Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

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Reads of the Week: a New Peruvian President, a New U.S. Security Directive, and Some Old Lessons from Colombia

by Shannon K. O'Neil
July 28, 2011

Peru's new President Ollanta Humala is sworn in to office in Congress in Lima (Mariana Bazo/Courtesy Reuters).

Peru's new President Ollanta Humala is sworn in to office in Congress in Lima (Mariana Bazo/Courtesy Reuters).

As President Ollanta Humala assumes office today, it looks as if he has chosen to emulate Lula rather than Chávez. His cabinet is full of moderates, and some even see it as leaning center-right. While growth is expected to continue at about 6 percent, the new administration will face many challenges, in particular security and the increasing presence of transnational crime, as well as high levels of inequality.

This week the Obama administration released a new directive on combating transnational organized crime (TOC). Among its 56 “priority actions” are new and deepened efforts to stop the money laundering and flows supporting these crime networks. New tools include barring TOC members entry into the U.S., freezing assets and other financial sanctions. The document also expands the role of the Justice Department and FBI in investigating transnational crime more generally. Still, many of the nearly five dozen items seem little more than aspirations– such as the commitment to “stop the illicit flow from the United States of weapons.” But generally, this revamped strategy and more focused game plan is welcome.

Finally William Rempel’s new book, At the Devil’s Table, showcases the role one individual can play in the fight against drug cartels. This gripping read chronicles the life of Jorge Salcedo, a Colombian engineer that rose to be head of security for Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, a godfather of the Cali cartel during its heyday. The tale tells the true story of Salcedo’s introduction to crime, his rise within one of the most powerful drug cartels in the world, and the actions he ultimately took to help bring it down. It shows the power of one courageous individual, but also the challenges of going it alone in the belly of the criminal underworld. While the Cali cartel is now gone, others have willingly taken its place, and Colombian coca and cocaine continue unimpeded.

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  • Posted by Geiler Vargas

    Sobre el nuevo presidente del Perú; como peruanos todavía seguiremos de cerca sus acciones, un tema que debería llamar la atención es que en su primer acto público – Jurar como Presidente del Perú – haya juramentado sobre “el espíritu” de una Constitución caduca como lo es la Constitución del 79; y el problema que acá radica, es que existe ambivalencias entre las acciones que vino tomando en éstas últimas semanas (elegir sus ministros, la mayoría de tendencia como Ud. bien lo describe de tendencia centro derecha) y el “espíritu de la Constitución del 79” que es de una tendencia más de participación del estado en el aparato productivo del país….

    Al parecer los peruanos tendremos que continuar sin saber hacia donde nos llevará este nuevo presidente…Que Dios nos acompañe.

  • Posted by J. Reed Brundage

    The “new” strategy is only more of the same-old same-old “war on drugs,” even though the Obama administration says it is no longer fighting a war. And it makes clear the motivation for continuing this war, now re-labeled as a fight against “transnational criminal organizations”, the new government-speak for the drug cartels.

    The president’s introductory letter says, “…this strategy is organized around a single, unifying principle: to build, balance, and integrate the tools of American power to combat transnational organized crime and related threats to our national security”

    The War on Drugs – and this “new strategy” – is all about the delusion of power, the misguided, false belief that the issue of drug consumption, by making it a crime, can be conquered by the powers of the state.

    Power will never resolve an issue of human desire. I urge you to read, ‘Illicit Globalization on the Border: Drug War and Transnational Crime

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