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What the Matamoros Kidnapping Says About the State of Cartel Violence in Mexico
undefined and Latin America Analyst at RANE
Carmen Colosi
Latin America Analyst at RANE, Stratfor
undefined and Global Security analyst with RANE
Caroline Hammer
Global Security analyst with RANE, Stratfor
12 MIN READMar 21, 2023 | 21:21 GMT

The recent armed attack on four U.S. citizens in the Mexican border city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, illustrated well-documented security risks in Mexico's many crime hotspots, where gang and cartel violence disrupts daily life and hinders business operations. But while the demonstrated risks are nothing new, much about the incident was out of the ordinary, including the abnormal targeting of American civilians, the subsequent calls by U.S. Republicans for military intervention, and the cartel's highly out-of-character note apologizing for the whole affair. The oddities of the incident and the response to it by the cartel, as well as the Mexican and U.S. governments, confirm and expand on long-standing security, political and logistical risks from organized crime in Mexico.

The Attack
On Friday, March 3, the four American citizens entered Matamoros from Brownsville, Texas, in order to receive cosmetic surgery. A few hours after crossing the border, armed gunmen in trucks shot at their vehicle while they drove through the city, leading to a crash, after which the gunmen forced them out of their vehicle and into one of their trucks. During the incident, a stray bullet killed a Mexican woman at the scene of the initial attack. In a video of the attack that subsequently circulated on social media, three of the Americans appeared unconscious. Over the next few days, word of the kidnapping spread in U.S. media and the FBI announced a $50,000 reward for the return of the victims. Mexican authorities discovered two of the victims alive and two dead on March 7 in a cabin southeast of Matamoros. On March 8, the Mexican government deployed 200 members of the army and 100 members of the National Guard to Matamoros to strengthen security in the border region. Based on the location of the incident, it was clear that the Gulf Cartel — once one of Mexico's most powerful criminal groups — was likely behind the attack. This appeared to be confirmed on March 9, when five men were left beaten and tied up in the street, along with a narco banner apologizing for the attacks signed ''the Scorpions,'' a faction of the Gulf Cartel. The banner claimed the men were the perpetrators of the attack and that the attack was a mistake ''caused by lack of discipline.''

The Cartel's Response
Mexican cartels are widely understood to not want to target U.S. citizens or tourists from other countries, except in circumstances where they're involved in drug trafficking. While the response to the murder or kidnapping of Mexican citizens or migrants from poor countries would barely make national Mexican news, security risks to Americans (and other, usually Western, foreigners) create an outsized backlash that cartels view as simply bad for business and thus not worth it. This was acutely demonstrated by the response to the Matamoros attack and kidnapping; the level of media coverage, the FBI reward and the hundreds of newly-deployed Mexican troops all make cartel operations more difficult and threaten their ability to make money.

The Gulf Cartel faction's apology note — an uncharacteristic action for a group with a penchant for extreme violence — also demonstrates the Scorpions leaders' immediate recognition that their people made a mistake. Criminal groups elsewhere in Mexico have similarly learned this lesson, with massive security deployments to Baja California Sur state in 2017 and Quintana Roo state in 2021 and 2022 following violence in tourist areas that killed and injured foreigners. Cartels know the Mexican government will devote ample resources to ensure the safety of foreigners and particularly tourists, and they'd prefer to avoid such encroachment into their territory.

Intentions aside, the attack and murder of two Americans in Matamoros was not the first incident that illustrates that mistakes can and do occur. In January 2020, gunmen likely belonging to the Northeast Cartel in Ciudad Mier, another border town in the Tamaulipas state, attacked an American family and killed their 13-year-old child. The attack may have occurred because the perpetrators believed the family's SUV resembled the SUVs used by rival cartels. Mexican cartels vary in size and structure, but while all are hierarchical, they tend to also be decentralized, providing lower-ranking members the leeway to launch rash attacks to gain their leadership's approval, in retaliation for violence by rivals, or for personal financial gain. When cartel attacks on foreign tourists do occur, they are most likely cases of mistaken identity in which cartels think the victims belong to a rival cartel, making such incidents far more likely in areas experiencing intense inter-cartel territorial struggles (Tamaulipas among them).

The Matamoros attack additionally shows how U.S. citizens and other foreigners who look like they may be locals or migrants may be at greater risk. Matamoros, like other Mexican cities and towns located near U.S. border crossings, has seen its population of migrants from other parts of the Americas surge over the last decade. In recent years, people escaping the poor security and economic conditions in Haiti have made up an increasing portion of Matamoros' migrant community. In February, NGOs estimated a total of 1,000 Haitian migrants were in Matamoros. Cartels and smaller local gangs commonly target migrants for kidnapping for ransom, human trafficking, or to recruit (and sometimes outright force) them into their criminal enterprises, including drug trafficking.

The four Americans who were targeted in the recent attack were Black and it is possible the cartel members racially profiled them, believing they were migrants or Haitian traffickers encroaching on the Scorpion's territory (as Mexican and U.S. authorities reportedly theorized). The possibility that the gunmen racially profiled the Americans prior to the attack has already fueled fear among the city's migrants, leading 100 Haitian asylum-seekers to flee one of Matamoros' camps following the attack. Hispanic and Latino U.S. citizens have long faced similar risks in Mexico, and the Matamoros attack demonstrates that Black tourists and business travelers may be similarly at greater risk of a mistaken identity attack in Mexico's high-violence regions, especially those with large Haitian migrant populations.

The Mexican Government's Response
The Mexican government's quick reaction to the kidnapping illustrates the trend of Mexican authorities conducting a highly public and elevated security response when U.S. citizens or other tourists are victims of violent crime, given the importance of tourism to the Mexican economy. Tourism accounted for just over 7% of Mexico's total GDP in 2021 as the country attracted over 31 million visitors that year. The Mexican government will likely continue to prioritize sending security forces to areas where tourism serves as the lifeblood of the local economy (like Quintana Roo, Baja California and Baja California Sur) in an effort to maintain the image of low criminal activity in these popular tourist destinations, despite Mexico's overall high rate of violent crime.

But the kidnapping of the four U.S. citizens is unlikely to change Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's overall approach to containing cartel violence in his country. The Lopez Obrador administration has never clearly outlined a security strategy since taking office in December 2018. But the president's catchphrase of approaching cartels with ''hugs, not bullets'' has reflected his government's broadly non-interventionist approach to cartels' presence. As such, Mexico's security forces rarely seek to proactively combat cartel influence, opting instead to simply keep violent crime statistics down in tourist areas and major cities. This strategy relies heavily on the use of a militarized policing force created under his presidency called the National Guard, which has absorbed units and officers from the Federal Police, Military Police and Naval Police. The Lopez Obrador government will almost certainly continue to utilize the National Guard to attempt to curb migration patterns, protect critical infrastructure and ensure increased safety in tourist destinations. But these areas of emphasis will likely continue to leave certain areas vulnerable to the influence of cartels — especially in states where rival cartels are fighting for control over territory, which include Tamaulipas (where the four U.S. citizens were kidnapped), Michoacan, Mexico State and Guerrero.

The Lopez Obrador administration's reaction to the Matamoros attack will also raise the risk of protests in Mexico by showcasing the government's continued failure to address security threats facing Mexican citizens. Many Mexicans have already expressed anger on social media over their government's swift response to the kidnapping of U.S. citizens, which stands in stark contrast to the historically slow or nonexistent response to the daily kidnappings of Mexican citizens. According to data compiled by the Mexico-based Alto Al Secuestro (Association to Stop Kidnapping), there were 5,256 reported kidnappings in Mexico between December 2018 and January 2023 — an average of four per day. But Mexican authorities rarely respond to these kidnappings in a proactive manner unless U.S. citizens and other foreigners are involved.

Activists have previously organized mass protests over kidnappings in the country — most prominently in response to the kidnapping of 43 student teachers in Guerrero state in 2014, which saw some demonstrations turn violent. Against this backdrop, incidents that highlight the disparity in security reactions for foreigners and locals — like the Matamoros kidnapping — raise the risk of renewing such protests by reminding Mexican citizens of their government's apparent disregard for their safety.

The U.S. Government's Response
The United States remains highly unlikely to directly intervene in the fight against cartels in Mexico, despite Republican lawmakers' increased calls for such action following the Matamoros incident. In recent weeks, certain members of the Republican Party have used the kidnappings to criticize the Mexican government's record on security, with some — including Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — going so far as to propose legislation that would allow the U.S. military to intervene in Mexico. The draft bill would seek to designate nine of the most powerful Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations, thus allowing U.S. armed forces to be dispatched to Mexico. Former U.S. President Donald Trump also suggested labeling Mexican cartels as terrorist entities, though his administration never followed through on the effort. While the legislation is currently being debated by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, it is highly unlikely to be passed as it has been criticized by Democrats and some Republicans for proposing to interfere with another country's security policy. But even on the off-chance that the bill is ratified, Lopez Obrador has indicated that his government would not cooperate with any U.S. armed forces sent to his country to contain cartel violence, stating such a deployment would ''breach Mexico's sovereignty.''

But while the United States is unlikely to respond at the federal level, U.S. state governments could make regulatory changes in an effort to push Mexico to increase security efforts. Similar violent events against U.S. citizens could spur U.S. authorities to implement increased border security measures in an effort to prevent cartel violence from spilling across the border. Such measures would most likely come from Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who previously implemented inspections along his state's border with Mexico in response to a surge in illegal border crossings in April 2022. The measures imposed by the Texan state government slowed cross-border traffic to a crawl and angered truckers, who formed a blockade at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge that nearly stopped traffic in both directions for three days. Economists estimated that delays from the inspections, which were only in place for less than two weeks (from April 6 to April 15), led the U.S. economy to lose an estimated $8.97 billion, with Texas alone losing $4.23 billion, as fruits and vegetables rotted in trucks. The re-implementation of such measures would risk similar logistical and financial challenges.

The United States will also likely continue to release periodic statements to further warn citizens about the dangers of traveling to Mexico. In the aftermath of the U.S. citizens' deaths in  Matamoros, ​​the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico released a statement warning the thousands of U.S. students expected to visit the country in the coming weeks for spring break to exercise caution and to avoid visiting Mexican states designated ''Do Not Travel'' on the U.S. State Department's website. The advisory is the latest in the U.S. diplomatic push to educate American citizens about the dangers of traveling in Mexico. Such statements will continue to appear in the future, particularly in reaction to U.S. citizens falling victim to violent crime.

Sticking to the Script
In Mexico's criminal landscape, there is little room for a change of course. Cartel members must always fight for their survival, lest risk being assassinated by rival criminals or arrested by authorities. The Mexican government must balance between enforcing security to keep high-priority areas safe (like economically-important tourism destinations), while still granting cartels enough leeway to stave off a larger backlash. And the U.S. government must respond verbally to threats to its citizens and provide whatever direct security assistance to Mexico that its southern neighbor will accept. Barring massive (and unlikely) changes to the economic and/or political environments in the United States and Mexico, or to the U.S. market for illegal drugs, the parties involved will be confined to these roles. Both countries' 2024 general elections provide potential wildcards in the form of opposition candidates. But for all their bluster, any new president in either country will almost certainly return to the standard script amid economic, security and political pressures.

Cartel violence is a slow-moving tragedy — Mexico's personal forever war. Organized crime bleeds the Mexican economy and contributes to poverty, even as new manufacturing facilities and tech startups improve conditions for few. Incidents like the attack on the four Americans in Matamoros, while horrific, are sadly the norm for locals in much of the country. And that grim reality is unlikely to change anytime soon. With no serious, existential threat from domestic security forces, cartels and smaller gangs will continue to threaten the lives and livelihoods of locals, foreigners and businesses alike, requiring constant vigilance as crime rates forever fluctuate between ''acceptable'' and ''catastrophic.''


Espanol Discussion / RANE: US-Mexico Chips
« on: February 08, 2023, 04:30:45 PM »
February 8, 2023
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Mexico Will Benefit From Washington’s Chip Focus
The U.S. wants to build a North American semiconductor supply chain.
By: Allison Fedirka

The United States is prioritizing the creation of a regional semiconductor production chain to give itself alternatives to Asian firms, especially those with ties to China. Even for the country that invented the semiconductor, this is a massive task. The manufacture of cutting-edge chips is incredibly expensive and complicated, and just a few companies around the world are dominant. If the U.S. is going to succeed in its chips drive, it will need to involve Mexico.

Chip Race

Today, semiconductors are used in everything from consumer goods (computers, cellphones, automobiles, etc.) to military equipment and communication satellites. But despite the ubiquity of chips in modern technology, the manufacturing equipment for more than three-quarters of the global chip supply comes from just five companies. Three of these firms (Applied Materials, Lam Research Corp. and KLA Corp.) are in the United States, and the other two are in U.S. allies: the Netherlands’ ASML and Japan’s Tokyo Electron. ASML holds a monopoly on the machinery needed to make the most advanced semiconductors.

The U.S. is determined to defend and extend this advantage over China. In 2022, Washington passed the CHIPS and Science Act, which allotted $52.7 billion for the research, development and manufacturing of microchips. It also passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which supports the manufacture of electric vehicles and relevant chips in North America. Internationally, the U.S. in late January convinced Japan and the Netherlands to work with it on restricting semiconductor technology sales to China. This builds on a 2019 agreement that banned ASML from exporting its most advanced machinery to China. The latest agreement expands these restrictions, although details have not been released. The U.S. is likely trying to strike a balance between pressuring China and not spurring Beijing to accelerate development of domestic capabilities.

Over time, Washington wants to reduce its own reliance on foreign firms, particularly those tied to China as well as companies like ASML. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, from 1990 to 2021, the U.S. share of global semiconductor manufacturing capacity fell to 12 percent from 37 percent. Most of it is now in Asia. The U.S. is now trying to coax chipmakers into moving to North America. Major players like GlobalFoundries, Intel, Samsung Foundry, TSMC and Texas Instruments are building new semiconductor production facilities in the United States, especially New York, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Washington is mainly focused on the automotive sector, where the U.S. is highly integrated with Canada and Mexico. This sector plays a major role in driving the U.S. and Mexican economies. The three countries agreed to develop a joint chipmaking initiative, including coordinating supply chains and investments. They also want to work together to map critical minerals.

Typical Global Semiconductor Production Pattern
(click to enlarge)

Mexico’s Advantages

About 40 percent of U.S. semiconductor plants are in states along its southern border, a significant opportunity for Mexico. Likewise, many of Mexico’s manufacturing hubs, especially for high-end manufacturing and automobiles, are in northern border states. Mexico’s foreign minister estimates that a quarter or more of imports from Asia could be replaced by North American production, boosted by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement.

Nearshoring Opportunities in Latin America
(click to enlarge)

The Mexican government has already begun laying the diplomatic groundwork to support its chip ambitions. At the beginning of the year – prior to the U.S.-Japan-Netherlands agreement – Japan’s foreign minister was in Mexico discussing trade and semiconductors. Later in January, a Dutch delegation along with U.S. officials visited the northwestern Mexican state of Baja California for talks on investment opportunities, with a focus on agro-industry, electric vehicles, semiconductors, supply chains and energy.

Talks are also underway between the Mexican government and the business community. Firms like Intel, Skyworks Solutions, Texas Instruments and Infineon Technologies are already operating in Mexico and working on chip R&D and test manufacturing. Conversations with Taiwanese chipmakers like TSMC are ongoing. Foxconn, the world’s biggest contract electronics manufacturer, already established a headquarters in Mexico in order to be closer to clients (mostly in the electronic vehicles sector) in North America. Mexico is also working with the Inter-American Development Bank to identify semiconductor opportunities, and with the National College of Professional Technical Education to produce more skilled workers to serve in chip manufacturing. Finally, Mexican industry and higher education institutions have partnered with Arizona State University to boost the production of semiconductors in North America through training and increased production capacity in northwest border states.

FDI Inflows to Mexico
(click to enlarge)

Some in Mexico hope that Washington’s semiconductor drive will help develop the country's southern region. This would help the government solve one of its biggest challenges, but the initiative is no quick fix. Currently, Mexico’s chip industry is limited to lower-skill roles like assembly, testing and packaging – ideal starting points for the development of more skilled, formal work in Mexico’s underdeveloped south. Moreover, chipmaking uses large amounts of water, which is more plentiful in southern Mexico. But although the south is close to the narrow Isthmus of Tehuantepec, giving exporters quick access to the Atlantic and Pacific, its transportation (and energy) infrastructure is poor. Existing Mexican industrial complexes, particularly for automobiles, are farther north, in Guadalajara, Nuevo Leon, Baja California, Aguascalientes and Chihuahua. Semiconductor manufacturing will probably stay close to these clusters to leverage existing infrastructure and shorter distances to the United States.

Rules and Rivals

While Mexico is on paper a promising location for chipmakers, there are several challenges it must address to play a major role in the U.S. semiconductor manufacturing chain. First, the U.S. and Mexico are at odds over the government’s management of the electricity sector. A stable and secure electricity supply is critical for chipmaking, but future investments in the Mexican electricity network are in jeopardy because of these disputes, which adds risk for manufacturers. Similarly, U.S. companies have taken issue with Mexico’s labor laws. This recurring point of contention generally occurs at the company or plant level and cannot be ruled out. Foreign firms also want Mexico to alter its regulations and incentives to make itself a better business environment for semiconductor manufacturing.

However, the main threat to U.S.-Mexican cooperation is increasing Chinese investment in Mexico. The U.S. will expect Mexico to restrict Chinese firms from entering the Mexican segments of the North American chip supply chain. This is a major reason Washington wants much closer coordination with Mexico City on strategic goods. It is also why the U.S. is starting with less sophisticated chips used in things like cars rather than high-end products related to defense. The U.S. can leverage its relationships with Japan and South Korea – which already relocated some manufacturing to Mexico – to encourage non-Chinese investment in the country. And of course, the U.S. can threaten to restrict investment, trade, remittances, etc. to its southern neighbor to drive its point home.

None of Mexico’s challenges are insurmountable. And the U.S. interest in becoming self-sufficient in semiconductor production, as well as the importance of the auto industry to the U.S. economy, means the U.S. will be very willing to work with Mexico to find solutions.


Espanol Discussion / Re: Palo Canario
« on: January 29, 2023, 06:54:10 PM »

Martial Arts Topics / Re: PG Crafty on board at the Combat University
« on: January 22, 2023, 07:14:18 AM »
My first class is this coming Sunday with more in the coming months.  See

Espanol Discussion / Prison break in Ciudad Juarez
« on: January 05, 2023, 11:46:55 AM »

Ciudad Juárez prison head focus of probe as authorities search for fugitives
The head of Cereso No. 3 prison in Ciudad Juárez, Alejandro Alvarado Téllez, center, is now under investigation for allegedly allowing multiple prohibited items into the prison under his charge. (Photo: State of Chihuahua)

The director of the Cereso No. 3 prison in Ciudad Juárez was fired on Tuesday, following a prison raid that left 19 people dead and allowed at least 27 prisoners to escape.

According to a statement by the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office, former director Alejandro Alvarado Téllez and several other prison staff members are under investigation for the events leading up to the jailbreak.

Authorities are investigating whether they failed in their duties to maintain security or even allowed prohibited objects to enter the prison.

The raid occurred on the morning of Jan. 1 after gunmen attacked the penal institution, seeking to free a leader of the local Mexicles gang, Ernesto Alfredo Pinon de la Cruz, alias “El Neto.” Nineteen people were killed in the gun battle, including 10 guards. At least 27 prisoners escaped, including the gang leader and his lieutenant.

Prisoners being transferred out of Cereso No. 3 in Juarez, Chihuahua
In the aftermath of the raid, hundreds of prisoners are being transferred out of Cereso No. 3 to other prisons around the country. (Photo: Cuartoscuro)
When federal authorities regained control of the prison, they found that El Neto had been staying in a “VIP zone” within the center, with access to drugs and money.

On Tuesday, the Defense Ministry (Sedena) announced that it had deployed 200 military personnel to Ciudad Juárez to reinforce security. The additional troops will join the hunt for the fugitive prisoners, alongside over 900 members of the army and National Guard already in the city.

At least five criminals who escaped in the breakout have been captured, along with weapons, drugs and cash. Meanwhile, seven people have died in clashes during the manhunt, including two police officers. Five criminals armed with tactical weaponry were killed in a police chase after firing on search units.

In addition, one fugitive was caught on security cameras attempting to cross the United States border into El Paso, Texas.

Chihuahua Governor Maru Campos listening to updates on authorities' attempts to track down fugitive prisoners after a prison break in Juarez
Chihuahua Governor Maru Campos, center, listening to updates on authorities’ attempts to track down fugitive prisoners. (Photo: Gov. of Chihuahua)
“After the sighting, the authorities of El Paso, Texas, were informed with the relevant information, and immediately a joint search operation was implemented on both sides of the border,” the state government said.

191 prisoners from the Cereso have been transferred to other federal prisons around the country. They had been charged with crimes including murder, kidnapping, rape and organized crime activity.

“This operation concluded safely and successfully; with these movements, the state government was supported in guaranteeing the governability of the center after the events of Jan. 1,” read a statement by the Defense Ministry (Sedena).

According to the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office, the transfer of “El Neto” and 179 other prisoners from the Cereso has been under consideration since a previous escape attempt on Aug. 11. The request was on hold pending an analysis of capacity in other centers.

Ernesto Alfredo Piñon de la Cruz, alias “El Neto"
Ernesto Alfredo Piñon de la Cruz, alias “El Neto” lived like a king in Cereso No. 3, authorities say, with access to drugs and money. He’s been involved in organized crime since starting his own gang while still a teen and becoming a regional leader in the Juárez Cartel at age 18. (Photo: social media)
They added that “El Neto,” who has been jailed since 2009, was initially held in another prison but has fought a long legal battle to be transferred and then kept in the Cereso. From the prison, he allegedly coordinated numerous violent attacks by the Mexicles gang, one of the most powerful criminal cells in Ciudad Juárez.

With reports from Animal Político, Reuters and Excelsior

Espanol Discussion / Zapatistas en Chiapas
« on: December 31, 2022, 08:52:11 PM »
In fighting globalism, the Zapatistas brought the world to Chiapas
Leigh Thelmadatter
Leigh Thelmadatter
December 31, 2022
EZLN sign in Chiapas, Mexico
When talks with the federal government failed, the EZLN focused on carving out autonomous territory, (Photo: Hajor/Wikimedia Commons)

For those of us 50 and older, it seems like yesterday — the masked, charismatic Subcomandante Marcos taking the world by storm to demand justice for a jungle people threatened by globalization and “the new world order.”

He and the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) made their dramatic appearance on January 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The treaty had been decried by many, but this armed insurgency cut through all that.

EZLN didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. Chiapas has had a long and sometimes violent history of conflict. The Zapatistas, named after the Mexican Revolution general Emiliano Zapata, organized in 1983 after decades of failure to resolve economic, political and cultural issues.

But they remained obscure until they took over seven towns by force, including San Cristóbal de la Casas, making a declaration there that got Mexico’s and the world’s attention.

Subcomandante Marcos
Subcomandante Marcos, with trademark baclava and pipe, was the leader and spokesman for the EZLN. (José Villa at VillaPhotography/Creative Commons)
Actual fighting with federal forces only lasted two weeks.

The Zapatistas had impeccable timing: the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had severely weakened (and would officially fall six years later). And instead of limiting their actions to petitioning the Mexican political system, the EZLN reached out internationally via contacts and the Internet.

To people outside Mexico, it made for a great underdog story. And as word spread, foreign journalists flocked to Chiapas, giving them nearly glowing coverage.

This forced the Mexican government to sign the San Andrés Peace Accords in 1996, but it balked in 2001 when the Zapatistas marched to Mexico City to have it formally put into law. Instead, the congress passed a watered-down version, and the Zapatistas broke all talks with them.

EZLN Comandanta Ramona
The EZLN’s gender egalitarianism and female leaders like Comandanta Ramona attracted much international support. (Photo: Heriberto Rodríguez/Creative Commons)
Instead, they focused on creating an “autonomous zone” with the support of certain areas of Chiapas and the international leftist community. Their success with foreign organizations is somewhat unusual and comes not only because EZLN fights for indigenous rights and against capitalism and globalism, but also because their organization is a mix of traditional and modern sensibilities, which inspired organizers to allow women a more visible role in their movement.

However, it is ironic that an anti-globalism movement would have decades-long ties with foreign organizations. It has been vital to their survival. International organizations provide donations and outlets for selling products like coffee in a way they say provides an alternative to globalism that does not abuse native peoples.

The connection to the world outside Mexico has influenced Zapatista priorities, causing them to adopt stances on issues as varied as gender identity, the Ukraine-Russia conflict, COVID policies, rail lines in Norwegian Sami territory and Mexico’s Maya Train project.

The effectiveness of the autonomous strategy locally is debatable. It has meant developing local solutions for needs such as healthcare and education. However, Chiapas, including Zapatista territory, remains extremely impoverished.

Map of territory claimed by various Zapatista groups
Map of territory claimed by various Zapatista groups. (Graphic: Hxltdq/Creative Commons)
Traditional farming practices are not enough to live on, and migration out to other parts of Mexico and to the United States has been significant in the past couple of decades. Illegal logging, especially in the Lacandon Rainforest, has led to severe environmental degradation, says local activist Eric Eberman of the Colibri-Tz’unun Reserve.

The lack of federal troops has made the zone attractive to both human and drug smugglers.

The irony does not stop with the fact of international contacts.

Subcomandante Marcos might have been the best tourism spokesman the state ever had. While some tourism and foreign residents had been in Chiapas prior to 1994, the news coverage brought the curious and the idealistic, not only to experience the native cultures, but with the hope of engaging someone in a black Zapatista balaclava as well.

San Cristobal de las Casas
Miguel Hidalgo street in present-day San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, full of foreign tourists (Photo: Protoplasmakid/Creative Commons)
For a time, there were so people arriving many that this tourism took on the name zapaturismo. As late as 2009, markets were filled with Zapatista-themed merchandise. At this point, it has all but disappeared.

Zapatourism hasn’t completely disappeared, but it is certainly not a matter of driving up to one of the communities to say hello. Some tourism offices in San Cristóbal might give you information about entering Zapatista territory but will tell you that doing so is at your own risk.

There is some indication that some Zapatistas are becoming more open to the idea of visitors again, such as the community of Oventic; however, I would recommend contacting an organization that works with the Zapatistas to find out what may or may not be possible through their contacts.

The memory of the uprising has faded since the movement mostly shuns the press, but tourism continues to grow in Chiapas, especially in San Cristóbal. In the past 30 years or so, the city has transformed from a small, isolated town to a cosmopolitan center welcoming hundreds of thousands of travelers each year. It also hosts a significant and growing number of foreign residents.

Cafe Rebelde coffee brand
Promotional photograph for coffee advertised in 2017 as “grown on Zapatista lands by Zapatista hands” and distributed worldwide. The brand is still for sale, and distributor Essential Trading Coop says a fraction of sales still go to a nonprofit organizing community projects in the Zapatistas’ autonomous communities.
The tourism has led to a now fairly large community of resident foreigners. Researcher Gustavo Sánchez Espinosa of the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) calls them “lifestyle migrants.”

These are people with incomes in dollars euros, etc., who come to Chiapas looking for some kind of change in their life. They look to live in an exotic locale, but over time, also look for certain amenities from back home — and businesses spring up to accommodate those needs. Mestizo Mexicans call them “neo-hippies;” local indigenous people call them alemantik or gringotik.

The majority of these settle in and around the historic center because of its majestic colonial architecture. But today, this area is now a jumble of the native and the foreign, with streets filled with European-style cafes, organic merchandise stores with streets filled with indigenous women selling handcrafts and other goods, along with people with huge backpacks and neo-hippie clothes and hair. Such residents separate themselves from other migrants, from places like Central America and other parts of Chiapas, attracted to the city for economic reasons.

In a way, the division revives the original purpose of the historic center, which began as a fort, then became an enclave for the colonial Spanish, with the poor and indigenous on the periphery.

It is highly unlikely that Marcos or any of the other leaders imagined that their stand against the outside world would instead bring the world to their doorstep.

Leigh Thelmadatter arrived in Mexico 18 years ago and fell in love with the land and the culture in particular its handcrafts and art. She is the author of Mexican Cartonería: Paper, Paste and Fiesta (Schiffer 2019). Her culture column appears regularly on Mexico News Daily.

Espanol Discussion / Ed Calderon
« on: December 30, 2022, 04:58:13 PM »

Espanol Discussion / Guro Lonely en Espana
« on: November 02, 2022, 03:14:34 PM »

Nº 69 (Nov-Dic 22) > Los Dog Brothers aúllan con fuerza en España
Los Dog Brothers aúllan con fuerza en España

Entrevista a Guro Benjamin Lonely Dog Rittiner
Por Joan “Atura Dog” Cornudella
Representante de DBMA en Cataluña
Tal y como informamos en su día, del 26 al 30 de Septiembre se celebró en La Isla, un precioso pueblo del concejo asturiano de Colunga, unas jornadas de convivencia y entrenamiento a cargo de Guro Benjamin “Lonely Dog” Rittiner y Kru Rene “Growling Dog” Cocolo, auténticas autoridades a nivel mundial del Stickfighting y el Krabi Krabong respectivamente.
Esas jornadas constituyen uno de los eventos principales del calendario de actividades que DOG BROTHERS ESPAÑA organiza anualmente bajo el liderazgo de Fraggle Dog, y constituyen una oportunidad inmejorable para disfrutar de las enseñanzas y sentido del humor de Lonely Dog.
Durante esos días tuvimos la oportunidad de charlar con él y fruto de esas conversaciones es la entrevista que ofrecemos a continuación.
¿Cómo comenzaste en las artes marciales? Fuera del mundo de las artes marciales, ¿has practicado algún deporte?
No, no he practicado ningún deporte con asiduidad. Además, no era muy bueno en ellos. Pero a los diez años comencé con las artes marciales japonesas: Karate, Judo, Kenjutsu… y más tarde me embarqué en el boxeo, donde disputé una docena de peleas amateur.
¿Cuándo descubriste el stickfight?
En 1992, tras un seminario celebrado en Luxemburgo. Al día siguiente, un instructor de otro estilo me mostró algo de kali de la rama de Inosanto. Sólo la simple y clásica rutina de Sinawali, “cielo seis”, en un saco pesado; y me dejó alucinado. Desde ese preciso momento quise estudiar Artes Marciales Filipinas.
La cuna de los Dog Brothers son los Estados Unidos, pero usted lleva trabajando en Europa muchos años. ¿Hay algo que diferencia a DBMA en Europa de las que se practican en ese país? ¿Hemos evolucionado de manera independiente hasta poder decir que tenemos un sello propio en nuestro continente?
Bueno, esta pregunta es difícil de responder. En Estados Unidos las DBMA fueron influenciadas por muchas personas y estilos. Pero al ser el primero y único en Europa tuve que encontrar mi propio camino, el cual a su vez influyó mucho en el resto. Como allí muchos peleadores son grandes y fuertes y combaten ejerciendo una gran presión hacia adelante, tuve que desarrollar una forma de pelear inteligente y de gran movilidad. Así que al principio la gente copiaba mi estilo. Pero hoy en día las cosas han cambiado un poco ya que ahora podemos encontrar estilos de lucha muy diferentes en Europa.
Tú comenzaste a aprender DBMA con cintas VHS y cuando llegaste por primera vez a USA el propio Marc Denny se mostró sorprendido de la profundidad de los conocimientos qué adquiriste de esa forma ¿Qué opinas del auge que ha tenido en los últimos años la enseñanza on-line de las artes marciales, impulsada por la pandemia?
La verdad es que no es que quisiera aprender de vídeos, pero era lo único que había. No es fácil aprender de esa manera. Es mejor entrenar con alguien pero en ese momento se podía encontrar muy poco de A.M.F. en Suiza y no me quedó más remedio que estudiar con vídeos. Afortunadamente, tengo talento para aprender de ellos.
Hoy en día se puede encontrar una gran cantidad de información por ahí, en vídeos e internet. Y, desde luego, la pandemia impulsó el aprendizaje virtual. Pero creo que la gente puede volverse perezosa al aprender de esa forma y convertirse en algo similar a jugar un videojuego. Crees que puedes replicar los movimientos que has visto en la vida real, pero no es tan fácil… Resulta mucho más sencillo y eficiente entrenar con un instructor, cara a cara. Es necesario sentir para aprender.

Jornadas de convivencia y entrenamiento con los DBMA

Marc Denny afirma que DBMA es “un sistema de muchos estilos” y, desde luego, no se puede decir que sea un sistema tradicional en el sentido que normalmente se emplea este término en la comunidad marcial. Sin embargo, sí que se puede decir que a lo largo de los años han adquirido una idiosincrasia e identidad propias. ¿Cuál crees que es su esencia? ¿Cuáles han sido los elementos que han perdurado desde su origen y que se mantendrán en el futuro?
DBMA es de hecho un sistema de muchos estilos y para mí su filosofía es idéntica a la del Jeet Kune Do. El estudiante tiene que terminar encontrando al cabo del tiempo su propio estilo, a diferencia de las artes marciales tradicionales que empujan a sus estudiantes hacia una forma determinada de moverse y pensar.
Así, en primer lugar el estudiante debe aprender los conceptos básicos de mi variación de las DBMA; no hay nada malo en adoptar un estilo al principio. Pero luego es importante que el individuo encuentre el suyo propio.
En los últimos años, los Dog Brothers han experimentado un renacer en España gracias al trabajo de Fraggle Dog. ¿Cuál crees que es el nivel actual en nuestro país?
Me gusta el trabajo que está haciendo Fraggle Dog y su estilo, que es juguetón. El nombre de Fraggle Dog le viene al pelo. No se toma a sí mismo demasiado en serio, y eso me encanta. Definitivamente, encontró su propio estilo.
Veo que los grupos en España trabajan bien juntos y se complementan entre sí. Van acudiendo cada vez más personas y espero ansioso ver su desarrollo durante los próximos años.
En línea con la anterior pregunta y teniendo en cuenta que usted es el líder de los Dog Brothers en Europa, ¿Cuál es tu proyecto de futuro para los Dog Brothers en España? ¿Qué objetivos os habéis planteado tú y Fraggle Dog para un horizonte de tres o incluso cinco años?
Normalmente no trabajo con un plan u objetivo para el desarrollo las de DBMA. Simplemente tengo mucha pasión por lo que hago y procuro contagiarla a mucha gente. Es decisión de Fraggle Dog hacia dónde irá el grupo. Veo su entusiasmo y estoy convencido de que irá en la dirección correcta.
¿Cómo explicarías en pocas palabras a un practicante de artes marciales tradicionales o incluso a un absoluto neófito qué son los Dog Brothers qué es lo que hacen?
Pues diría que lo que hacemos es MMA con palos.
¿Hay algún otro arte marcial qué te gustaría practicar en el futuro?
Definitivamente tengo que practicar más Grappling y Stick Grappling. Y también estoy interesado en aprender algo de HEMA.
Los Dog Brothers son pioneros en el combate con armas a pleno contacto, “RCSF”. Parece que en los últimos tiempos hay una obsesión por el realismo en el entrenamiento. ¿Hasta qué punto crees que es posible entrenar de manera realista sin comprometer seriamente la integridad física del artista marcial? ¿Merece la pena sobrepasar ciertos límites?
No estoy seguro de si hemos sido realmente pioneros. Supongo que seguramente alguien debió trabajar antes que nosotros Real Contact Stick Fighting…
¿Qué significa “realismo”? Lo que hago yo no es una pelea real. El contacto es real, sí. Y el dolor también es real. Eso seguro. Pero en los Dog Brothers peleo con amigos, no con enemigos. Por lo tanto, no tengo experiencia en peleas “reales”.
Es verdad que lo que hacemos es peligroso y no es para todo el mundo. No obstante, cualquiera puede aprender de la experiencia que tenemos en “RCSF” sin arriesgar su salud. El conocimiento también se puede adquirir sin riesgo de sufrir graves lesiones.
Pero también creo que uno puede aprender y prepararse de forma bastante segura para pelear en un Gathering. Hay una manera de navegar por nuestra locura.
Existe la teoría de que muchas técnicas recogidas en el repertorio de las A.M.F. son movimientos que surgieron espontáneamente en el campo de batalla y que, a medida que avanzaban por su efectividad en ese momento especifico, comenzaron a ser entrenadas regularmente. Sin embargo, algunos son muy críticos con la validez de muchas técnicas ¿Crees qué es una cuestión de técnicas o de cómo se entrenan las técnicas?
Definitivamente es más importante cómo se entrenan las técnicas. He podido constatar cómo técnicas aparentemente “estúpidas” funcionaron durante una pelea porque su entrenamiento fue inteligente. Y vi buenas técnicas que no funcionaron debido a cómo fueron practicadas. Soy muy cauteloso a la hora de criticar un arte marcial específico. Muy a menudo, se trata de cómo se entrena una técnica y de si los practicantes creen en ella.
Sin embargo, a mí me gusta seguir un enfoque científico. Es decir, primero planteo una hipótesis: una técnica, una estrategia, etc., y luego la pongo en práctica en combate. Pero, además, también tiene que ser replicada por otras personas. Sólo entonces puede considerarse que esa técnica o estrategia es válida.
Tú pasaste bastante tiempo en U.S.A. aprendiendo directamente de Marc Denny ¿Cuál es el mejor recuerdo que tienes de tu estancia allí? ¿Y el peor recuerdo?
Tengo muchos recuerdos fantásticos, la mayoría de ellos de mis peleas en Gatherings. La adrenalina, el estrés, el miedo, la intensidad hace que esos recuerdos sean inolvidables. En mis primeros Gatherings no hablaba inglés, pero había mucha comunicación de corazón a corazón…
Es evidente que existe un riesgo en RCSF ¿Cómo lo gestionas? ¿Algún marco común?
La pelea es caos. Puedes intentar controlar ese caos o fluir con él de la misma forma que un surfista cabalga una ola. Mi enfoque es encontrar formas de controlarlo….

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Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Receiving Kind Words
« on: October 12, 2022, 08:05:02 PM »
Maybe some things here.  Of course, there is also the UFC letter.

Martial Arts Topics / Re: Zapata's Howl
« on: September 27, 2022, 01:41:21 PM »
I went to the National Akita Dog Show in Virginia Beach last week.  It would seem the time for my third Akita approaches.

Martial Arts Topics / Great civvie assist
« on: July 27, 2022, 02:19:11 PM »
Ignore the relentless advertising.

Martial Arts Topics / Re: Riots and Resistance
« on: June 14, 2022, 07:25:08 AM »

Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude
« on: May 20, 2022, 09:39:50 AM »
And we are grateful to have you back!

Martial Arts Topics / Re: Rambling Rumination: Odin's Eye
« on: May 01, 2022, 06:54:36 PM »

Martial Arts Topics / Re: KALI TUDO (tm) Article
« on: April 28, 2022, 01:34:36 PM »

Martial Arts Topics / Nope
« on: February 28, 2022, 05:54:50 PM »

Espanol Discussion / Guro Dan Inosanto
« on: December 18, 2021, 02:18:11 PM »

Espanol Discussion / Canada, Mexico, and America's Reality
« on: November 09, 2021, 06:34:36 PM »
November 9, 2021
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Canada, Mexico and America’s Reality
By: George Friedman

The United States lives in a fundamentally unique geopolitical reality. It’s the only major power that doesn’t face the risk of a land war, so it doesn’t need a massive force to defend the homeland. Instead, it can concentrate on maintaining control of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. If it retains control of the seas, the only threat to the United States would be air and missile attacks. These are not trivial threats, but they are far more manageable without having to worry about an invasion by land or sea. The United States itself has offensive options it can indulge in – even if it doesn’t always use them prudently, and even if it leads to defeat elsewhere. The U.S. has not faced a foreign presence on its soil since the 19th century. Even nuclear weapons are countered by mutual assured destruction, which has protected the U.S. homeland for over half a century.

This happy condition is the foundation of American power. During the harshest of wars, World War II, where much of Europe and Asia was torn asunder, the American homeland remained untouched. This is such an obvious fact that it tends to be neglected.

So too are the geopolitical reasons behind American security. Any attack on the United States must either be an amphibious assault from across the sea or a land assault from either Canada or Mexico. The U.S. fought numerous times with Mexico in the 19th and very early 20th centuries, and in the 1960s, the Quebec independence movement prompted fears in the U.S. that an independent Quebec might align with the Soviet Union. But today, neither country can attack the U.S. itself, hence the first layer of American security. The second layer is that neither country wants to align with powers hostile to the United States. Had Germany secured their allegiance in World War II, or had the Soviet Union in the Cold War, or had China in the past few decades, the risks to American security would have soared, and the U.S. invulnerability to war on the homeland would have evaporated. American history would have been very different, along with the history of humanity.

Therefore, in any discussion of American strategy and of its strategic priorities, the most important issue is not the South China Sea or NATO but the maintenance of relations with Canada and Mexico. It’s true that at the moment each country has an overriding interest in maintaining their relationship, for reasons ranging from trade to social links. It’s also true that the United States could impose its will militarily on either country. However, waging war on neighbors is dangerous and exhausting. America is a global power pursuing global interests, and its domestic stability would be the first casualty of a land assault against Canada or Mexico.

On the surface, this whole line of reasoning sounds preposterous. But the fact that it seems so arises from the misconception among Americans that the current relationship with Canada and Mexico is unchangeable, and thus requires no care. But one of the most obvious observations of history is the speed at which the apparently obvious dissolves and a new normal takes its place. Given the overwhelming importance to the U.S. that neither neighbor shift its national strategy, the comfortable assumption of continuity is perhaps the most reckless element of U.S. policy. Certainly, there is no current danger of a shift, nor any danger on the horizon. But this is precisely the time when a prudent power devotes significant attention to an issue. Reversing a shift in policy is far more difficult than preventing one.

There are forces driving the U.S. apart from these two countries, countries that are not in a position to cause a break, but which in the future, when other issues are added to them and enticing new relationships show themselves, might change the equation. In the case of Canada, the manner in which the United States canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that was important to Canada, signaled a profound indifference to Canada’s interests. There was little consultation, no offer of compensation, nor any attempt to create an alternative project. By itself, this is not enough to cause a break with the United States, but it certainly reminds Canada that Washington sees it as subordinate to its interests rather than as the object of its interests.

In the case of Mexico, the U.S. obsesses over immigration, an issue that is nonessential to Mexican interests. There has been a surge of migrants at that border, most on their way to the United States, but all creating significant problems on their way north. The United States views Mexico as a source of illegal immigration. Mexico sees the problem of immigration as having its origin at Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala. Mexico has therefore requested American help in closing its southern border, which has been refused. Instead, Mexico is demonized for the immigration the U.S. will not help stop. (I have no interest in the question of which country is right. All such matters are complex, and every nation is certain that another nation is at fault.)

For the United States, obsessing without alienating either Canada or Mexico is essential to its national interest, if not its national policy. The physical security of the United States and its trade system depends on these two countries. A rational policy of extreme awareness of their internal processes and a willingness to indulge their needs even to the disadvantage of the United States is a low-cost, high-return policy. When someone takes a client to lunch, he picks up the tab, even if the client has ordered the most expensive items on the menu. The cost of lunch is vastly less than the business you will get.

The most interesting part of geopolitics is that a current state of affairs feels eternal. Nothing in geopolitics’ past should give anyone that confidence. Maintaining a beneficial status quo requires effort, painful until the alternative is considered. But since the belief is that nothing will change, then no effort is needed. The U.S. is a dominant global power because its homeland is secure from attack. Its homeland is secure because Canada and Mexico secure it. The failure to understand that they have options – and are far from exercising them – means their treatment is determined by America’s passing interests. From a geopolitical point of view, this is understandable: Power blots out vulnerability. From a policy standpoint, it ignores reality.

Martial Arts Topics / A sociological study of the Dog Brothers
« on: November 06, 2021, 09:52:03 AM »

Espanol Discussion / GPF: Long term US strategy for LA
« on: November 01, 2021, 03:54:38 AM »

No tomo muy en serio las propuestas sugeridas, pero la descripcion de los problemas tiene valor en mi opinion:


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A Long-Term US Strategy for Latin America
The pandemic created unprecedented problems in the region at a time when Washington’s ability to help is severely constrained.
By: Allison Fedirka

When U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted last month that the U.S. had a mixed record on improving civilian security in Latin American countries, the region did a double-take. Security cooperation, even direct intervention, has been the cornerstone of U.S. engagement with Latin America. When it works, it’s a low-cost approach that leaves spare resources and energy for Washington to project power across the globe. But the economic and social disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the region, interacting with existing security threats to pose new challenges to the United States. The U.S. is responding with a new approach that also emphasizes social and economic development projects, which it hopes will not only reduce immediate security threats but also support longer-term goals like reducing power vacuums, strengthening the region’s economic ties with the U.S., and securing the U.S.-aligned regime structure.

Past the Tipping Point

Nearly all the countries in Latin America were poorly equipped to deal with the pandemic. Large segments of the population lacked access to adequate health care; few workers could perform their jobs remotely; and governments lacked the funds for massive social spending or recovery projects. The region’s economy contracted nearly 8 percent in 2020 – well above the 3 percent global average – and economists expect it will take nearly a decade to recover. Making matters worse, many of these countries were facing severe socio-economic difficulties even before the pandemic, like organized crime, forced displacement, lack of formal employment and natural disasters. The pandemic pushed many states past the tipping point.

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Latin American governments’ difficulties meeting the needs of their population had three major consequences. First, organized crime groups stepped in to ensure economic activity, food distribution and other public needs, especially in remote areas. These groups also offered employment opportunities at a time when jobs were hard to come by. As organized crime gained a stronger hold in these areas, attacks on local communities, turf wars and displacement increased. Second, public trust in government was severely damaged. Nearly all leaders in the region saw their popularity drop, with several facing calls for impeachment. With their power diminished and populations disgruntled, politicians became vulnerable to the influence of foreign powers offering economic relief or political support.

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Finally, migration pressures in three separate areas overflowed and collided in Central America, en route to the United States. The Northern Triangle region (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) is most familiar to Americans because of its prominence during the Trump administration. A second wave involves people from Hispaniola fleeing Haiti’s latest political crisis. There are also migrating Haitians who previously settled in South America, primarily Brazil and Chile, after the 2010 earthquake. Deteriorating conditions in those countries have pushed the migrants north toward the United States. Finally, Venezuelans have been leaving their country in droves in recent years. Many of them settled in Colombia, but with Bogota saying it cannot host any more and other governments in the region prioritizing their own citizens, many Venezuelan migrants are now looking to make the trek north as well.

The simultaneous occurrence of increased migration, stronger organized crime and regionwide political instability poses a formidable security threat to the United States. Though elements of this activity have always been present to some degree in the region, the current magnitude and scope go well beyond previous levels. An adequate U.S. security response would require a massive mobilization of resources at a time when the U.S. is trying to reduce military commitments, manage an unprecedented economic recovery and unify a deeply divided public. Furthermore, these types of operations provide only short-term relief at best. Washington needs a strategy that also addresses long-term threats while minimizing costs.

A New Approach

In recent weeks, the U.S. government has signaled a shift in its engagement strategy with Latin America that integrates a much stronger socio-economic focus to complement security efforts. The first clue came in early October when Mexican officials announced the end of the Merida Initiative, the linchpin policy for U.S.-Mexican security cooperation, and the start of a new stage of cooperation. Shortly thereafter the two countries held their High-Level Security Dialogue, which ended with a joint statement declaring the decision to take a more holistic approach to security. The parties pledged more indirect efforts like working with at-risk youth, reducing drug use and jointly combating arms trafficking. Mexico City had long lobbied for this approach, but Washington had resisted.

Similarly, on Oct. 25, the U.S. government announced a new strategy for combating drug trafficking in Colombia. The objective is to strengthen the government’s presence in rural communities, support the incomes of legal businesses and eliminate coca production. There are other indications of a shift in U.S. strategy in other parts of Latin America. During an Oct. 20 speech in Quito, Blinken said the U.S. had focused too much on addressing the symptoms of organized crime and relied too much on working with security forces rather than addressing root causes. Many communities have come to rely on organized crime to stimulate economic activity. It’s difficult to convince people to leave organized crime without providing them an alternative source of income, especially when their former “employer” relies on violence to keep people in check. The Biden administration wants to correct this, Blinken said, and to create economic opportunities that will weaken organized crime over time.

Migration is another area where a security-focused approach may provide temporary relief but not a permanent solution. People leave their countries for many reasons. Addressing physical insecurity and political turmoil must be part of the solution, but unless the economic situation improves, those problems will invariably return.

Foreign Threats

A final element of Washington’s new approach has less to do with Latin American instability itself than with what hostile powers could do with it. In June, the U.S. said fighting corruption, both domestically and internationally, was a core interest for U.S. national security. Corruption and authoritarian government go hand in hand, Washington argues, and undemocratic regimes divert resources away from economic growth. This is directly relevant to the post-pandemic economic and political landscape in Latin America.

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Disillusionment with Latin American governments’ inability to deal with the pandemic’s fallout has added fuel to preexisting questions about democratic governance. This trend poses a long-term threat to the U.S., which promotes and relies on democratic regimes worldwide. It also raises the possibility that governments in the region will look to nondemocratic powers like Russia or China for assistance if that gives them a better chance of holding on to power. By stressing the links between corruption, economic development and democracy, Washington is trying to make the case for like-minded, pro-U.S. governments in the region.

Funding plays a critical role in any economic development project, and for that the U.S. has relied on its International Development Finance Corp. Washington set up the DFC in late 2018 as part of its response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In Latin America, DFC efforts have focused primarily on providing financing for small and midsized businesses. The DFC can also invest in large infrastructure projects, and it encourages the participation of foreign partners.

Its strength is also a potential weakness: its dependence on private-sector cooperation to execute development projects. The DFC offers longer investment horizons, U.S. government funding upfront, protection against currency inconvertibility, and insurance against expropriation and political violence, all in an effort to attract investors. Without private participation, the DFC lacks the funds to make a serious difference in Latin American economies. The potential benefit of this model, however, is that it allows U.S. companies to gradually increase their presence in Latin America, boosting economic growth in a sustainable way while reinforcing long-term economic ties with the United States.

By giving socio-economic development a more prominent role in U.S. strategy toward Latin America, the U.S. is redefining how it engages with the hemisphere. Security operations will always be needed to deal with immediate threats, but a sustainable approach requires attention to the underlying causes of instability and violence. Doing so now, before the scale of the threats is too great or the costs too high, is key to Washington’s continued ability to project power around the globe.

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