The Impact of War in Ukraine on Latin America and the Caribbean
David J. Kramer, Vladimir Rouvinski, and Andrei Serbin Pont
Russia ́s invasion of Ukraine caused a shockwave that left no region in the world untouched as international surprise led to various reactions by national governments of different political and ideological inclinations. As such, Latin America and the Caribbean was no exception. The region has been fertile terrain for Russian diplomatic and military engagement over the last two decades, and several countries have found Russia a credible partner and supplier of a wide range of goods and services. This collection of short essays analyses how the conflict created challenges as well as potential opportunities in the region.
Making the Grade: What's Motivating China's Educational Outreach in LAC?
Margaret Myers and Brian Fonseca
This paper considers the multiple motivations for China’s educational outreach in the region, drawing from Chinese policy and analysis and many dozens of examples of academic linkages forged between China and Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years. Whether initiated by Chinese or LAC institutions, these programs are an increasingly central feature of China-LAC relations, a part of the extension of China’s BRI to LAC, and a useful measure of China’s varied and evolving interests throughout the region.
China's Investments and Land Use in Latin America
Monica Nunez Salas
Increased demand by China for commodities has impacted natural resources and local people in Latin America, at a time when climate change has created an urgency for sustainable practices. This report aims to contribute to a nuanced view of Chinese major investments and trade, analyzing the soy, copper, and beef industries. In many cases, it shows how unsustainability is not the result of the practices of Chinese companies but rather the nature of the resource, local legal frameworks, or global industry standards. Latin American countries must devise development plans for these industries and not rely solely on voluntary sustainability standards adopted by the private sector to preserve Latin America's vulnerable ecosystems in light of climate change.
Contactless, Crypto, and Cash: Laundering Illicit Profits in the Age of COVID-19
Calum Inverarity, Gareth Price, Courtney Rice, and Christopher Sabatini
Travel restrictions and lockdowns have forced changes to the traditional means illicit groups have used to launder their ill-gotten profits. This paper explores whether COVID-19 may have affected these processes through three main channels: increased reliance on cryptocurrencies to move and launder funds tied to illicit activity; the expanded use of the internet through e-commerce sites to continue and expand trade mispricing practices to move illicit funds; and the use of FinTech and peer-to-peer payment services to transfer illicit funds.
Extortion: The Backbone of Criminal Activity in Latin America
Extortion is a phenomenon that can be understood from various disciplines, such as economics, criminology, the political sciences, and sociology. Each of these fields of knowledge emphasizes either the system or economic models under which extortionists and victims operate, the short- or long-term relationship sought by establishing simple or complex extortion mechanisms, the political relationship between extortionists and victims, or citizens’ perceptions of the institutional framework, which can serve as a gateway for criminal groups to create ties of protection through extortion. This report sheds light on the importance of extortive practices in Latin America. It is based on qualitative research since 2019. The report shows that extortive practices are a regionwide trend, albeit with national, specific characteristics. Although it is primarily a non-violent crime, an increasing tendency—specifically linked to practices against women—should make it a priority for the public security agenda.
Russia’s Strategic Communication in Latin America and the Caribbean
After Vladimir Putin’s Russia returned to Latin America and the Caribbean, strategic communication became a key engagement tool, enabling Moscow to apply sharp power in the region successfully. As a result, during the last decade, Moscow created mechanisms that effectively communicate values, interests, and narratives to facilitate Russia’s foreign policy objectives in the Western Hemisphere. This research traces the advance of Russian information strategy in the Latin American information space during the last two decades.
The Cycle of Risk: Impact of Climate Change on Security Challenges in the Caribbean
The intersection of climate change and security has geopolitical considerations for Caribbean countries and the United States. Addressing climate change through recovery, resilience, and adaptation requires significant financing. In an indebted region, most governments will look elsewhere before agreeing to accept new loans from international financial institutions. Caribbean decision-makers are pragmatic actors, meaning there are opportunities for U.S. counterparts, such as China and Russia, to strengthen diplomatic ties by offering aid or low-interest loans to governments and others on a smaller scale, such as Venezuela and Cuba. Resilient recovery, access to low-interest financing, expansion of the regional security system, and enhancing military-to-military coordination between the United States and the Caribbean would help the region address current and forthcoming challenges.
The Ecosystem of Illegal Gold Mining
Criminal groups quickly recognized that controlling large swaths of land and illicit and legitimate enterprises linked to illegal gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon enabled them to generate larger profit margins with fewer risks due to the lack of a government law enforcement presence. Gold constitutes an ideal medium for criminal groups to launder proceeds obtained from other illegal activities. Compared to other natural resources and illicit goods, gold is valuable by volume. Also, COVID-19 is not only having an impact on the global economy and surging unemployment. It is driving gold prices to historical record highs since 2012, leading to an influx of illegal miners to unlicensed mining sites where they invade protected indigenous lands, stripping swaths of forest bare, poisoning rivers with mercury, and laundering illegal gold through mineral shops. The nexus between illegal mining and other organized crime complicates the design of strategies to address this problem effectively. Specifically, intersections with human trafficking and forced labor, migrant smuggling, and the drug trade have been identified. However, the form and degree can vary significantly.
Tussle for the Amazon: New Frontiers in Brazil's Organized Crime Landscape
Ryan C. Berg
Brazil is witnessing a “tussle for the Amazon”—a new and deadly phase in the history of its organized crime groups and their operations. While the country is no stranger to violent criminal organizations, recent years have seen groups building increasingly sophisticated networks, both within and beyond Brazil’s borders. In the strategic state of Amazonas, these developments have sparked a power struggle between several of the country’s largest criminal organizations that has concerning implications for the stability of Brazil as a whole. This “tussle” is more than a mere clash between Brazil’s transnational organized crime groups. It is a threat to regional stability and imperils neighboring Latin American countries. Appreciating the Amazon region’s current role in the dynamics of Brazil’s criminal underworld is the first step toward deliberate, informed action by the United States and Brazil against a shifting criminal environment.
Developing Methodologies to Assess Organized Crime Strategies in Latin America
Because of the increasingly organized and lethal nature of criminality in Latin America and the Caribbean, organized crime policy may be the single most important safeguard for regional security. A policy-relevant understanding requires disentangling these crimes’ many overlapping sources, removing embedded layers of methodological obstruction, and attuning responses with organized crime practice. Using embedded mixed methods to incorporate the ways in which available quantitative data and policies reflect the qualitative conditions of the agencies and processes that produce it, this report works to identify these broken, frayed or invisible inter-connections through a methodological framework as broadly flexible as the criminality it aims to measure and stop.
Fishing for Security
Often viewed through a myopic lens as an environmental issue or one relegated to fisheries authorities, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing affects all coastal nations in the Western Hemisphere and has national security implications on the United States. A regional problem requires a regional solution and greater cooperation across agencies, private industry, and governments. Actions to address IUU fishing in Latin America have the potential to achieve greater aims of maritime security in the region. The report will frame the problem of IUU fishing by first highlighting its overall impacts globally and regionally. Food security, employment, national revenue, and other illicit activities are discussed. The report concludes with recommendations for interagency and regional coordination.
China's COVID-19 Diplomacy in Latin America and the Caribbean: Motivations and Methods
This report considers China’s varied interests, whether humanitarian, commercial, or political, when engaging with Latin America and the Caribbean during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through a review of international media coverage and Chinese embassy reports, it provides observations on the nature of Chinese personal protective equipment (PPE) and vaccine-related outreach over the past year, and of trends in Chinese messaging in social and traditional media in the region.
Environmental Explanations of Central American Migration: Challenges and Policy Recommendations
Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian and Diego Chaves-González
In this report, the authors argue that when countries and relevant stakeholders do not prioritize disaster preparedness and foster community resilience, extreme climate events can deplete people’s material and socioeconomic well-being. This results in internal displacement as people seek economic opportunities and social protection, which may exacerbate conflict and social tension in the cities they move to. Ultimately, this helps explain one unexamined consideration driving migration to the United States from the Northern Triangle countries.
Militarism and the Militarization of Public Security in Latin America and the Caribbean
While the effects of militarism and militarization toward security are evident in the Americas, most notably transmitted via images of soldiers complementing and replacing law enforcement agencies at times of social crisis, this report seeks potential answers to what this means in theory and practice. The author does this in two ways. First, it unpacks an up-to-date understanding of militarism and militarization aiming to feed academic and policy debates with a perspective on what citizens in Latin America and the Caribbean think. Second, it expands knowledge of militarism and militarization informing security and defense planners, specifically those preparing tailored policies toward conflict and peace in the region.
The Return of Geopolitics: Latin America and the Caribbean in an Era of Strategic Competition
Hal Brands and Ryan C. Berg
With the advent of the Biden administration, it is clear the idea of focusing U.S. foreign policy on strategic competition enjoys widespread bipartisan support. U.S. statecraft is increasingly directed at the threats posed by powerful state rivals—especially China—as opposed to Salafi-Jihadist extremists and other non-state actors. Yet geopolitical rivalry is not simply something that happens over there in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East. It also happens over here, within the Western Hemisphere. As the United States enters a new period of geopolitical rivalry, it must update its understanding of strategic denial to fit the facts on the ground. This paper offers an intellectual starting point for that endeavor. It is intended to help the U.S. national security community think through the imperative of strategic denial and hemispheric defense in the twenty-first century.
Hopelessness and Corruption: Overlooked Drivers of Migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America
Joy Olson and Eric L. Olson
This work briefly reviews the complex web of factors traditionally considered migration drivers. The authors’ interviews with migrants and their own work on anti-corruption efforts in Central America led them to hypothesize that something is missing from this traditional framework. Interviews with migrants in transit suggested that beyond any individual or combination of factors stood a profound lack of hope that the situation in their home country would improve.
Going Local: An Assessment of China's Administrative-Level Activity in Latin American and the Caribbean
Local-level engagement is becoming an increasingly central feature of the broader China- LAC relationship, as Chinese central government, quasi-governmental, provincial, commercial and other actors seek to engage more extensively in LAC markets, shape external views of China, and advance China’s various policy objectives and political interests, including vis-à-vis Taiwan. Though prompted by Chinese government policy, the nature of this engagement is exceedingly wide-ranging, however, featuring a complex cast of generally uncoordinated characters with distinct interests and approaches. The outcomes at the subnational are also distinct. Some local-level partnerships have been exceedingly productive, resulting in numerous commercial deals and other forms of cooperation. Others have yet to produce concrete results, despite many years of exchange.
Venezuelan Migration Crisis: Medium and Long-Term Impacts
Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian and Paula García Tufró
The recent debate on Venezuela has primarily focused on the promotion of a political transition to reestablish a functioning democracy, respect for human rights, and restore a viable economy. However, the discussion and resulting actions should also focus on the need to address the medium to long term regional effects of the Venezuelan migration crisis. The human dimensions of the country’s protracted political, economic, and humanitarian crisis have been daunting, with 4.5 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees having fled their homeland between 2015 and 2019. This massive exodus is having the greatest impact on Latin American and Caribbean countries. The burden appears likely to intensify, moreover, as the number of displaced Venezuelans is projected to reach 6.5 million Venezuelans by the end of 2020.
This study focuses on how the exodus will impact the economic, social, security, and political standing of countries with the highest concentration of Venezuelan migrants—namely Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
The Evolution of Threat Networks in Latin America
Dr. Phil Williams and Dr. Sandra Quincoses
The economic and political environments in Latin America have been advantageous for local, regional, and transnational threat networks. Specifically, technology, increased international trade and economic interdependence, heightened interest in natural resources for profit, synthetic drug production, economic disparities, corruption, impunity, and unstable political conditions have led to a complex web of opportunities that requires new, progressive ways to address criminal activities. The creativity of threat networks along with their entrepreneurial strategies have resulted in increasing power and influence. Despite efforts by the United States and some governments in Latin America to combat these networks, the everchanging global environment has worked in their favor. Indeed, some countries in Central and South America are in danger of transforming into what Jorge Chabat described as “criminally possessed states.” Furthermore, gangs in Central America, especially in Honduras where MS-13 has become more closely linked to drug trafficking, have reduced local extortion, become more aware of their nascent political power and have even engaged in rudimentary social welfare provision.
Back In Power? Brazil's Military Under Bolsonaro
Roberto Simon and Brian Winter
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the 2018 election of Jair Bolsonaro represented the biggest shock to civil-military relations in Brazil in the last 40 years. Bolsonaro, a former Army captain who campaigned on a platform of dictatorship nostalgia amid the country’s worst-ever economic crisis, vowed to bring the generals back to the center of Brazilian politics. Indeed, the military today is exercising power not seen since Brazil concluded its decade-long “gradual transition” from dictatorship to democracy during the late 1970s and 1980s. Retired (and sometimes active-duty) senior military officers are now occupying several critical positions in the administration, including in policy areas outside the realm of defense and security – from Vice President Hamilton Mourão to ministries charged with energy, infrastructure and relations with Congress.
Are China and Russia on the Cyber Offensive in Latin America and the Caribbean?
Brian Fonseca, Robert Morgus, Kiran Green, and Alexander Crowther
Cyberspace—the newest domain of conflict—is among the most prominent forums of conflict in the twenty-first century. Increasingly nation-states utilize cyber and information capability in pursuit of foreign policy and national security objectives. This report focuses on two nation-states that are leading the charge in this respect: China and Russia.
While Russia seeks to destabilize the global system for its own advantage, China’s goal is to maintain the current system and replace the United States as the global hegemon. To that end, China and Russia are pursuing robust cyber capabilities to advance their respective geopolitical, economic, and security interests. Moreover, Chinese and Russian state-run enterprises use tools ranging from cyber espionage to weaponizing information in an effort to undermine the efficacy of democracy and, in general, western interests around the world.
The Future of US-Colombia Relations
Christopher Sabatini, Sofia Mateu-Gelabert, and Brian Fonseca
Colombia has been one of the United States’ closest allies in the region, stretching back to the 1950s. Colombia was the only Latin American country to join the Korean War in a direct military role. In 1951, the first 1,000 Colombian soldiers disembarked in South Korea where they maintained a military presence until the end of the war. During the 1960s and 1970s, Colombia became one of the largest recipients of United States assistance in Latin America. The assistance was designed to enable Colombia to develop economically through industrialization, agrarian, and social reforms and helped solidify Colombian-U.S. military relations.1 Colombia’s support of the United States during the war and the U.S.’ economic support of Colombia during the 1960s and 1970s fostered a multi-faceted, long-lasting diplomatic and military relationship between the two countries that has evolved, but remained strong for over half a century.
The Digital Deciders
Robert Morgus, Jocelyn Wollbright, and Justin Sherman
Today, the global and open model for the internet is under pressure, and we risk drifting towards an internet that we do not want. Amidst a massive global dialogue about cyber norms we are losing sight of the forest in favor of individual trees. The ultimate prize is not individual norms about what should be attacked and by whom, but instead the norm that the internet should be a place that is global and open to the free flow of content, not narrowly sovereign and closed. The ultimate trajectory of this process will depend just as much, if not more, on domestic developments in a group of undecided states that we coin the "Digital Deciders."
This report offers a data tool to help analyze these Digital Deciders and provides a background and context for this broad debate.
Culture and National Security in the Americas
Brian Fonseca and Eduardo Gamarra
With contributions from leading experts, Culture and National Security in the Americas examines the most influential historical, geographic, cultural, political, economic, and military considerations shaping national security policies throughout the Americas. In this volume, contributors explore the actors and institutions responsible for perpetuating security cultures over time and the changes and continuities in contemporary national security policies.
Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Violence in the Americas Today
Bruce M. Bagley and Jonathan D. Rosen
In 1971, Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs. Despite foreign policy efforts and attempts to combat supply lines, the United States has been for decades, and remains today, the largest single consumer market for illicit drugs on the planet.This volume argues that the war on drugs has been ineffective at best and, at worst, has been highly detrimental to many countries. Leading experts in the fields of public health, political science, and national security analyze how U.S. policies have affected the internal dynamics of Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Central America, and the Caribbean islands. Together, they present a comprehensive overview of the major trends in drug trafficking and organized crime in the early twenty-first century.