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.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Weekend News Review - FARC, Customs corruption, and grenades

1) Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said that if the FARC keeps quiet and avoids any skirmishes with anyone for "three or four" months, then he will consider peace talks.

Up until now, Uribe has been staunchly against talking to the FARC. History has shown that the FARC is not always the most honest negotiators. But that was when the rebel army was much stronger. In its weakened state, peace might not be a bad idea.

Semana article here.

2) One of the conclusions of the 20th annual meeting of Interpol (held in Chile this year) was that Al-Qaeda (or any terrorist organization, really) could infiltrate Latin America because of lenient or in some cases (Ecuador and Nicaragua) non-existent immigration controls.

Of the 150 million or so annual visits to Latin America from other countries around the world, only 50 million passports are scanned, according to Ronald Noble, Interpol Secretary General.

Interpol is specifically worried about Central America.

3) Texas authorities seized some $120,000, gun parts, and "grenades" from a car headed south on Interstate-35, according to the San Antonio News.

Obviously the grenades are interesting. My sources mostly agree that grenades used in Mexico come from Guatemala. To sell grenades in the US, a merchant must operate a class two license, I believe, which is a very strict legal regime.

The article notes these grenades are "improvised".

4) A 34 year-old Customs agent was arrested this past Friday (April, 3rd) on charges that he arranged to "wave immigrant and drug smugglers through his inspection booth for money." If convicted he could serve up to 35 years in prison - ouch!

As a Sheriff in southern Arizona recently told me, this is a "sin of omission." To break the law, these men don't actually do anything. It's what they don't do - i.e. stop a car stuffed with coke - that breaks the law. To wave the right car and receive thousands a week for doing so, with little chance of apprehension, so long you don't flash the money or act out, is a tough thing to turn down. I often wonder about this kind of "soft" corruption, and whether or not the border is littered with these guys...

5) Not surprisingly, Chihuahua State Governor, Jose Reyes Baeza, was attacked on 22 February. One of his bodyguards was killed during the attack, and two were wounded. Two of the men allegedly responsible were arrested in the city of Chihuahua on 31 March. They were caught with AR-15 rifles stolen from the wounded bodyguards.

This news only came out in English on 5 April... That in itself is interesting.

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