Hondurans elected self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” Xiomara Castro to be the country’s first woman president. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, the populist president who was removed in a coup in 2009, Castro pledges to revive his program—and take it much further, instating far-reaching reforms. Castro also announced that she will “open diplomatic and commercial relations with continental China,” which was widely taken as meaning a switch of diplomatic recognition. Honduras is currently one of only 14 countries that recognize Taipei rather than Beijing. It is tragic to see the Central American republics, in their struggle to break free of Washington’s orbit, acquiesce in Beijing’s design to incorporate Taiwan into its own orbit—or, more ambitiously, its national territory. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)
Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador met with Trump at the White House to inaugurate the new trade treaty that replaces NAFTA. Embarrassingly, the meeting was punctuated by horrific new outbursts of narco-violence in Mexico. And the country’s promised cannabis legalization—mandated by the high court and looked to as a de-escalation of the dystopian drug war—is stalled by a paralyzed Congress. (Photo: Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana)
In an unprecedented move, a Colombian judge gave President Ivan Duque 48 hours to suspend the participation of US troops in counternarcotics operations. The legal challenge was brought after 53 soldiers from the Pentagon’s Southern Command arrived as part of a “Security Force Assistance Brigade.” When opposition lawmakers protested that they had not been consulted, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo told Congress he didn’t need their permission. Left-opposition Sen. Ivan Cepeda responded by taking the matter to the Cundinamarca Administrative Tribunal. The judge ruled that if Trujillo wants the US troops to continue their operations he must either receive permission from Congress or successfully appeal the ruling within 72 hours. (Photo via Colombia Reports)
The United States government is “committed” to “dismantle” Colombia’s remaining significant guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), federal prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger said. The US attorney for the Eastern District of Virgina made the comment after he and six other federal prosecutors met with President Ivan Duque on a visit to Bogotá to discuss cooperation “to fight narco-terrorism.” Terwilliger said the Colombian government “counts on the full support of the United States Department of Justice in the common cause to destabilize, decimate and ultimately dismantle the ELN.” The guerilla group has been active since 1964 and is currently believed to have 4,000 fighters. The ELN was engaged in peace talks with Duque’s predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, but the talks were suspended by Duque when he took office a year ago. (Photo: Colombia Reports)
The first mission of the new security force created by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will be blocking migrants on the Guatemalan border, evidently part of a deal struck with the Trump administration. Mexico has pledged to deploy up to 6,000 National Guard troops to its southern border in an effort to avoid Trump’s threatened tariff on all exports to the United States. The deal was announced as Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard is leading a Mexican delegation in talks with White House officials in Washington. Mexican officials said that 10 National Guard contingents of 450 to 600 troops each will be assigned to the border with Guatemala by September. The deployment would represent a fourfold increase on the 1,500 federal troops currently patrolling the border. A further three units will be deployed to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico, to set up roadblocks and checkpoints to stop the movement of migrants. (Photo: Mexico News Daily)
Mexico’s new populist president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, announced that he is dropping out of the regional US-led drug enforcement pact, and will be turning down the aid package offered through the program, known as the Merida Initiative. “We don’t want armed helicopters,” he said, addressing Washington. Instead, he is proposing a dialogue with Washington on across-the-board drug decriminalization in both nations. Mexican lawmakers say they will pass a cannabis legalization bill by the end of the year. (Photo: El Txoro)
Despite his boast to have “ended” the drug war and pledge to explore cannabis legalization, Mexico’s new populist president is seeking to create a special anti-drug “National Guard” drawing from the military and police forces. Use of the military in drug enforcement was already shot down by the Supreme Court, but President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is going around the judiciary by changing the constitution. This plan is moving rapidly ahead—and meanwhile the military is still being sent against campesino cannabis growers and small traffickers.
Mexican federal police and the military have taken over policing duties in Acapulco, after the entire municipal force was disarmed due to suspected co-optation by criminal gangs. But the federal forces are also accused of endemic corruption and brutality. The country's National Human Rights Commission just accused military troops in Puebla of extrajudicial executions of suspected fuel thieves in a bloody incident in Puebla that left 10 dead. Meanwhile, a new Internal Security Law vastly expands the powers of federal troops operating in a domestic security capacity against the drug trade, and frees them from public oversight. Mexico's left-populist president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador is scheduled to take office Dec. 1 amid an escalating human rights crisis in the country. (Map: CIA)
Colombia has taken significant steps back in a hardline pro-Washington direction since the election of the right-wing Iván Duque as the country's new president last month. Shortly after Duque's victory, the government announced that it will resume aerial spraying of glyphosate on coca crops—this time using drones rather than planes, to supposedly target the planted areas with greater exactitude. The move comes in response to a new report from the White House finding that Colombian coca cultivation has reached a new record. Incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos also announced in the lead-up to the election that Colombia will formally join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a "global partner"—making it the only Latin American nation with NATO affiliation. (Photo: Contago Radio)
Several human rights organizations presented a report to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court concerning possible crimes against humanity committed by the Mexican Army in the context of its Chihuahua Joint Operation (OCCh). The report outlines the murders, torture, sexual violence and forced disappearances of more than 121 victims committed by the Mexican military in the state of Chihuahua that "have still not been investigated, prosecuted, or punished." The 2008-2010 OCCh was part of the military's drive against narco-gangs in northern Chihuahua state. (Photo: La Opción de Chihuahua)
Official figures reveal that narco-violence made 2017 the deadliest year in Mexico's modern history. The grim total surpassed that of 2011, when the militarized drug war of then-President Felipe Calderón led to 22,409 homicides. A total of 23,101 homicide investigations were opened in the first 11 months of 2017, according to figures from the Governance Ministry, which has been tracking the yearly kill count back to 1997. (Map: CIA)
Haiti's President Jovenel Moise is moving to re-establish the country's army after 22 years—in the name of fighting the narco-gangs, of course. Haiti has been without an army since 1995, when populist president Jean-Bertrand Aristide disbanded the military after returning to power following a coup. But veteran officers of the disbanded army were behind the 2004 coup that ousted Aristide for a second and final time. And some of these same veteran officers are themselves implicated in the narco trade.