Despite criticism from sectors of the previous Colombian administration, including former President Uribe, President Santos’ strategy of pursuing friendship with neighboring Ecuador and Venezuela seems to have paid off. It is no secret that Uribe had a stormy relationship with both President Chavez of Venezuela and Correa of Ecuador. Relations were broken with both countries, and re-established only after Santos took office in August 2010. Not only has Santos called Chavez his “new best friend,” he also decided to extradite a major drug kingpin to Caracas instead of Washington. This strategy of improving relations with Venezuela has borne fruit on several fronts: economically, with the re-establishment of bilateral trade, and in terms of security, with the signing of several cooperation agreements on drug trafficking. Venezuela has also, according to a statement by Santos, eradicated Colombian rebel encampments on its territory, and more recently captured Joaquin Perez, a Swedish nationalized citizen and alleged Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) member. Ecuador has also captured a Colombian citizen who is suspected of being a member of a criminal band. Yesterday, Santos thanked both neighboring governments for their cooperation, reports TeleSUR, something that would have been unthinkable during Uribe’s eight years in power.
- Activists report on the threats faced by Mexican citizens repatriated from the U.S, as well as foreigners deported via Mexico. According to reports, these individuals, like migrants heading for the U.S. border, are now a target of kidnapping by organized crime syndicates. El Universal reports that they are often charged up to $6,000 in ransom. According to the National Migration Institute of Mexico (Instituto Nacional de Migracion – INM), there were some 66,700 such repatriation cases in the first two months of this year. The state most affected is Baja California, with 25,300 cases, or 37 percent of the total. The situation is exacerbated by the face that Mexico lacks the capacity to process all these people, while most of the deportations and expulsions happen during the night, and the individuals are given little help or instructions on how to proceed after they reach Mexico. Bodies of some of people who have been forced to return to Mexico have been found in so-called “narco-fosas,” or mass graves containing victims of drug violence.
- Semana reports on the deteriorating security situation in Colombia. According to data from the Vice-Presidential Program for the Observation of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Observatorio del Programa Presidencial de DDHH y DIH de la Vicepresidencia), between the first quarter of 2010 and the same period this year the number of massacre victims has risen, along with attacks on infrastructure. According to police reports twelve out of the country’s 35 departments are under special surveillance, affecting 339 municipalities (30% of the more than 1,100). InSight considers that there is no immediate danger of a surge in violence as the numbers show only a slight increase relative to 2008 and 2009. However, InSight studies have found that urban security is a major concern, and all the indicators point to an increase in urban violence: homicide, microtrafficking, microextortion, and express kidnappings.