Monthly Archives: October 2012

A Booming Business: Brazil and China in the Small Arms Trade


by Brazil China Relations

When we talk about Brazilian exports, often the image that comes to mind is that of ships laden with soya beans, iron ore, and footwear.  Yet Brazil increasingly ships out another competitive export: small arms. Revolvers, pistols and rifles leave Brazilian ports, typically under a shroud of secrecy. And the business is doing quite well: Brazil is the world’s fourth largest exporter of small arms, after the US, Italy, and Germany. Within this category of conventional weapons, Brazil exports more than Russia and China.  There’s probably a lot more going on, with sightings of Brazil-made grenades, tear gas canisters, and cluster bombs abroad. But when Brazilian arms and munitions exports do receive media attention, it tends to concentrate on major equipment, such as the A-29 Super Tucano airplanes (great not only for patrolling borders but also in anti-insurgency operations) that Embraer recently sold to Angola, Burkina Faso and Mauritania for US$180 million earlier this year.

According to Abimde, a major industry group that brings together 170 companies, around US$1 billion of the total US$2.7 billion generated by the industry comes from arms exports. The actual figures, as SIPRI and the Small Arms Survey point out, are likely much higher.  The industry benefits from the lack of arms trade regulation: the Arms Trade Treaty has generated more controversy than progress (the appointment of Iran as vice president of the conference didn’t help). The ironic result: trade in soybeans is regulated, whereas that of pistols is not.

Another boost to Brazilian arms manufacturer’s exports comes from government support. Not only does the arms industry receive significant subsidies and special rules, all arms exports must be approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and inspected by an Army agency. As for who ends up actually using these arms, and for what, both the industry and the government then washes its hands of any responsibility. That was more or less what happened when Brazil-made gas canisters were used by Bahrain’s repressive governments against pro-democracy demonstrators.Note the production/expiration dates on the canister picture below, right above the Brazilian flag: May 2011/May 2015.  These were freshly made, not long-stockpiled ammunition.

Much of the literature on Brazil’s small arms trade and related sales tends to focus on the major legal purchase of Brazilian arms, especially the gun-happy US market. But the industry has for years, probably decades, also sold arms to African countries. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact buyers, but there are some clues. Taurus, the major pistol manufacturer, mentions on its website that it exports to 70 countries, without listing the contracting partners. According to the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Trade (NISAT), from 1999 to 2009 alone, Brazil exported arms to South Africa, Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ghana, Ghana, Kenya , Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  There were also sales to other friendly regimes elsewhere, including Iraq and Iran. (Incidentally, if you haven’t played around with NISAT’s excellent Arms Trade Mapperhere is the link).

These flows are likely to increase. The industry association has already identified Africa as its next priority for market growth; a delegation from half a dozen Brazilian firms recently went scouting for new markets at the Africa Aerospace & Defence (AAD12) fair held in Tshwane, South Africa. Thanks in part to the proliferation of conflict, Africa offers (here let me paraphrase an enthusiastic announcement) “an enormous opportunity for arms manufacturers outside the continent.”

Of course, Brazil is not the only small arms exporter to brave these emerging markets. Chinese arms manufacturers also have their eyes on the same market.  The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that China is responsible for 3% of the global trade in conventional arms, but it is difficult to know just how large and spread out is the export of small arms. China continues to supply small arms and ammunition to Sudan, which is used in Darfur by both government and militia groups.  UN investigators have found China-made small arms in some of the same markets served by Brazilian arms exporters, including the DR Congo and the Ivory Coast. And, like Brazil, China hasn’t been too keen on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), an initiaive started in 2006 in response to grassroots campaigns. During negotiations, the Chinese government has tried to both narrow the scope and water down the proposed treaty.

So the arms sales continue, who knows how at exactly what pace, or to whom.

A booming business indeed.


Click here for original article.


Related Materials:  


Wezeman, Pieter, Siemon T. Wezeman and Lucie Breaud-Sudreau (2011) “Arms Flows to Sub-Saharan Africa” SIPRI Policy Paper 30, December 2011.

Dreyfus, Pablo,  Benjamin Lessing, Marcelo de Sousa Nascimento, and Júlio Cesar Purcena (2010)”Small Arms in Brazil: Production, Trade, and Holdings” Small Arms Survey Special Report.

Santini, Daniel e Natalia Viana (2012) “Brasil: Produtor e Exportador de Armas Publica.


Washington Post (2012) “China’s arms exports flooding sub-Saharan Africa

Small Arms Survey: Exporters


Threat to Freedom of Speech in Bolivia

Bolivia weighs regulating social media

From Gloria Carrasco, for CNN
October 26, 2012 — Updated 1013 GMT (1813 HKT)

La Paz, Bolivia (CNN) — A top Bolivian official has a stern warning for those who criticize President Evo Morales on social networks: He’s watching what they say, and taking names.

“I am always going online, and I am writing down the first and last names of the people who insult him on Facebook and Twitter,” Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said in remarks widely reported in Bolivian media this week.

The vice president’s comments have drawn sharp criticism from some free speech advocates. But lawmakers from Morales’ Movement for Socialism party say they hope to push a proposed law regulating social media through the country’s Congress.

More on free speech: Philippines top court restrains cyberlaw

Constructive criticism is fine, said Franklin Garvizu, a congressman from the president’s party. But officials have seen something more nefarious, he said.

“We are very worried because this is a case of systematically using communications mechanisms to plant hatred against the government, to harm the image of our president,” Garvizu said.

Bolivian opposition leaders have a different take. They say such comments show the government’s authoritarian aim to censor social networks.

“Obviously on social networks one cannot expect everyone to be praised. The opposition also receives insults from public officials, criticisms with no meaning, attacks, and it would never occur to us to block social networks,” said Samuel Doria Medina, who heads the opposition National Unity party. “That’s why we’ve recommended to the vice president that he gets an account, that he interacts (with people). He will learn a lot more about young people, and surely not everyone will applaud him, but some will agree with him.”

More on free speech: Press freedoms watchdog slams Turkish government

Word that the government is monitoring information on digital news websites and social networks, and weighing regulating them, sparked sharp criticism among some on the streets of the capital city of La Paz.

“It goes against all the rights, human rights, above all,” said Maica Guzman. “Where is freedom of expression?”

Others, like Cristina Perez, noted that the tone of discourse had gotten out of hand.

“No insult is good in any media,” she said. “I think people should respect each other, but also these people should respect us.”

Of Bolivia’s roughly 10 million residents, there are more than 8.7 million cell phone users iwith the ability to access Facebook and Twitter or download YouTube videos, said Eduardo Rojas, president of Bolivia’s Redes Foundation. There are about 1.7 million Facebook users nationwide, he said.

That means government officials, he said, should see social media as an opportunity government can join, rather than a threat.

Online, he said, “you can defend, promote and spread human rights, and on the other hand complaints.”

“It is a device that can be used to deepen democracy,” he said.

Click here for original article.


IISS Latin America and the Illusion of Peace

IISS Latin America and the Illusion of Peace.

By David R. Mares

Latin American countries embraced liberal democracy as the antidote to the past ills of military dictatorships, human-rights abuses and extreme poverty. Yet, more than twenty years on, states are still embroiled in armed combat with rebels who export their violence and traffic drugs across borders, threatening to draw neighbouring states into conflict with one another. Throughout the region, there is a tendency to supplement diplomatic action with military posturing. As ideological rivalries reassert themselves and competition for resources increases, so does the risk that political confrontation may once again get out of hand and destabilise regional relations.

The regional security architecture is not well-suited to controlling these risks, and neither the US nor Brazil is playing the role of regional mediator. Though few incidents have escalated to war over the last two decades, the shifting regional power balance, together with a rise in authoritarian government and growth in defence spending, give cause for concern. This Adelphi analyses the sources of inter-state conflict in Latin America and the potential policy options to tackle the region’s cycle of instability.

David R. Mares is Professor of Political Science and Adjunct Professor, School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego.

‘This highly useful survey of contemporary Latin American security demonstrates how growing sub-national security threats and persistent inter-state disputes combine to make military disputes more likely. Integrating domestic politics and international strategy, it provides a nuanced explanation for when and where states Latin America resort to force, and what regional states and international organisations can do to diminish the risk of war.’

Harold Trinkunas, Professor, National Security Affairs, Naval Postgraduate College, Monterey, California 

Guest post: beneath Chávez’s victory

October 15, 2012 8:15 pm by beyondbrics

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By Jennifer McCoy of Georgia State University

Most English-language commentary has attributed Hugo Chávez’s surprising 11-point victory in Venezuela’s presidential election on October 7 to oil-fueled public spending and “ventajismo” (incumbent use of state machinery to create an unlevel playing field and impressive mobilization), with some voters induced by fear of losing promised benefits to vote for the president. While all these factors contributed to the outcome, the analyses miss one additional factor explaining Chávez’ political longevity.

That factor is the intangible element of those voters who identify with a leader they feel for the first time has given them voice and dignity, emboldened them with his powerful message of inclusion and identity, and inspired hope and faith in his promises not only to make their lives better but to make them leaders in the world. These supporters fear being erased, becoming invisible, should their leader and movement lose power. In political science terms: in addition to a utilitarian vote, there is an affective vote.

Some believe these voters are manipulated or coerced by the president. But not all who voted for Chávez lack criticisms or are incapable of objective analysis.

Chavista base leaders told us they are very concerned about “rentiership” and the extreme dependency on oil (now accounting for 95 per cent of exports) that has deepened under Chávez.

They chafe at the intolerance of internal criticism and debate. Indeed, Chávez’s naming last week of candidates for governor, some of them locally unpopular, in a new “dedazo” without consultation, may harm the government’s chances in regional elections on December 16. These base leaders also criticize the lack of debate during the presidential campaign about drugs and corruption, viewed as a serious problem by chavistas and non-chavistas alike.

Amazingly, Chávez’s supporters do not blame him personally for the serious deficits of his government, blaming instead inept or corrupt ministers who keep the president in the dark. Chávez himself admits he has not overseen closely enough the details of his government during this past year of his illness. But this self-criticism simply reflects the consequences of an over-concentration of power in one person and the evisceration of independent institutions and accountability mechanisms in Venezuela.

Voters on both sides in poor neighborhoods waiting patiently in line to cast their ballot spoke of their willingness to accept the victory of either candidate and their ability to live and work together. Young voters in particular showed a maturity beyond the political elite as they expressed a desire for leaders to cooperate to solve the country’s serious problems and to end the vitriol and divisiveness.

Venezuela is at a crossroads. While Chávez’s victory promises more of the same – a deepening of the revolution, a strategy of confrontation and polarization, and economic dependence on a single commodity in a state-dominated economy – the strategy may not be sustainable for four reasons.

First is the continued uncertainty about the president’s health and whether he will decide to institutionalize his movement and nurture new leadership.

Second is the fragile economy, with a weakened private sector now “set on idle” in the face of a shortage of dollars and an overvalued exchange rate, forced to turn into retail importers rather than productive exporters.

Third is the new leadership emerging in the opposition – a new generation and a new message of unity and reconciliation, eschewing a return to the past. Enrique Capriles Rodonski showed true leadership in his speech three days after the election, when he rejected the unfounded rumors of fraud, called on his supporters to end their period of mourning, and lifted them up to continue “the road forward”, starting with the next round of elections in December. His immediate recognition of Chávez’ victory undercut the government’s messages of a recalcitrant opposition unwilling to recognize the will of the majority, and opened the door to a phonecall from Chávez in which the president referred to his opponent for the first time by his given name rather than an epithet.

Fourth, and most important in my view, is the still-elusive mutual understanding that could lead to a new social consensus based on respect and tolerance for “the other”. Social elites still have blinders when discussing the popular sector, unable to recognize the basic human drive for dignity and respect, beyond material concerns. Government leaders still believe they can only accomplish the change they promise by displacing and denigrating the prior social and political elite.

Chávez is a revolutionary leader, in the sense of one who makes a break with the past, destroying old institutions to allow for future change. After 14 years, the question remains whether the same individual can be the one to construct and sustain a new social and political order. The vote on October 7 provides the opportunity, and the necessity, for Venezuela’s government to reach out to those who favor dialogue and moderation to include them in the discussion of the future. The differences are not irreconcilable.

Jennifer McCoyis author of International Mediation in Venezuela and led a study mission during the 2012 elections. She is a political science professor at Georgia State University and Americas Program director at The Carter Center.

Click here for original article.  

IISS Chavez election victory fails to dispel doubts about future

IISS Chavez election victory fails to dispel doubts about future.

Venezuela’s recent presidential election campaign exposed deep political rifts in a country where President Hugo Chavez had grown accustomed to landslide victories. Although the opposition movement failed to strike a decisive blow to his hold on power in the October vote, nearly half the electorate embraced its narrative of a country in deep trouble. Economic mismanagement by the Chavez administration has brought growing criminal violence, inflation and a lack of food security, leading many to question the wisdom of his leftist ‘chavismo’ movement.

A newly formed coalition representing approximately 30 opposition parties, the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, mounted the most concerted effort to unseat Chavez since he took office in 1999. Led by Henrique Capriles, the energetic governor of Miranda state, the opposition made important strides, narrowing Chavez’s lead from 26 percentage points in 2006 to 11 in the 7 October poll, claiming 44% of the vote versus Chavez’s 55%.

During his election campaign, Capriles targeted popular concerns over the economy and discontent with the chavista movement, focusing on government mismanagement, corruption and inflation. An explosion at the largest oil refinery in the country in August, which left 41 people dead, gave Capriles further ammunition with which to castigate the government. He also promised to place limits on shipments of cheap oil destined for allied leftist governments such as Cuba, and to improve government efficiency while preserving many social programmes.

After the vote, he dismissed complaints that electoral fraud had taken place in favour of Chavez and announced that he would run again for the governorship of Miranda state in regional elections on 16 December. His decision suggested that he and the wider opposition coalition are waiting for internal divisions within the government and popular discontent over its policies to become more pronounced in the coming months and years.

Economic mismanagement
The key goal of Chavez’s reign has been to lift Venezuela’s masses out of poverty. Since 2003, up to 20 million Venezuelans are thought to have benefited from his misiones – a series of tightly controlled social programmes that seek to provide goods and services to the poor, from health and education, to kitchenware and flat-screen televisions (most of them are made in China and sold to Venezuela through bilateral agreements).

After decades of negligence by previous governments, Venezuela’s poor are unquestionably better off under Chavez. The country is now considered the ‘least unequal’in Latin America, with urban poverty falling from 48% to 28% since he came to power. However, high public spending, which was increased in the run-up to the elections, has led to spiralling public debt, and it is the poor who are most likely to feel the impact.

Even though Venezuela possesses the second-largest oil reserves in the world, and despite global oil prices exceeding $100 per barrel, revenue from the state-owned oil company PDVSA has not been sufficient to balance the government’s books. A large amount of government spending goes through off-budget mechanisms such as a national development fund known as ‘Fonden’, which is in charge of most state investment. These mechanisms make it difficult to measure the size of the hole in Venezuela’s public accounts. Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimated in 2011 that the total public deficit would almost double from 4.2% in 2011 to 8% of GDP in 2012; a July 2012 report by Barclays suggested the deficit would rise from 12.9% of GDP to 19.5% this year.

A series of laws has been passed to accommodate for this increase in public spending beyond the official budget. PDVSA has also been transferring large amounts of its income to Fonden and issuing debt in domestic markets to balance its budget. Meanwhile, transfers of dollars directly to social projects have depleted foreign-exchange reserves, which have fallen by 40% since January 2009 and hit a five-year low during 2012.

Most local and foreign economists agree that the situation is unsustainable, and that Caracas will be forced to curb spending if it is to meet its interest payments.

Meanwhile, inflation has become a severe problem. Though price-control measures brought it down to 11.5% during the first nine months of 2012 (compared to 26.1% in 2011, more than three times the South American average of 7.8%), during the 12 months from September 2011 prices grew by 19.98%, and the government’s own inflation target for the year climbed to 22%, one of the highest in the world.

Intended to tame inflation, food-price controls originally imposed by Chavez in 2003 have been tightened this year and have had a devastating impact on food production. Producers of 14 basic foodstuffs have been forced to absorb the costs of the scheme: they saw labour and transport costs rise by up to 200% between January and August 2012, but their ability to raise their sale prices was tightly limited. To ignore the controls might result in the expropriation of their land, but to accept them would risk bankruptcy. So while Chavez claimed during his re-election campaign that food production had increased by 70% during his 13 years in office, there was in fact an agricultural-production crisis going on. The production of food, drinks and tobacco fell by 9.4% in the second quarter of 2012, the fifth consecutive quarter of contraction; food production per capita in Venezuela is thought to have fallen by 32% in the last ten years.

Despite Chavez’s efforts, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the 12-month food inflation rate stood at 21.7% in July, more than double the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. Food imports have risen sharply as a result, though Caracas has denied suggestions that these account for 70% of all food consumed in the country.

Enduring popularity
Though Chavez’s margin of victory in the election was significantly smaller than in 2006, he still won in 22 of Venezuela’s 24 states. His strict control of a state media empire has enabled him to build a strong cult of personality. According to Venezuelan NGO Citizen Control, approximately 100 hours of his speeches were televised nationally between January and October.

But his flamboyant style has kept other members of his party, the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), away from the limelight. It is plagued by frequent infighting between high-ranking figures, while at a regional level at least ten of the 17 state governors loyal to Chavez face corruption allegations or have serious differences with their colleagues. Although Chavez’s personal appeal appears not to have been undermined by the population’s doubts about his fellow PSUV politicians, the future prospects of the ‘chavismo’ movement without him are poor.

The most prominent party member after Chavez, newly appointed vice president Nicolas Maduro, will also keep his previous post as foreign minister. However, he is considered much less charismatic. A March poll by Datanalisis, one of the most reliable polling firms in Venezuela, suggested that none of the key ‘chavistas’ would fare very well if they were to run in a presidential election against Capriles.

Chavez seems to be aware of the fragility of his movement, especially given the health problems that he has suffered. As recently as February 2012, he underwent surgery in Cuba for a cancer in the pelvic area, followed by radiotherapy. During his victory speech, the president referred to his government’s broken promises and pledged to ‘work harder, demand more from my team’ in order to ‘make the administration more efficient in the next six years’. Government inefficiency is a key source of popular discontent; Chavez has taken new measures this year to address this.

Fragile security apparatus
In a Venezuela without Chavez as its leader, not only would his political allies be thrown into disarray, but so too would the armed groups operating in poor neighbourhoods and the official government militias, all of which swear allegiance to Chavez and his ‘Bolivarian revolution’.

In the 23 de Enero slum in Caracas, ten armed groups with varying levels of loyalty to the Chavez regime are thought to be active. Though claiming to defend the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela with their weapons, they use them instead to set up checkpoints to enforce control over the local population. They have been linked to attacks against symbols representing the opposition, such as the privately owned Globovision television station.

Meanwhile, the Bolivarian militias are of particular concern, since they serve essentially as bodyguards for Chavez who, with a failed 2002 military coup in mind, protects himself from internal as well as external threats. All 125,000 members of the Bolivarian militias are affiliated to the PSUV, and were formally incorporated into the armed forces in 2009. (There are 115,000 personnel in the traditional military services.)

Apart from receiving guidance in the principles of socialism, Marxism and ‘revolutionary ethics’, the militias also receive military training and arms. To this end, Venezuela purchased 100,000 AK-103 rifles from Russia in 2005 and is now close to completing work on a factory in which up to 25,000 rifles could be produced indigenously each year.

But Venezuela’s refusal to release data on the spiralling number of weapons in circulation in the country, which according to estimates by the Venezuelan Observatory on Violence number 5–6 million, has raised concerns that the government has little control over the situation. The murder rate stood at 67 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011, double that of 2001 and one of the highest in Latin America. This increase in the number of homicides, along with reports of weapons belonging to a task force loyal to the defence ministry ending up in crime scenes in Venezuela, gives credence to such suspicions.

The growth in criminal violence, accompanied by declining food security and rising inflation, is likely to increase the public’s impatience with the ‘chavismo’ movement regardless of Chavez’s charismatic leadership. An increasing number of people blame flagship government policies, such as fiscal expansion and military build-up, for the fact that they cannot find the food they want at the local supermarket or walk the streets safely. Despite the positive impact for many Venezuelans of his oil-funded social programmes, he will leave a questionable legacy for his successors.

The State – Navy has become Mexico’s most important crime-fighting force

By Tim Johnson – McClatchy Newspapers

MEXICO CITY — When a naval unit recently gunned down the leader of the feared Los Zetas crime group, the clash took place in the dusty town of Progreso, 70 miles from the Texas border and hundreds of miles from any ocean, indeed, far from any area where one would expect a modern navy to operate.

But these days, Mexico’s navy is active deep inside the country’s interior, eclipsing the army as the go-to security force in the country’s war on organized crime. It is a transformation that not only highlights Mexico’s peculiar defense organization – which provides the navy its own ministry – but also highlights how the United States has worked to find dependable allies in its campaign to stop drug trafficking.

The navy’s rise is not without political risk, however. As the navy outshines the 200,000-member army, politicians supportive of the army could well move against it, even though several senior retired generals were arrested earlier this year for alleged links to organized crime.

“There is an inter-service rivalry, and I think it’s accentuated by the success of these navy elite units,” said Roderic Camp, a Mexico scholar at Claremont McKenna College in California and author of a book on the Mexican military. “There’s no question that it’s creating tension between the army and the navy.”

For decades, the navy was relegated to protecting Mexico’s offshore oil platforms and patrolling its two ocean coastlines. Its unit of marines was a token amphibious force, and in a strange overlap, it vied with five army amphibious groups.

Then, in 2007, as Mexico’s drug war raged, Mexico’s congress enacted legislation that, in the words of Mexican security analyst Inigo Guevara Moyano, allowed the navy “to operate throughout the country, even in landlocked areas.”

“Some landlocked states, such as Aguascalientes and Zacatecas, have asked specifically for the presence of the marines during times of crisis,” Guevara said.

Actions in recent weeks underscore how the navy has taken the lead in Mexico’s war on crime, beginning with the arrest Sept. 12 in Tamaulipas state of Eduardo “El Coss” Costilla, one of the top leaders of the Gulf Cartel. Two weeks later, naval units captured Ivan Velazquez Caballero, a commander of the Los Zetas crime organization so brutal that he was known as “El Taliban.”

Then on Oct. 4, marines captured Salvador Alfonso Martinez, a Zetas commander known as “The Squirrel.” Three days later, on Oct. 7, a naval unit struck the heaviest blow against drug traffickers since President Felipe Calderon took office in late 2006, killing Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, the founder and head of Los Zetas, apparently as he watched a baseball game at Progreso.

Curiously, despite its successes, the navy shies from foreign media. Its spokesman has declined since 2010 to speak to a McClatchy reporter, saying through an aide that he is too busy to answer questions.

“The navy is very sensitive to the fact that they are small and not as politically powerful as the army,” said Laurence L. McCabe, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

The navy’s close ties with U.S. agencies came to light Aug. 24, when Mexican federal police fired on a U.S. Embassy vehicle on a remote mountain highway. Two CIA agents and a Mexican navy captain were inside the armored vehicle, bound for a mountainside navy base.

What the three men were doing when they were ambushed has remained secret. The embassy later described the incident as an “ambush,” and authorities detained 14 federal police for suspected links to organized crime.


Somewhat uniquely, Mexico’s armed forces are divided into two separate Cabinet-level entities, with a naval secretariat overseeing the navy and a national defense secretariat in charge of the army and air force. The two secretariats rarely coordinate except on orders from the presidential office. They sometimes saw each other as foes.

“There were instances of shootouts,” said Richard Downie, director of the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies at the National Defense University in Washington.


The navy has one advantage in keeping its force free of organized crime: Unlike the army, naval infantry units have no fixed inland bases. That mean navy officers are not exposed as much as commanders of army bases to the plata o plomo (money or death) demands of crime bosses.

“They go in and out on specific missions. They are not subject to the corruption that comes when you are somewhere for quite some time,” Downie said.


Naval infantry units now number about 15,400 out of total navy force of 56,000, Guevara said. Of those, special forces units make up a brigade, perhaps up to 1,800 men.

“Given these numbers, the budget they have, the personnel they can deploy, they’ve been doing quite well,” said Guillermo Vazquez del Mercado, an independent security analyst who once worked for Mexico’s National Security Council.


Attitudes within the navy and army differ dramatically. Naval officers routinely seek graduate degrees and interact with civilians, while army officers remain deeply hierarchical and insular, experts say.

Camp, the Claremont McKenna professor who has lectured at both the navy and army academies, said naval officers pepper him with questions while army officers stay silent. Camp said naval officers are four times more likely to study abroad than army officers.

Mexico’s navy sent a permanent rotating liaison to the U.S. Northern Command, the Colorado-based unified military command that overseas activities from Alaska to Mexico, in 2006, years before the Mexican army followed suit. The navy also has liaisons in Key West, Fla., and Norfolk, Va.

Neither Mexico nor the United States has explained what kind of assistance the CIA may be providing to the navy, or indeed the level of intelligence that is offered.

“It’s no secret that we operate (unmanned aerial vehicles) on the border. We do electronic intercepts. That’s in the public domain. What is secret is what we obtain and who we share it with,” said McCabe, of the U.S. Naval War College.

“There’s a lot of folks that just don’t trust the army with intelligence,” he added.


Painted as “risk averse” in leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, Mexico’s army has battled corruption allegations for years. In May, prosecutors rounded up three retired army generals and a lieutenant colonel, later charging them with protecting the Beltran Leyva drug cartel.

One of the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks last year excoriated the army for not acting on U.S. intelligence on the whereabouts of Arturo Beltran Leyva, who was holed up in a mansion in Cuernavaca close to an army base. A naval unit later went in and killed the drug lord.

Mexican experts said the naval intelligence unit is honing its own skills in analyzing and gathering information.

“It’s on its way to (being) recognized as the most successful intelligence agency in Mexico, although I would not discard the Federal Police intelligence capabilities,” Guevara said.

Click here for original article.



NYT – Foreign Policy Debate’s Omissions Highlight Skewed Worldview


Published: October 23, 2012

PARIS — Debates are more about scoring points than elucidating problems, just as presidential elections turn more on perceptions of character than on policy promises. But even so, Monday night’s American presidential debate on foreign policy presented a skewed vision of the world, even one defined by American national interests.

Iran was mentioned more than 45 times, Israel and China more than 30 times each, Afghanistan 29 times andMali at least four times. NATO was not uttered, and Europe was referred to only once — in a list of allies reeled off by President Obama — and the euro and its crisis were not mentioned at all.

Mitt Romney did, however, state twice that he would not let the United States and its domestic debt go the way of Greece.

Issues that Mr. Obama highlighted earlier in his term, like nuclear nonproliferation and the problems of climate change, were barely mentioned. In fact, the word climate was not to be found. Mexico was not mentioned, either, and it is pretty close to home. There was no discussion of the progressive decline of the West in terms of global trade or of the rise of competing ideologies, like China’s autocratic capitalism, that challenge Western ideas of liberalism, human rights and the power of the individual.

Even Russia and the success or failure of Mr. Obama’s “reset” policy and the administration’s failed bet on former President Dmitri A. Medvedev barely got a mention. And there seemed to be a general denial, suggested Barthélémy Courmont, a political scientist, of what is a common analysis, which is the inexorable weakening of American global influence, as countries like China, Brazil and India begin to wield greater regional and economic power. “At a time when a growing number of analysts ponder the decline of the United States,” he wrote in the French newspaper Le Monde, the candidates engaged in “self-persuasion, to insist on the ‘necessary’ character of American power.”

In general, there was a sense among analysts and observers outside the United States that these were two intelligent, competent candidates who do not differ overly much on the central issues of foreign policy and were actually debating with domestic constituencies in swing states foremost in mind.

The debate over Iran and Israel was really about Jewish voters in Florida, while the debate over China was really about jobs in Ohio and the Midwest, noted François Heisbourg, a special adviser at the Foundation for Strategic Research, based in Paris. And that makes perfect sense in a tight American presidential election, where most voters do not consider foreign policy a priority, Mr. Heisbourg said.

“The balance was more toward 9/11 than the pivot to Asia,” Mr. Heisbourg said. “There was more about risks and threats than friends and allies. Both spoke in a Hobbesian world as tough characters willing to deal with monsters out there, not as people spreading the gospel of working with friends and allies to make the world a better place or spreading U.S. influence to help people get along.”

Le Monde said on its Web site, “For each question, the two candidates came back to the economic situation of the country, proof that this is the electorate’s main preoccupation.”

Mr. Obama even spoke of China as an “adversary,” although he said it was also “a potential partner in the international community if it’s following the rules.” Mr. Romney said essentially the same thing, speaking of confrontation over trade and not about working with China on issues like North Korea, Pakistan and Iran. For Mr. Heisbourg, “Both were wrong on China, portraying it as an adversary, but each got the message across about defending jobs in Ohio.”

Not surprisingly, the attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans last month in Libya was an important topic, leading to an essentially roundabout discussion of Syria, where Mr. Romney’s sole difference with Mr. Obama was his willingness to provide arms to the rebels. But both agreed that no American troops should be used against Syria.

But given all the praise of the successful intervention in Libya (the vital — even leading — roles of France and Britain went unmentioned), there was no discussion of why what was a powerful motivation for American intervention in Libya is not relevant in Syria, where many more people have been killed by another “dictator.” That is a question that absorbs many in the Middle East and Europe, however complicated the responses.

There was hand-wringing about the progress of radical Islam, both in chaotic countries and through the ballot box, as a result of the turmoil of the “Arab awakening.” But there was little specificity about causes or cures.

There was no mention, let alone discussion, of the role of Turkey or its dilemma as a Muslim nation sharing a border with Syria, no discussion of the aging royal family ofSaudi Arabia and its sponsorship of radical and conservative Islam, no mention of Somalia or Islamist threats to allies like Jordan and Morocco. There was a glancing reference to thePalestinians, but no discussion of their divisions, of the role of Hamas, of the separate status of Gaza, of the weakening grip of Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement, of what might happen if and when Mr. Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, leaves the scene.

And there was no criticism of Israel, its settlements or its occupation of the West Bank. Mr. Romney did say that Mr. Obama had not visited Israel as president even after his 2009 visit to Cairo in which he pledged a new era in relations with the Muslim world.

Mr. Obama responded with descriptions of an earlier visit as a legislator, but Mr. Romney missed an opportunity to respond tartly, for even top Obama aides concede that failing to go quickly to Israel after Cairo to make a similar speech and then calling for a “settlement freeze” in East Jerusalem, instead of in the larger West Bank, were errors.

Even on the question of American military strength, there was little debate other than numbers. Mr. Obama is right that the United States has more aircraft carriers than any other nation, and got off a good line about bayonets and horses and the game Battleship. But the United States is reported to have only 11 carriers, and carriers are increasingly vulnerable to more sophisticated longer-range missile attacks.

As for Europe, the lack of attention made perfect sense. Europe is an ally, not a policy dilemma, and the crisis of the euro zone has been technical, lengthy and tedious, and seems to be losing steam. America’s own debt problems dwarf those of Europe.

But the French daily Libération asked: “And what about Europe? It isn’t far from Australia in the competition for the status of the most forgotten continent.” But silence was good for Europe, the paper said. “At least the euro crisis isn’t brandished by Obama as a major source of economic trouble for America, and Romney has stopped making ‘European socialism’ his campaign scarecrow.”

On the Internet and on Twitter there were thousands of reactions to the debate. But speaking for many was @jonathanwatts, a Latin American correspondent for The Guardian, who wrote: “Obama won this debate. World lost. Apart from 5 mins on China, it was all Middle East. Where was LatAm, Europe, climate?”

Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting.

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