This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Iran-Venezuela Balance and Ice in Mexico

This is number 16/2006 and is the last publication for 2006. Voting for December's monthly survey will continue through the holidays until the first week of January. Our report on the FARC's international networks is complete. You may download it here. Please feel free to send in any comments or questions that may arise as you review the report.

In this edition:

Hugo Chavez has won another 6 years in power. It is likely he will remain Venezuela's ruler for much longer. And his cloak of democracy ensures continued protection from any unilateral efforts made by the United States to threaten his regime.

There are at least three triggers that would dramatically increase the threat that Chavez poses to the United States. The first two are well established: oil and nuclear weapons. If Chavez cuts off oil or develops a nuclear program, peaceful or otherwise, he will invoke Washington's ire.

The third trigger is a closer relationship with Iran. For now, this relationship appears to be balanced. But this may change if Iran chooses to pursue closer military ties with Chavez to deter America's efforts to undermine Iran's position in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, activity in Mexico indicates a strong government response to ever increasing drug trafficking operations in Mexico's southwestern states. In the middle of December, Mexican authorities seized some 20 tons of chemicals in Michoacan. Much of the chemicals were on their way to methamphetamine super labs in Michoacan that have risen since US government efforts to shut down meth labs in the United States. These efforts have resulted in a serious problem with meth addiction in Mexico. And in Michoacan organized crime has declared a war on anyone who produces, distributes or sells meth in Michoacan. In 2007, this state may become the center of a dramatic increase in violence.

Finally, as the year draws to a close, many journalists and analysts have tabled ideas for what to watch in 2007. Of the various items under consideration for close observation, I would consider Venezuela's relationship with Iran, the growth of Mara Salvatrucha street gangs, the Colombinazation of Guatemala, and Mexico's "cartel wars" to be the most important to regional security.
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