• Security or Counterinsurgency in Rio favelas?

    April 16, 2014

    by Sabrina Karim

    In anticipation of the 2014 World Cup, the Brazilian government enacted a policy to have special units of police occupy favelas in Rio de Janeiro. As of last week, one of Rio’s most dangerous shanty towns, Complexo da Maré, was taken over by close to 3,000 Brazilian troops. The shift—from using the elite Unidade de Policia Pacificadora (Police Pacifying Unit—UPP) forces to bringing in the military—marks a new stage of Brazil’s “pacification” policy. Up until now, the UPP had been responsible for sweeping and occupying the favelas.

    Many of Rio’s 1,000 favelas are controlled by criminal groups like the Comando Vermelho (Red Command) and the Terceiro Comando Puro (Third Command), which are embroiled in a battle to control more of the city. Turf wars between rival gangs have consistently led to high levels of violence and crime. Brazil is fraught with crack cocaine use, and ranks second in consumer use of the drug and its derivatives.  The country also has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. 

    To add to this, criminal gangs in Brazilian cities do not have a problem attacking law enforcement. For example, in 2009, a police helicopter was riddled with bullets by gangs from the Morro de Macaco favela.  In order to control such aggressions, the government has increased the firepower of armed forces.

    Before, when police were attacked, the UPP would be sent in. Now, when the UPP is attacked, the military is sent in. Consequently, Brazil’s policy toward its favelas has become increasingly militarized.

    Read More

    Tags: Brazil, 2014 World Cup, Crime and Security

  • Negotiations with the FARC and other Regional Efforts to Achieve Peace

    June 11, 2013

    by Sabrina Karim

    The peace negotiations in Cuba between the Fuerzas Armada Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) and the Colombian government, set to reconvene today, are not the only peace agreements being conducted in Latin America. 

    One year ago, the two main drug gangs in El Salvador, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, agreed a halt to hostilities in a deal brokered by the Catholic Church

    And just over a week ago, the two main rival gangs in Honduras negotiated a similar pact, though not specifically a truce, again mediated by the Catholic Church. The Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18 said they would commit to zero crime and zero violence on the streets

    Such mediations are not considered typical peace agreements in the traditional sense of international relations, but perhaps they should be. While policymakers and scholars argue that there is a conceptual difference between insurgency groups, rebel groups, organized crime, and terrorism, these peace agreements between different gangs suggest that such distinctions may inhibit sound policy.  In fact, the peace agreement negotiated by the Catholic Church and the gangs in El Salvador does not look too different from the negotiations in Colombia.

    Read More

    Tags: Colombia, El Salvador, gang truce, peace negotiations

  • Women and Conflict Prevention in Latin America

    December 28, 2012

    by Sabrina Karim

    Over a decade after a landmark global effort to increase the participation of women in peace and security efforts much of the Americas is still behind the curve.

    UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSC 1325), passed in 2000, reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in all efforts aimed at promoting peace and security. One pillar of this resolution is to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all UN-administered peace and security efforts. It also calls on all parties to conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse. 

    But actually operationalizing the resolution requires individual countries to adopt National Action Plans (NAPs). And here's where the region falls short.  

    National Action Plans serve as a guide for governments to articulate priorities and coordinate the implementation of Resolution 1325. This includes integrating different government agencies and working with civil society to accelerate the provisions mandated by UNSC 1325. However, to date, only 38 countries have adopted NAPs; of these, only three—the United States, Canada and Chile—are in the Western Hemisphere.

    This seems odd given that countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have NAPs, in addition to most European countries. Why do we not see more Latin American countries adopt NAPs? 

    Read More

    Tags: Women's rights, Conflict Prevention

  • Honduras’ City-State Experiment

    September 11, 2012

    by Sabrina Karim

    In what is perhaps a dream come true for political science researchers, Honduras has agreed to let investors build three private cities inside its territory. In about six months the investors—business consortium NKG and the South Korean government—will supposedly begin to construct the first of three private city-states complete with their own police, government, legal parameters, and tax systems. The cities will be empowered to sign international agreements on trade and investment and set their own immigration policy. Honduran president Porfirio Lobo has given his full backing to the plan and the government signed the memorandum of agreement approving the project earlier this month.  Envisioned to be like other city-states such as Hong Kong and Singapore, the idea is a clear example of a neo-liberal experiment. 

    Honduran Congress President Juan Hernandez said that NKG will invest $15 million to begin building basic infrastructure for the first model city and South Korea has given Honduras $4 million to conduct a feasibility study. The first city will be built in Puerto Castilla on the Caribbean coast and that the other two would be built in the Sula Valley and an area in southern Honduras. Hernandez added that the project in Puerto Castilla would create 5,000 jobs over the next six months and up to 200,000 jobs in the future.

    These investments will provide a boost for the economy and give Honduras a much needed facelift for investors. The project’s aim is also to strengthen Honduras’ weak government and withering infrastructure.

    Read More

    Tags: Honduras, Development, Foreign Direct Investment

  • Latin America and UN Peacekeeping

    August 22, 2012

    by Sabrina Karim

    Where does Latin America stand when it comes to contributing peacekeepers to United Nations (UN) missions?

    In general, there is a large presence of Latin American peacekeepers in Haiti, which is the only mission in the Western Hemisphere.  However, Latin American countries send their troops to many other missions around the world. Their contributions are not highlighted as much as the large presence of Latin American peacekeepers in Haiti. In terms of numbers, Brazil and Argentina send the most troops and police to missions around the world. At the same time, there is a general push to try to get more countries in the region to send peacekeepers through organizations such the Latin American Association of Training Centers for Peace (ALCOPAZ – Asociación Latinoamericana de Centros de Entrenamientos para Operaciones de Paz), based in Rio de Janeiro.

    Since 2009, the following countries from the Americas have contributed to UN peacekeeping missions including:

    Argentina: Liberia, Ivory Coast,  Middle East, South Sudan, Cyprus, East Timor, Haiti, and the Western Sahara.

    Bolivia: Haiti, the DRC, Darfur, Afghanistan, Liberia, South Sudan, and the Ivory Coast.

    Read More

    Tags: Latin America, United Nations (UN), UN Peacekeepers

  • Female Peacekeepers in Haiti

    January 4, 2012

    by Sabrina Karim

    The peacekeeping mission in Haiti (UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti or MINUSTAH) is the only peacekeeping operation in the Western Hemisphere. It is the third largest mission and about 12.5 percent of the world’s peacekeepers are concentrated on the island. Several Western hemisphere countries contribute to the forces including Brazil, Uruguay, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Peru, El Salvador, Jamaica, Ecuador, Guatemala, and even the United States. Yet, over the past years MINUSTAH has received a lot of negative publicity.

    Originally, the mission was established in 2004 after President Bertrand Aristide departed Haiti for exile in the aftermath of an armed conflict, which spread to several cities across the country. Then in 2010, the January earthquake struck the island, killing over 220,000 people including 96 UN peacekeepers. This led to a dramatic setback to the mission and the UN Security Council increased the overall force to support the immediate recovery, reconstruction and stability efforts in the country. Today, there are about 12,438 UN personnel in Haiti with 167 having been killed.

    Read More

    Tags: Haiti, MINUSTAH

  • Higher Education in Peru

    October 20, 2011

    by Sabrina Karim

    Of the top universities in Latin America, five countries dominate the top 30 schools: Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia. Further, according to the recent survey by the University of Queensland in Australia, Peru’s Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Peru came in 34th place. What are these five countries doing right that other countries in Latin America are not when it comes to higher education? Specifically, what is Peru doing wrong?

    Looking at certain economic and education indicators, there is not a clear trend or relationship between the numbers of schools in the top 30 and the indicators. However, there does seem to be some relationship between the percentage of GDP allocated toward education and the top five countries. Each country in the top-30 spends 4 to 5 percent of its GDP on education; in Peru, it is only 2.7 percent. Brazil spends the most on education as a percentage of GDP and has the most number of schools (nine) in the top 30 ranking. Brazil’s Universidade de São Paulo also holds the number one spot.

    Read More

    Tags: Peru, Education

  • Does Gender Matter in Peru’s Presidential Race?

    June 1, 2011

    by Sabrina Karim

    For several weeks now, Keiko Fujimori has been ahead in most of the major polls.  If she wins, she will be the first female president in Peru. While Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, who ran against Keiko’s father in 1990 has said the choice between Ollanta Humala and Keiko is like choosing between AIDS and cancer, no one has asked what it would mean to have a female president in Peru.  At least some academic literature suggests there are differences between male and female heads of states.

    Would Keiko Fujimori lead differently than a male counterpart?  Would Keiko’s policies better benefit women?

    There is a wide body of literature around women and corruption.  Here, it has been suggested than women possess certain innate qualities that make them less corrupt than men.  Given this assumption, would Keiko be less corrupt than her male counterpart?  Keiko is the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for corruption and human rights abuses.  While many argue that children are not necessarily replicas of their parents, she has surrounded herself with her father’s old advisors and there have been reports that her father is leading her election campaign from prison. Her top campaign advisor is Jaime Yoshiyama, who helped rewrite Peru's constitution after Alberto Fujimori shut down congress in 1992.

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    Tags: 2011 Peru Elections

  • In Peru, Deciding Between “Left” and “Right”

    April 13, 2011

    by Sabrina Karim

    Peru is about to be divided, again. With the vote count nearly complete, it looks like the pre-election polls were spot on: first place is Ollanta Humala and second place is Keiko Fujimori. Exit polls also indicate that their two respective parties, Gana Perú and Fuerza 2011, won the most seats in Congress.

    What would an Ollanta Humala presidency look like? Would he live up to his campaign promise to be a more center-left candidate, or would he backtrack on his recent character transformation? The problem is: no one knows. During the campaign, he appealed to the mainstream Peruvian electorate by portraying himself as a political centrist and Catholic conservative, and by shying away from his close ties with Presidents Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales. He has tried to portray himself as more like former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. However, many Peruvians—including several investors—believe this is just a façade. Predictions of an Humala victory have contributed to the biggest jump in the cost of insuring Peruvian sovereign debt in five years and the Peruvian Nuevo Sol has declined by 1.6 percent since March 20. We do know that Humala has said he might try to reform the constitution, redistribute wealth through a “national market economy,” and start a government pension program for the elderly.

    And, what would a Fujimori presidency look like? It is possible it would look a lot like her father’s, with the first step being a pardon for Alberto Fujimori who is serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses and corruption. Nevertheless, Keiko Fujimori appealed to some voters because of her father’s record on the economy, anti-terrorism and populism—he frequently gave away goods and services to remote regions overlooked by other governments. Her presidency is not expected to be much different and there is no guarantee that she would adhere to democratic principles.

    Read More

    Tags: Peru, Keiko Fujimori, Alan García, Ollanta Humala

  • Peruvian Arrested for Involvement in Death Squads

    March 25, 2011

    by Sabrina Karim

    A new change in British law last year extends the retroactive reach of United Kingdom authorities to prosecute for war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide. Crimes can now be prosecuted for acts committed all the way back to 1991—10 years earlier than the previous cut-off point.

    Given this development, a Peruvian man was recently arrested in Yorkshire, England, for allegedly participating in death squads during the Shining Path era. The charge was suspicion of involvement in state-backed death squads that targeted guerrilla movements, mainly the Shining Path.  He is being accused of participating in the murder of up to 100 individuals during the period of 1989-1993 and is the first to be arrested under the new law.

    The purpose of the law was to cover the actions of individuals who had become UK residents after the genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It is suspected that hundreds of suspected war criminals from around the world are living in the UK with apparent impunity. 

    But the UK is not alone in its ability to prosecute such criminals. The United States has the Alien Tort Claims Act, which asserts that “the district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” Although the law remained dormant for nearly 200 years, with the increased awareness about and concern for human rights, litigants have recently begun to seek redress more frequently under the Alien Tort Claims Act—including by Paraguayans, Ethiopians, Nigerians, Libyans and Filipinos.

    Read More

    Tags: Peru, Shining Path

  • Agriculture Exports on the Rise in Peru as Free Trade Promoted

    March 11, 2011

    by Sabrina Karim

    Peru has been very busy looking for cooperation in the realm of international commerce. In his remaining months as president, President García is intent on leaving lasting footprints, especially a legacy of free trade. At present, Peru has signed bilateral free-trade agreements (FTAs) with the United States, China, Canada and Singapore.  It plans on signing agreements with Japan, the European Union and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

    While the pact with EFTA is expected to come into force in July, trade with Switzerland will begin this month. Switzerland’s main commodity interest appears to be gold, as Peru's mineral exports to Switzerland amount to about 3.8 billion dollars, while the export value of non-traditional products totals seven million dollars. Other notables in the Peru-EFTA agreement include industrial and processed goods, fish, intellectual property rights, government procurement, competition and investment.

    Peru and South Korea are expected to sign an FTA on March 21. Such an agreement is expected to boost bilateral commerce by $7 billion by 2016 and would benefit Peru’s agriculture, mining, coffee and fishing sectors. There is also news that Peru is seeking deeper trade integration with Panama, Chile and Colombia to cooperate with respect to goods and services, trade facilitation and microenterprises. Peru is even undergoing talks with Arab nations.

    Bloomberg reports that Mexico’s government is close to reaching a free-trade agreement with Peru.  Mexican Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari said that Mexico currently exports $974 million annually to Peru, which represents 0.3 percent of Mexican exports and 3.4 percent of Peru’s imports—but Mexican exports to Peru would increase to $2.7 billion under an FTA.

    Read More

    Tags: Peru, Free Trade

  • Yale University to Return Incan Artifacts in March 2011

    January 3, 2011

    by Sabrina Karim

    After more than 90 years, Yale University has agreed to return 363 ancient artifacts excavated by Hiram Bingham, who is accredited with discovering Machu Picchu in Peru. According to the Ministry of Culture, the 363 Inca pieces that Bingham excavated will first be exhibited in Lima’s Museo de la Nacion in March 2011, and then will be moved to Cusco’s Casa Concha. The rest of the items will be returned by 2012.

    The agreement came after national and international campaigns, a lawsuit and negotiations between delegations. The efforts even sought out help from Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa.

    Although a memorandum of understanding was signed between Yale and President Alan García in 2007 for the return of the artifacts, problems arose when former Peruvian first lady Eliane Karp did not agree to the terms.  She wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times that Peru would only receive a limited amount of the original artifacts, when in fact the Peabody Museum at Yale University would retain the rest of the artifacts, supposedly numbering 46,332 in total. 

    Read More

    Tags: Alan García, Lima, Yale University, Incan Artifacts, Machu Picchu

  • Two Women and the Battle for One City

    September 21, 2010

    by Sabrina Karim

    The race for mayor of Lima has gotten a little more interesting over the last month. With the news that Alex Kouri, who was almost neck and neck with Lourdes Flores in the polls, is not eligible to run for mayor of Lima, because he does not live within the city limits. The race is now centered on two women: Lourdes Flores and Susana Villarán.

    Lima has never seen a female alcalde before (nor a female president). However, this year, the polls show that it is likely that one of these two women will win the mayoral race. While Lourdes has dropped in the polls, Susana has surged, gaining points weekly. She has presented herself to be the clean candidate, with no scandals or corruption charges, while Lourdes has been the target of a number of political games.

    Although both women have in the past advocated for women rights, in this campaign, neither has played up their gender. Despite being female and middle class, there is little else in common between the two candidates.

    Lourdes Flores leads the Partido Popular Christiano party. She has run for president twice before, coming in second place. She is a lawyer by training and has served in Congress. Susana Villarán leads the Fuerza Social movement and was Women’s Minister in 2002, and has served as the ombudsman for the national police. She has always been a champion for human rights and has run for President, coming in seventh place.

    Read More

    Tags: Peru, Election

  • The Rise and Fall of Political Parties in Peru

    August 25, 2010

    by Sabrina Karim

    For the last two election cycles in which Lourdes Flores has run for president, polls have always shown her with strong leads in the weeks before elections, but come election night, she has lost. This time she is running for mayor of Lima on the Partido Popular Cristiano political party ticket and it looks like the trend will continue. Recent revelations of her close ties to Cesar Castano, the owner of Peruvian Airlines, who is currently under suspicion of narco-trafficking, have caused her numbers to slide in the polls with the October elections fast approaching.

    While this could signal yet another political disappointment for Lourdes, it also raises questions about the strength of her political party affiliation and Peru’s political party system overall. Perhaps, this is because the formal institutionalization of political parties under the Peruvian legal system did not happen until 2003. But there is also simply a culture of informality with political parties here. Parties are often created every election cycle to fill a vacuum of political institutions and ideas, but they are not sustainable. They are created out of necessity during elections years to organize campaigns rather than built over the long-term, based on political ideas and platforms.

    Often, candidates in high profile races like Lima mayor or president form party alliances and then find candidates in the provinces and local areas to carry the name of the party bloc. After the election, the political party disappears only to be resurrected using the same name or another name in the next election cycle. Also common: political parties field candidates only at the municipal level and do not have national candidates or they are only national and struggle to find municipal candidates.

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    Tags: Lourdes Flores, Partido Popular Cristiano, Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana

  • Who's Who in Lima's Mayoral Race

    July 13, 2010

    by Sabrina Karim

    It’s election season in Lima. In less than three months, Limeños will go to the polls to choose the successor for outgoing Mayor Luis Castañeda Lossio who will be running in the April 2011 presidential contest. Although there are two frontrunners, 12 candidates have formally registered to run in the October 3 mayoral contest.

    Here is a brief summary of each candidate:

    Read More

    Tags: Peru, Lourdes Flores, Alex Kouri, 2010 Lima elections

  • Thirty-Year Anniversary of the Sendero Luminoso Movement

    May 17, 2010

    by Sabrina Karim

    Today marks the 30-year anniversary of the founding of the Sendero Luminoso or “Shining Path”—and an internal conflict in Peru that has led to over 70,000 deaths and still haunts the country.

    Where does the movement stand today? It has fractured and continues to fight internally, and has transformed itself into a narcotraficante group. No longer can it even attempt to portray itself as an ideological or social movement. However, the group still does make the headlines, especially with the recent violence in Apurimac and the capture of its leaders. Yet, they also intend to run political candidates in the upcoming election. All in all, 30 years later, the movement is barely alive and internal fighting has greatly weakened its ability to grow beyond certain highland and rainforest districts.

    Read More

    Tags: Sendero Luminoso

  • Ecuador’s Open Border Rhetoric

    May 13, 2010

    by Sabrina Karim

    In a world shaped by bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, where goods and services cross borders with relative ease, it is often difficult to say the same about people. However, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador has been a leader in championing integration efforts, in particular open border policies in the Western Hemisphere. Ecuador’s 2008 constitution has provisions guaranteeing the free movement of people through Ecuador’s borders and the country is planning to pressure the Organization of American States (OAS) to adopt open-border policies that allow all people from the Americas to have free movement across the region.

    Read More

    Tags: Andean Community, Rafael Correa, SB 1070, Ecuador Trade Policy

  • From Lima: Campaign Season and New Construction

    April 23, 2010

    by Sabrina Karim

    You know it is election season in Peru when the number of public works projects (obras) increases so much that traffic comes to a virtual standstill. That’s how Lima is today ahead of the municipal and regional elections that will be held in October 2010. Much is at stake as the outcomes are a telltale sign for what may happen in next year’s presidential election

    The massive display of obras during an election year is not uncommon.  In fact, they are strategic. Visible projects—like the construction of an electric train and bus system in Lima—are displays of what the government has done for its people, and are often used as a form of propaganda by candidates running in incumbent seats. Closely following the Latin American tradition of populismo, incumbent candidates appeal to the masses through these obras. Yet, the use of public works projects as propaganda can pose risks too. Publicly displayed accomplishments might also expose the corruption associated with their construction.  

    Lima has a history of failed public works projects. During President Alan García’s first term (1985—1990) he invested in a national project to construct a Tren Electrico—a train system that would run through the city. However, the project was abandoned and some parts of the construction turned into artwork. At the same time President García was accused of rampant corruption and mismanagement of the project. Then after winning the presidency again in 2006, he promised to complete the project by the end of his term in 2011.

    Read More

    Tags: Peru, Alan García, Tren electrico, Lourdes Flores, Alex Kouri, Luis Castañeda Lossio, Peru elections

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