state of Michoacan have turned deadly in a confrontation between the military and civilians.
There are contradictory reports on the number of casualties in the town of Antunez where soldiers were reported to have opened fire early Tuesday (January 14) on an unarmed crowd blocking the street. The Associated Press is reporting that its reporters saw the bodies two men said to have died in the incident. AP journalists said they also spoke with the family of a third man reportedly killed in the same incident.
The Los Angeles Times reported that 12 people were said to have died in the clash, according to the Mexican newspaper Reforma. The self-defense groups began organizing last year to protect local people from the drug gang known as the Knights Templar, who were extorting and otherwise terrorizing residents of Tierra Caliente, an important farming region west of Mexico City.
Local citizens said they had to arm themselves because federal troops failed to guarantee their security. On Monday (January 13) Mexico’s interior minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, urged the vigilantes to lay down their arms, the BBC reported.
The Knights Templar, who control much of the methamphetamine trade to the United States, say the vigilantes have sided with a rival gang, the New Generation cartel. But the self-defense groups fiercely deny that.
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Ecuador’s First Drone
Ecuador has developed its first domestically made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa revealed the country’s first drone on local television Saturday (January 11), according to the Russian television network, RT (Russia Today).
The drone, called the UAV-Gavilan (Spanish for hawk), cost half a million dollars, a significant savings for Ecuador — which, 2007 paid $20 million for six Israeli-made UAVs, according to the Associated Press.
The gasoline-powered, carbon fiber and wood UAV was designed by the Ecuadorian Air Force to help the country, which borders both the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, fight drug trafficking, Correa said. He added that the Gavilan tracked a ship loaded with drugs for six hours before authorities intercepted the vessel.
Its video cameras and sensors will help the Euadorian Air Force monitor the country’s borders and hard-to-reach areas, like the Amazon rainforest, as well as assisting investigations. Ecuador plans to produce four of the UAVs for itself and then sell others to interested countries in Latin America.
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FARC Ends Ceasefire
Colombia’s Marxist rebels announced Wednesday (January 15) that they were ending their unilateral holiday ceasefire with government forces.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — widely known by their Spanish acronym FARC –announced in Havana, Cuba, where it has been in peace negotiations with the government that it was ending the ceasefire it declared December 15, Reuters reported.
The rebels, who have battled the government in Bogota for five decades, accused government armed forces and police units of pursuing “aggressions and provocations.”s
theThe FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, declared a one-month ceasefire on December 15 and said in a statement issued on Wednesday, “we lived up to our word… despite permanent aggressions and provocations by the government’s armed forces and police units.”
While the FARC has repeatedly called for both sides to end hostilities, President Juan Manuel Santos has refused to agree. The rebels previously observed another unilateral cease-fire that lasted two months, the Associated Press reported.
The FARC has been fighting the government in a brutal guerrilla war that has claimed more than 200,000 lives in jungle and urban attacks. The revolt began as a peasant movement seeking land reform but in recent years the FARC — branded a terrorist organization by the United States — is reported to have aligned itself with Colombian drug cartels, obtaining much of its funding through narcotics sales. The FARC is the oldest active guerrilla army — estimated to number 8,000 — in the Western Hemisphere..
The leader of the notorious Mexican drug gang, the Zetas, has been captured by the Mexican military near the border with Texas, officials announced late Monday (July 15).
Miguel Trevino Morales was wanted by Mexican and U.S.. authorities. Both countries posted multi-million dollar rewards for him. Known as Z-40, he was captured by Mexican Marines using a helicopter, who intercepted him in a pickup truck outside the border city of Nuevo Laredo, according to the Associated Press. Morales and two others, believed to be an accountant and a bodyguard, were taken into custody along with $2 million in cash and eight guns.
Trevino Morales is the highest-ranking crime boss taken down since President Eneique Pena Nieto took office in December, according to the BBC. More than 60,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since December 2006.
Pena Nieto promised to change the policy of the previous government by tackling cartels through law enforcement on a local level rather than the capture of big-name targets. His predecessor, Felipe Calderon, had deployed the army across the country and pursued cartel leaders. That policy eliminated many senior criminal figures, but it also created power vacuums that helped fuel the violence.
The Zetas have been linked to some of the most violent crimes in Mexico’s battle with drug cartels, including massacres of immigrants passing through Mexico on their way to the United States and a casino fire that killed 52 people in Monterrey in 2011.
The Zetas originally were deserters from Mexico’s special operations forces hired as bodyguards and enforcers by the Gulf Cartel. But they split off to form their own gang in 2007 and have terrified Mexico –especially along the U.S. border — with unbelievable violence and brutality – including torture, beheadings and massacres, the Los Angeles Times reported.
More Border Agents?
If a compromise deal on pending immigration legislation holds up, it would double the number of federal agents on the U.S.-Mexican border. But according to Reuters, some officials question the benefits of the $50 billion pricetag for the boost from 21,000 to 40,000 border security agents.
In addition to the federal agent surge and completion of a 700-mile-long border fence, the compromise would also include $3.2 billion for a high tech border surveillance plan – including unmanned aircraft, infrared ground sensors and long range thermal imaging cameras, the New York Times reported.
James Comey tapped for FBI Post
[Updates with Comey nominated, praised by Obama, adds photo and link to 2008 UAV demonstration for FBI]
As predicted, President Obama formally nominated James Comey – a former high-ranking official in the George W. Bush administration – to be the nation’s next FBI director.
At a White House announcement in the Rose Garden, Obama praised Comey’s integrity — without going into specifics of his opposition, when Comey was Deputy U.S. Attorney General, to the continuation of a warantless eavesdropping program that he believed was unconstitutional. Comey threatened to resign in opposition to the move. President George W. Bush later backed Comey’s position.
“This is a 10-year assignment. I make this nomination confident that long after I’ve left office, our nation’s security will be in good hands with public servants like Jim Comey,” Obama said, calling for the Senate to “act promptly with hearings and to confirm our next FBI director right away.”
As a U.S. attorney in New York, Comey successfully prosecuted more than a dozen men for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. service members.
If he is confirmed, Comey, 52, the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan and areas north of New York City, will replace Robert S. Mueller III, who is leaving the agency after a dozen years. Comey’s nomination has been expected since last month when news reports indicated he had emerged as the top candidate.
Obama also praised the outgoing FBI director. “Under his watch, the FBI joined forces with our intelligence, military and homeland security professionals to break up al Qaeda cells, disrupt their activities and thwart their plots,” the president said, adding: “Countless Americans are alive today, and our country is more secure, because of the FBI’s outstanding work under the leadership of Bob Mueller.”
Earlier this week, the current FBI director told Congress that while the FBI has used drones in its investigations, it has been rare and only for surveillance purposes.
According to NBC, Director Robert Muller acknowledged that the FBI used drones in investigative practices but said the agency is working to establish better guidelines for their use.
Back in 2008, when your 4GWAR editor was working at Aviation Week, we went down to Quantico, Virginia to see a demonstration for FBI officials of a catapult-launched Insitu Scan Eagle unmanned air vehicle. You can see a short video of the launch and recovery here.
Send in the Marine
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly has been nominated to oversee U.S. military operations in the southern half of the Western Hemisphere – U.S. Southern Command.
Based in Miami, Florida, SOUTHCOM as it’s usually referred to, has military responsibilities for Latin America and the Caribbean Basin. Those responsibilities include organizing joint exercises with local militaries in the region as well as good will/humanitarian aid missions.
Building closer ties with partners in Latin America and Africa is expected to rise in importance in coming years as the Obama administration plans to focus most of the military’s attention on the Asia-Pacific region and the always volatile Middle East.
Kelly has been serving as senior military adviser to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta since March 2011.
Subject to Senate confirmation, Kelly will succeed Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser as head of SOUTHCOM. A promotion to full (four star) general comes with the new post as head of one of the Defense Department’s six regional combatant commands.
A Boston native, Kelly enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1970, rising to the rank of sergeant before leaving to attend the University of Massachusetts. After graduation in 1976, he received an officer’s commission. He has served as a platoon and company commander in the 2nd Marine Division and done sea duty on the aircraft carriers USS Forrestal and USS Independence, according to his official biography.
He has also commanded a light armored reconnaissance battalion in the 1st Marine Division and served as: the Marine Corps’ legislative liaison to Capitol Hill; special assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, in Mons, Belgium; assistant commander of the 1st Marine Division; and commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq. A graduate of the National War College, Kelly served two tours in Iraq.
In addition to the risks posed by violent transnational drug cartels in Mexico Colombia and a growing number of Central American countries, national security experts have worried about the possibility that international terrorists might try to develop a foothold in the remote and often lawless Triple Frontier region where the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina meet.
Top U.S. intelligence official told a Senate panel yesterday (Jan. 31) that they still have concerns about the growing influence of China and Iran in South and Central America.