5 links from the past week
- Colombia’s Ideas for Peace Foundation think-tank published a useful analysis of the ELN guerrilla group: its increased strength, territorial gains following the FARC’s demobilization, its activity in Venezuela, and its sources of financing. The authors note that it would be very difficult to defeat the ELN militarily, as it is decentralized and has deep roots in the regions where it is active. They recommend against giving up on renewed peace talks.
- InsightCrime posted its annual “Homicide Round-Up,” looking at murder rate data in 2019 from Venezuela (60.3 homicides per 100,000 residents) to Chile (2.6). Honduras saw an increase in murders for the first time since 2017, while El Salvador saw an “unprecedented” drop. Mexico’s rate is now worse than Colombia’s and Guatemala’s.
- A thoroughly reported Wall Street Journal piece depicts an easily distracted Trump administration losing ground to Russia all of last year as it sought to prop up Venezuela’s political opposition and unseat Nicolás Maduro.
- Colombia’s Bajo Cauca region, a couple of hours’ drive north of Medellín, right now is one of the most violent parts of the country. The ELN and FARC dissidents are there, but the most intense violence has been between the Gulf Clan neo-paramilitaries and a regional splinter group called the “Caparrapos.” Medellín’s El Colombiano interviews a Caparrapo commander for the first time. The article does a good job of mapping the zone and questions the government’s security strategy there. It doesn’t mention that the Bajo Cauca, and its coca fields, has been a major target of U.S. assistance in recent years.
- A year ago in December, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal, a Guatemalan migrant who’d been apprehended with her father in New Mexico, died of a bacterial infection while in Border Patrol custody. At Texas Monthly, Anna-Catherine Brigida reports from Caal’s rural Guatemalan hometown, where much of her family remains (her father is in Philadelphia trying to send money home). “When I visited in September, nine months later, Jakelin’s death still hung over the community like a shroud.”