Publication: The Military Balance 2014
05 February 2014
Drugs and insecurity
Organised crime and insurgencies continue to pose strategic threats to Latin American countries. In South America, insurgents and criminal groups presented serious challenges for state forces, particularly in Colombia, Venezuela and Peru. Heavy pressure from security forces in Colombia pushed powerful criminal groups to seek new routes for drug trafficking; Venezuela deployed its armed forces to the streets of the capital, Caracas; and Brazil, in response to increasing drug flows into the country, deployed troops internally in the country’s largest military deployment since the Second World War. In some countries, these challenges have spurred moves to enhance inventories and personnel numbers. Specifically tailored responses continue, often combining military and law-enforcement authorities. These still include military deployments in urban areas; they also include the creation of specialist units designed to combat criminal networks.
New forces and tailored responses
Last year’s Military Balance detailed the security response to criminal violence in Mexico (pp. 417–9). There, and in some Central American cities, the armed forces remain deployed to combat gangs. In December 2012, the new Mexican government of President Enrique Peña Nieto promised a new approach in the fight against criminal violence, with more emphasis on social and economic policies. However, the administration then announced that a new National Gendarmerie would be established to counter organised crime. The force was due to deploy in late 2013 with 10,000 personnel, but this was postponed until July 2014, and numbers reduced to 5,000. Though the gendarmerie will be a division of the federal police, it will also receive some military training. This has led some analysts to question whether the government’s security policies represent a substantial change from the military-led approach of the previous administration under Felipe Calderón. Meanwhile, the Public Security Secretariat – which was responsible for the federal police, among other units – was dissolved. The Interior Ministry absorbed its security responsibilities, with the aim of increasing cooperation between government agencies.