As the Trump Administration proposes cutting aid to Central America – and as American, Central American, and Mexican leaders met in Miami last week to discuss development and security in the region – The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder asked Michael Shifter and Ben Raderstorf of the Inter-American Dialogue why Central ...

Central America, particularly the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, is notorious for violence and drugs. The region acts as a transit point for drugs going from South America to the United States, and the flow of drugs northward shows no signs of easing as U.S. demand ...

Heads of government from Central America, Mexico, and the United States convened in Miami on June 15 and 16 to discuss security in the Americas, while the Trump Administration plans to cut aid to Central America. “President Trump has made clear our commitment to this region by requesting an additional ...

Aside from a “big, beautiful wall” and so-called “bad hombres,” references to the southern border and illegal immigration, the U.S. campaign season has largely neglected any discussion of policy toward Latin America.  As the presidential election looms ahead, the winner has the potential to either build on the initiatives of ...

The Obama administration has been criticized for a policy of undue passiveness around the world, including in Latin America. It may be a stretch to call it “benign neglect.” After all, the United States has dramatically increased cooperation in Central America and Mexico, while maintaining strong ties with allies like ...

Since the turn of the century, perhaps earlier, there has been a consistent distancing between the U.S. and Latin America. Today it is difficult, perhaps even fanciful, to talk about U.S. policy toward the region as a whole; region-wide policies are mostly a thing of the past. During the Cold ...

Across Venezuela, opposition supporters protested Wednesday in reaction to President Nicolas Maduro shutting down the option of a recall referendum against him. On October 20, Maduro alleged fraud in the collection of the more than 200,000 signatures needed for a referendum – thereby, making a referendum impossible. Maduro’s decision established ...

From Washington’s perspective, the majority of recent changes in government in Latin America have been welcome.  The Cipher Brief asked Shannon O’Neil, the Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America at the Council on Foreign Relations, to explain why she thinks Latin America is a “good news story” with ...

Latin America is challenging the status quo.  Rather than be seen as one more area for competition between the United States and China – two of its largest trading partners – key dynamics are making the future of great power politics in Latin America harder to predict. The previous, commonly-held ...

In recent months, the People’s Republic of China has successfully faced and largely overcome a significant crisis in its relationships with Latin America, even while the United States, as it approaches the upcoming presidential election, plunges into a new phase of uncertainty in its own relationship with the continent. Although ...

In Latin America, the combination of weak governments, porous borders, widespread corruption, and the lack of adequate legislative tools to combat terror finance creates an ideal environment for transnational organized crime. Drug trafficking, trade-based money laundering, and terror financing can no longer be treated as distinct phenomena. Terror organizations help ...

Parties on the extreme ends of the political spectrum – along with anti-establishment candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders – are moving into the political mainstream in democracies in the United States, Europe, and parts of Latin America. These formerly fringe parties or political outsiders are promising to better ...

For the past decade, the world has experienced a mild but persistent recession of freedom and democracy. More countries have been declining, rather than gaining, in political rights and civil liberties, reversing a 15-year post-Cold War trend. Levels of political polarization have been increasing, more democracies have been breaking down, ...

Filling the big shoes of a larger than life leader presents special challenges for leadership succession. Under a larger than life leader, the roles and responsibilities of office likely became entangled with the person’s distinctive style. Inheriting an office dominated by a personality creates incentives to both emphasize the legacies ...

The Trans Pacific Partnership may be a signed deal, but it is far from seeing the light of day.  Following seven years of mostly secret negotiations, 12 member countries signed the TPP last week in New Zealand, taking the first step in uniting more than 40 percent of the world’s ...

In New Zealand on 4 February, trade ministers from the twelve signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) formally signed the pact, an important step towards lowering trade barriers and introducing new rules governing trade and investment among some of the Asia-Pacific region’s largest economies. However, while signing the agreement was ...

There has been a good deal of hype touting the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement as the first “21st Century” trade pact.   Whether it lives up to this high accolade is currently under debate, both in the United States and among the 11 other TPP member states.  But in ...

Major and growing illicit trafficking networks link Latin America to Europe, Asia, and North America. Through these networks, illicit drugs and trafficked human beings flow towards the developed world, while dirty money and smuggled guns flow back in return. The criminal enterprises that administer these networks contribute to making Latin ...

The reach of Latin American illicit trafficking networks extends well beyond the region, according to former U.S. diplomat Celina Realuyo, now a professor at the National Defense University. Realuyo spoke with The Cipher Brief about the nexus between crime and terror, noting that these networks – and the organized criminal ...

Two assumptions about transnational crime disrupt the design of effective security policies worldwide: Assuming that corruption is mainly an economic issue in which private agents bribe officials, and assuming that only pure and “full time” criminals participate and sustain organized crime. To interpret corruption as an economic problem is to ...

With over 30 years working as a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, Michael Vigil has an extensive understanding of illicit trafficking networks.  The former DEA Chief of International Operations shared with The Cipher Brief how drug trafficking in Latin America must be addressed–or risk being a destabilizing force for Latin ...

Last month, The Cipher Brief published a feature commentary on the prospects for peace in Colombia. This month, we continue that conversation with Frank Mora, the former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Mora offered his thoughts on the status of the negotiations between Bogotá and ...

Democracy has become the most accepted form of governance over the last three decades across Latin America. However, opinion polls, as we saw in Latinobarómetro’s 2015 publication, find that Latin Americans are the most unsatisfied with democracy in their countries compared with the rest of the world. Public opinion shows ...

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 ...

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 ...

Juan Manuel Santos’ administration and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) kicked off peace negotiations in October 2012. The chosen methodology ("nothing is negotiated until everything is negotiated") and the absolute secrecy of what is being discussed at the table have left society uncertain about the country’s future.  There ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...