There should be no doubt that the current round of negotiations between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is a major step toward a full peace agreement.  It provides for accountability for past crimes on both sides, even though the details still remain to be ...

Colombia is not a “typical” Latin American country.   It diverges from common views of the region in ways that are interesting and important.  It has a deep democratic vocation, lacking the repeated coups and dictatorships common elsewhere.  Its one military coup was peaceful and initially enjoyed broad support from ...

Pablo Escobar’s childhood dream was to be a millionaire by the time he was 22.  It is unclear if he met that specific goal, but at the height of his wealth, Escobar was worth $30 billion, money he earned as a Colombian drug lord.  In its new series, Narcos, Netflix ...

Latin America and the Caribbean's (LAC) relationship with China has passed through many stages in the last few decades. It is only after the 1990s that this relationship has entered a new stage: China has recently become LAC's second largest trading partner and its second major source of foreign direct ...

China’s rise has exerted a well-documented economic impact in Latin America. South American economists worry about the loss of value-adding industries as raw materials like iron ore, copper, oil, and soybeans come to dominate their exports to China (currently more than 90 percent).  The region’s economies, say the critics, are ...

In an interview with The Cipher Brief, Boston University Professor Kevin Gallagher sees Chinese and American interests in Latin America as complementary. The Cipher Brief:  Broadly speaking, how do you view China’s increased involvement in Latin America?  Is it a good thing for Latin America? The U.S.? Kevin Gallagher: China's ...

The Cipher Brief spoke to R. Evan Ellis, a professor at the U.S. Army War College, who said that while China does not directly challenge U.S. interests in Latin America, it in essence underwrites rogue regimes in the region that are opposed to U.S. policies. The Cipher Brief: What are ...

Unstable, corrupt, plagued by scandal—these describe Brazil’s current economic and political climate, a big transformation from its image of an advancing economy with secure investment opportunities.  How did Brazil, one of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, & South Africa) countries, go from boom to bust so rapidly? It begins ...

The current fiscal crisis in Brazil is the result of a long period of economic mismanagement by the Workers Party (PT).  Beginning in 2003 with the inauguration of President “Lula” da Silva, the government enjoyed a massive increase in revenues created by the demand from China for the country’s raw ...

The Cipher Brief discussed the political dynamics of Brazil with Phil Chicola, a former Chargé d'Affaires to Brazil from 2005 to 2006. Chicola discussed the country’s political and economic crises and offered his thoughts on what western companies can do to manage uncertainty in the near-term.  The Cipher Brief: President ...

Optimism is in short supply here in Brazil and for good reason. Consumer confidence is at its lowest level in 10 years; both inflation and unemployment are increasing, and debt as a percentage of household income is approaching 50% -- perhaps not surprising when the annual interest rates on most ...

President Barack Obama continues to pave the way for improved U.S.-Cuban relations, as changes to U.S. travel to and business with Cuba took effect on Monday. The revisions made to the Cuban Asset Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) will ease U.S. sanctions on Cuba related to travel, ...

Having begun transforming its energy sector, the Mexican government is learning the ups and downs of opening its oil resources to foreign companies.  In July, Mexico held its first round of bidding on oil blocks made available to foreign companies.  The auction followed radical changes to the nation’s constitution enacted ...

Being abducted by gunmen, held for weeks or months in horrific conditions and then forced to pay colossal sums to be freed has been the grim reality for thousands of Mexicans in recent years. But finally, after kidnappings reached a record level in Mexico in 2013, the administration of President ...

Being abducted by gunmen, held for weeks or months in horrific conditions and then forced to pay colossal sums to be freed has been the grim reality for thousands of Mexicans in recent years. But finally, after kidnappings reached a record level in Mexico in 2013, the administration of President ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Francisco Quiñones, the founder of Arcis International, a security, risk management, and crisis response consultancy based in Washington, DC.  Quinones, a kidnapping and ransom (K&R) expert, discussed the work his company does to ensure the safe return of kidnapping victims. The Cipher Brief:  Can you ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with retired DEA agent Michael Vigil to discuss the security situation in Mexico. Vigil, who served as DEA’s Chief of International Operations, offered his thoughts on the kidnapping threat.  The Cipher Brief: Can you speak a little about the security situation in Mexico and the various ...

The security of U.S. borders has become one of the key issues in the U.S. Presidential race.  Some of the Republican candidates support building a fence along the border with Mexico to stop illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and possibly even terrorists from entering the country. General John Kelly worries that ...

One of the most controversial companies operating globally may be Uber, and it came under attack most recently on Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro, where the city council voted to ban unregulated ride-sharing services.  Mayor Eduardo Paes now has 15 days to decide whether to approve and sign the vote ...

In 1915, the British poet Thomas Hardy wrote a short masterpiece about the sinking of Titanic, which had occurred several years earlier. He describes the long string of separate events by which both the ship and the iceberg are formed – one in a shipyard and the other in the ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with the DEA's former Chief of International Operations, Mike Vigil to discuss the threat of convergence. The Cipher Brief: Convergence is the idea that unrelated adversaries —for example, drug dealers and terrorists — could find common cause and cooperate and share resources. Do you think convergence ...

The convergence of ruthless terrorist networks and greedy criminal underworld operatives can pose unique and dangerous challenges. It offers terrorists access to human resources and skillsets that can enhance their operational capabilities, while it offers criminals new sources of profit and political rationalization. But convergence also entails risks for both terrorist ...

Violent crime is rising in Brazil and, if past trends hold true, that could be bad for the business community during a time when the Brazilian economy is already suffering. Last Thursday night, Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, saw the deadliest of six massacres this year.  At least ...

On July 20th, the U.S. and Cuba exchanged diplomatic notes and opened embassies in their respective capitals.  This “normalization” was a big step for relations between the two countries, but the U.S.-Cuban relationship remains far from normal.  There are four key points that must be addressed to reach this normalized ...

Last week, The Cipher Brief sat down with Jaime Suchlicki, the Director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, to discuss the impact of the recent changes to U.S.-Cuba relations.  His primary advice to U.S. businesses:  “caveat emptor," which Professor Suchlicki translated as "beware ...

Last week, The Cipher Brief sat down with Kirby Jones, the President of Alamar Associates, a company that has consulted on trade and business with Cuba since 1974, to discuss how U.S. businesses can take advantage of the recent changes to U.S.-Cuba relations.  He believes that the U.S. attempts to ...

Progress on the creation of a new relationship between the United States and Cuba has been remarkably brisk over the past eight months, but, at the same time, American companies are, with some specific exceptions, still not able to do actual business in Cuba or invest. The trade and investment ...

Today, the United States reopens its embassy in Havana, Cuba and formally re-establishes diplomatic relations.  The embassy will primarily perform standard functions such as issuing visas and facilitating dialogue between the two countries.  The U.S. government has also eased travel restrictions, allowing Americans to travel to Cuba provided they meet one of 12 ...