Latin America Week in Review- June 27, 2014

Latin America and the Caribbean

This week the U.S. concluded combat lifesaving courses in Paraguay, Honduras announced that it would buy military radars from Israel, and the U.S. Coast Guard exchanged weapon maintenance information with the Colombian Army. Read these stories and other highlights below.

  • The U.S. Coast Guard carried out machine gun training exercises with the Dominican Republic’s Navy and Haiti’s National Police Force on Monday as part of Tradewinds 2014.
  • According to InSight Crime, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield came forward Thursday during a teleconference with Caribbean journalists on the murder of former lead prosecutor from Trinidad and Tobago, Dana Seetaha. Brownfield said Seetaha’s murder was orchestrated by a transnational drug organization.”
  • U.S. Army South wrapped up fours weeks of classes on tactical combat lifesaving with members of the Paraguayan military forces as part of an expert exchange program this past Tuesday.
  • The House Appropriations Committee released its markup of the 2015 State and Foreign Operations Bill, which included $120 million of aid to help mitigate the ongoing crisis along the U.S. border. Of that, $80 million will be allotted to increasing border security. The Senate came out with their markup of the bill earlier in the week as well.
  • During the final stop of his Americas tour last Friday, Vice President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. would give Honduras $18.5 million for security assistance through the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) to help combat organized crime.
  • Officials in Tijuana captured Fernando “El Ingeniero” Sanchez Arellano, the last of the Arellano Felix Cartel family, on Monday. The DEA had offered upwards of 5 million dollars for information leading to his capture.
  • The Mexican government announced its four-year National Human Rights Program this past Wednesday. The program -aimed at helping the country achieve its 2011 constitutional human rights goals to help prevent future abuses- comes after groundbreaking reforms made in April to Mexico’s Military Court of Justice. The House Appropriations committee called for a human rights report to be compiled as a condition of increased aid to Mexico during its recent markup of the 2015 State and Foreign Operations Bill.
  • On Tuesday, President Obama nominated Adm. Bill Gortney to become the next commander of U.S. Northern Command. Gortney’s command, which was previously held by Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, includes bases in Mexico and the Caribbean.
  • Joint Task Force Bravo at Soto Cano Airbase, Honduras welcomed its newest commander last Wednesday, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Shane Mendenhall. Mendenhall will take command of the 1st Batallion, 288th Aviation Regiment from Army Col. Thomas Boccardi.
  • The USS Vandegrift alongside a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) made back-to-back drug seizures off the coast of Central America this Thursday. The interdictions, which seized over two tons of cocaine, took place as part of Operation Martillo.
  • The U.N. Office on Drug Control (UNODC) reported on Monday that coca cultivation on Bolivia is at a 12-year low, with a 9 percent reduction from last year. This does not mean however, that coca production has actually been reduced. Less-productive fields are typically the first to be destroyed and cocaine processing has become increasingly advanced, according to the Associated Press
  • The UNODC also came out with similar reports on Peru and Colombia later in the week. In Peru, coca cultivation is down 17.5 percent last year while in Colombia coca cultivation remained stable compared to the previous year. Although cultivation levels may be stable in Colombia, there is now a higher concentration in production within certain border departments due to an uptick in informal mining. 
  • This past week, the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet in conjunction with U.S. Marines based in Hawaii hosted the world’s largest exercise with 23 countries and 25 militaries, including Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Peru, as part of the biannual Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC).
  • On Monday, the Honduran government announced that it would be buying three military radars from Israel in an effort to sidestep cooperation with the United States over the Law of Aerial Exclusion. See our website more information on U.S./Honduran military cooperation.
  • According to El Espectador, seven African nations as well as Australian military specialists concluded a weeklong mission in Colombia about the country’s advances in fighting organized crime groups. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said the visit was “to see and to learn about the experience of the Armed Forces as a notable example to admire and follow.”
  • In an effort to expand its State Partnership Program (SPP), soldiers from South Carolina’s Army National Guard met with members of the Colombian Army this past month to exchange information on weapons maintenance.