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  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The 25,000 members of the National Civil Police (PNC) are on the front lines of Guatemala's battle against crime. But all too often citizens distrust and fear the police – widely dismissed as inefficient, corrupt and abusive – as much as the criminals. Underfunded, poorly trained and often out-gunned, they are frequently incapable or unwilling to con-front criminals and gain the public trust needed to build a state based on rule of law. Drug traffickers, including Mex-ican cartels, move at will across porous borders, while criminal gangs dominate many urban areas. The government of President Otto Pérez Molina must reboot and revitalise police reform, as part of an overall effort to strengthen justice and law enforcement, with financial support from the U.S. and other countries interested in preventing Guatemala from becoming a haven for organised crime. Progress has been made, but achievements are fragile and easily reversed.
  • Topic: Security, Corruption, Crime, Law Enforcement
  • Political Geography: United States, Latin America
  • Publication Date: 08-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Every half hour, a person is killed in Venezuela. The presence of organised crime combined with an enormous number of firearms in civilian hands and impunity, as well as police corruption and brutality, have entrenched violence in society. While such problems did not begin with President Hugo Chávez, his government has to account for its ambiguity towards various armed groups, its inability or unwillingness to tackle corruption and criminal complicity in parts of the security forces, its policy to arm civilians “in defence of the revolution”, and – last but not least – the president's own confrontational rhetoric. Positive steps such as constructive engagement with Colombia as well as some limited security reform do not compensate for these failures. While the prospect of presidential elections in 2012 could postpone social explosion, the deterioration of the president's health has added considerable uncertainty. In any event, the degree of polarisation and militarisation in society is likely to undermine the chances for either a non-violent continuation of the current regime or a peaceful transition to a post-Chávez era.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Corruption, Crime
  • Political Geography: Latin America, Venezuela
  • Publication Date: 06-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The 1996 peace accords formally ended Guatemala's civil war but failure to address the conflict's root causes and dismantle clandestine security apparatuses has weakened its institutions and opened the door to skyrocketing violent crime. Guatemala is one of the world's most dangerous countries, with some 6,500 murders in 2009, more than the average yearly killings during the civil war and roughly twice Mexico's homicide rate. Under heavy pressure at home, Mexican drug traffickers have moved into Guatemala to compete for control of Andean cocaine transiting to the U.S. The UN-sanctioned International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has brought hope by making some progress at getting a handle on high-level corruption. However, in June 2010 its Spanish director, Carlos Castresana, resigned saying the government had not kept its promise to support CICIG's work and reform the justice system. President Álvaro Colom needs to consolidate recent gains with institutional reform, anti-corruption measures, vetting mechanisms and a more inclusive political approach, including to indigenous peoples.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Political Violence, Crime
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Latin America's oldest guerrilla organisation, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is under severe stress. Close to seven years of the Uribe presidency have hurt the FARC's capability and morale. Several top commanders have been captured, killed in combat, murdered by their own men, or died of natural causes, as in the case of Manuel Marulanda, the FARC's historic leader. Thousands of foot soldiers have deserted, bringing the guerrillas' troop strength down by almost half, to perhaps 10,000 today. Still, under its new leader, Alfonso Cano, the FARC has shown renewed internal cohesion and continued capacity to adapt to changes in the security environment. The Uribe government remains wedded to its hardline military approach until the FARC has no option but to negotiate surrender, but this strategy is problematic. President Uribe should keep military pressure up but emphasise devising a political strategy capable of drawing a weakened but still largely intact FARC into peace talks. Priority should also be on strengthening rule of law, protecting human rights and increasing citizen security.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Human Rights, War
  • Political Geography: Colombia, Latin America
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Over seven years, the government of President Álvaro Uribe has produced important security gains, but these have been accompanied by serious human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL). Colombia is still not close to the end of its armed conflict. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), paramilitary successors and new illegal armed groups (NIAGs) – all responsible for multiple atrocities against civilians – can survive with drug financing and, to a degree, due to the state's inability to extend its legitimate presence into many rural areas. To move toward lasting peace, the Uribe administration must not only maintain its security achievements but also urgently improve its security policy by addressing serious human rights issues and expanding the rule of law and national reach of the state's civilian institutions. Holding to account senior military involved in extrajudicial killings is a first step but insufficient to curb abuses. International cooperation should focus on supporting the fight to end impunity and protect basic rights.
  • Topic: Security, Democratization, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Almost six years of intense security operations against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) by the administration of President Álvaro Uribe are beginning to produce tangible results. Government forces killed several important rebel field commanders in 2007 and two members of the central command in March 2008, including second-in-command Raúl Reyes, and have severely disrupted insurgent communications, prompting a loss of internal cohesion and decreasing illegal revenues. However, this progress has come at the cost of severely deteriorating relations with Ecuador and Venezuela and increased risk of political isolation after the controversial bombing raid on Reyes's camp inside Ecuador. Military gains can pay off only if combined with a political strategy that consistently pursues a swap of imprisoned insurgents for hostages in FARC captivity, reestablishes much needed working relations with neighbours along borders and strongly advances integrated rural development to consolidate security and broaden Colombia's international support.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, Security, Politics, Regional Cooperation, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Colombia, Latin America, Central America, Venezuela
  • Publication Date: 03-2004
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In February 2004, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the major insurgent group, announced creation of a three-member negotiation commission and a "diplomatic offensive" aimed at obtaining the release of hundreds of its imprisoned members in exchange for about 60 military and political hostages it holds. This has raised hope among the relatives of hostages and kidnap victims that a "humanitarian exchange" could happen in the not too distant future.
  • Topic: Security, Human Rights, Politics
  • Political Geography: Colombia, South America, Latin America
  • Publication Date: 11-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: More than any of his predecessors, President Alvaro Uribe has made combating the insurgents the overriding priority and defining objective of the Colombian government. Through modest achievements on the ground a sense of public security has begun to be re-established. However, Uribe's "Democratic Security Policy" (DSP), the long-term strategy promised to lend coherence to the security effort, has been stalled for nearly a year by political infighting and fundamental arguments over how best to bring the 40-year conflict to a close. Without some serious modifications, it is doubtful that it will achieve its goal.
  • Topic: Security, Politics
  • Political Geography: Colombia, South America, Latin America
  • Publication Date: 09-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Eighteen months after the rupture of peace talks between its predecessor and the main insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Uribe administration has entered upon a high risk-high gain negotiating process with the main paramilitary group, the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), that will test its skill and its good faith.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Politics
  • Political Geography: Colombia, South America, Latin America
  • Publication Date: 07-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: This ICG report argues that it is paramount that much more decisive action be taken immediately to confront Colombia's humanitarian crisis. Massive human hardship and suffering has become a constant feature of life as the armed conflict has expanded and intensified. The government's humanitarian policy has encountered many difficulties, largely because of the magnitude of the crisis, the lack of state capacity, the reluctance to divert fiscal resources from military to social programs, and the wide gap between policy planning and reality.The launching of the Inter-agency Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP) by the UN in 2002 reflects a growing international awareness that more coordinated and effective action is urgently needed. But even more needs to be done, including achieving better coordination between the government and humanitarian organisations and increasing current levels of international humanitarian aid.
  • Topic: Security, Human Welfare, Humanitarian Aid, Migration
  • Political Geography: Colombia, South America, Latin America