Columns

October 4, 2011
Every year some 400,000 undocumented Central Americans cross Mexico trying to make their way to a better life in the United States. Most of them successfully make the trip, but many die, disappear, or are kidnapped en route. As they pass through Mexico they frequently encounter great brutality, but they also meet with great humanity.
October 3, 2011
Each year, including pensions and other benefits to military personnel, the Colombian government spends as much as 25% of it's GDP on defense. But this already huge figure only accounts for the immediate costs of the continuation of the war system and does not tell us much about the hidden and more important longer-term effects of the war on the country’s economic and political development.
September 30, 2011
In the wake of Sunday’s brutal repression of indigenous marchers against the TIPNIS highway, the past few days have brought renewed popular mobilizations, a few revelations, and more mixed messages from the Bolivian government.
September 28, 2011
Politically powerful officials are saying the U.S. counternarcotic program towards Mexico has not worked, and are calling for a counterinsurgency strategy to replace it. The organized crime "raging along our southern border," they claim, is waging a "strategic-level" of war against the United States.
September 28, 2011
Sunday’s brutal repression by federal police of lowland indigenous marchers protesting the TIPNIS highway has sparked widespread public outrage in Bolivia, while the MAS government’s response raises more questions than answers. With conservative opponents of Evo Morales also seeking to exploit the crisis, it's a critical moment for Bolivia's process of change.
September 27, 2011
Last Tuesday, in broad daylight, 35 bodies were dumped around the city of Veracruz. All the bodies had a Z painted on their torsos, presumably indicating membership in Mexico’s most brutal and vicious criminal gang, the Zetas. The Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel took responsibility for the killings, and is presenting itself as a paramilitary force, fighting alongside “the people.” What is happening is ominous, as the militarization of the drug war is spawns competing armies.
September 26, 2011
The United Nations Development Programme’s latest report on Colombia, released last week, reaffirmed what experts have claimed for a very long time: that the core of Colombia’s problems lies in its rural economy.
September 23, 2011
While President Evo Morales was busy defending the rights of Mother Earth at the United Nations this week, Bolivia’s TIPNIS conflict escalated beyond the regional boundaries of Beni and Cochabamba into the national and international arena.
September 22, 2011
The United States government’s recent “National Drug Threat Assessment 2011” targets international trafficking organizations even while it identifies domestic prescription pharmaceuticals as having the most destructive health consequences.
September 20, 2011
A major report released today by the humanitarian aid and human rights group No More Deaths paints a frightening picture of systematic and widespread abuse by U.S. Border Patrol agents of migrants in their custody. At the same time, it demonstrates the brutality inherent in the agency’s very existence and operation.
September 20, 2011
It is not likely that the small but persistent pacifist movement—the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity—will bring a genuine internal peace to Mexico any time soon, but its growing visibility and its persistence in the face of threats and smug dismissals from all sides is encouraging.
September 19, 2011
The controversy over the new Colombian methodology to calculate the number of poor is far from settled. The problem is, regardless of the “methodological rigor,” there are many doubts over whether the new methodology actually captures the magnitude and scope of Colombian poverty.
September 18, 2011
On September 11, Bolivians observed the third anniversary of the Pando massacre, a brutal attack on indigenous peasants and students in the Amazonian lowlands and the most deadly act of political violence in the country since 2003. The tragic event marked a turning point in Bolivia’s recent history, and has special relevance today for the escalating conflict over the TIPNIS highway.
September 15, 2011
It is not surprising to hear that representatives of the U.S. State Department stationed in Tegucigalpa, Honduras believed since at least March 2004 that the wealthiest man in Honduras, and U.S. government ally, was involved in the cocaine trade.
September 14, 2011
Over the weekend, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning that there was a “specific, credible, yet unconfirmed” threat of a “terrorist” attack in New York and Washington D.C.. This is the permanent state of things on the U.S.-Mexico border. The 10th anniversary of 9/11 has produced many reports that speak to this reality.
September 13, 2011
In Sunday's presidential election, Mexico’s southern neighbors gave some 60% of their votes to two candidates of the hard right who will now face each other in a November 6 runoff. It was disheartening to many Mexicans to see the "iron fist" emerge as a symbol of the Guatemala campaign’s leading candidates.
September 12, 2011
Colombia recently changed the method it uses calculate poverty. Consequently the numbers of the poor were reduced significantly. But how accurate are these statistics? And how are the chosen variables measured?
September 8, 2011
In the 1940s U.S. Public Health medical researchers conducted appalling experiments on vulnerable populations in Guatemala. After last week's convening of President Obama's Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, the revelations are back in the news.
September 7, 2011
A former U.S. Border Patrol and ICE agent offers a perpective on immigration and boundary enforcement almost never heard of in the halls of power in the United States.
September 6, 2011
The government of Juan Manuel Santos is adjusting its military strategy to concentrate on special operations rather than on sustained large scale operations such as Plan Patriota. The move is another step in the shifting dynamics of the Colombian conflict in recent years.
September 6, 2011
When the bodies of two female reporters were found dead in Mexico City last Thursday, public opinion questioned whether their murder should be investigated as a crime against free expression or a crime against women. Before any evidence was gathered, it was assumed that they were killed because they were reporters on the trail of information that somebody didn’t want uncovered. The second supposition was that they were killed simply because they were women.
September 2, 2011
Negotiations between the Bolivian government and indigenous groups protesting the proposed TIPNIS highway broke down before getting off the ground this week, while a visit from Brazil’s ex-president Lula served as a reminder of the larger geopolitical interests involved. Brazil has a major stake in the road's construction, but it also needs a stable political environment in Bolivia to advance its overall economic agenda.
August 31, 2011
On August 30, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that deportations would continue to be "very robust." Why? Because of a recent federal decision to impose the controversial Secure Communities program on the entire country by 2013—a program, opponents say, that is tearing families apart.
August 30, 2011
Last Thursday, five or six armed men walked into the Casino Royale, a gambling house in Monterrey, Mexico, ordered patrons and employees to leave, and then quickly set fire to the place. At least 52 people died in the blaze. President Calderón called the attack an act of "terrorism," though the crime does not appear to have much to do with conventional terrorism, but rather with a fight for economic profits and market share.
August 29, 2011
In this post, I provide the reader with some additional context to the workers' mobilization in Puerto Gaitan and the problems that multinational investments bring to bear on the country’s political economy of war.

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