5 links from the past week
- A new report from the International Crisis Group questions the Colombian government’s contentions that the coca crop is a root cause of violence, and that forced eradication might bring peace. It concludes that “an approach based on forceful eradication of coca, which the U.S. has stoutly backed, tends to worsen rural violence, while failing to reduce drug supply.” See also a Financial Times longread about the push to restart coca eradication via aerial herbicide fumigation.
- A 90-page U.S. Government Accountability Office report contains much previously undisclosed information about the Trump administration’s National Guard and active-duty military deployments at the U.S.-Mexico border, which the Biden administration has yet to alter. The Pentagon didn’t view it as a high-priority mission, but it spent about a billion dollars since 2018 to support keeping as many as 8,300 troops at the border.
- Lt. Cmdr. Collin Fox, a U.S. Navy officer who recently served at the U.S. embassy in Panama, published a scathing critique of the drug war, from a global strategy perspective, at War on the Rocks. It’s unusual to see an active duty officer use terms like “impossible distraction,” “simplistic,” and “ignoble failure” to describe an ongoing policy.
- 49-year-old Édgar López was tragically failed by garbage institutions in three different countries. A corrupt state in his native Guatemala failed to create conditions, like education to gain marketable skills, to lift his community out of poverty. U.S. immigration and labor policies created the draw of under-the-table, low-wage labor at a chicken processing plant in Mississippi, where he worked and started a family, only to be swept up in one of Trump’s high-wattage ICE raids in 2019. Then, as he sought to return to his family, he was one of 19 people massacred in northern Mexico, apparently by organized crime-tied police. Vice tells López’s story.
- In February 28 legislative and municipal elections, El Salvador’s president’s party might win a supermajority. The Honduran-Nicaraguan investigative website Expediente Público looks at the likelihood that the country may be headed in an authoritarian direction under Nayib Bukele, noting “the military’s elevated role in supporting Bukele.” Note also two analyses from the previous week at Honduras’s ContraCorriente: “Authoritarianism at the stroke of a tweet,” about El Salvador, and “Soldiers instead of doctors,” about pandemic-era Honduras.