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Security Brief: SOUTHCOM and B/L, Week of January 10, 2022

Week of Monday, January 10, 2022 | Issue 1

Benedetta Piva, Stacey Casas, Jhamil Moya, SOUTHCOM Team; Beatriz Adell Quesada, Angeliki Siafaka, Behavior/Leadership Team


Demonstration against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)[1]


Date: January 12, 2022

Location: Colombia

Parties involved: Colombian government; United Nations (UN) Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba; Rural communities; Colombian children; The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); FARC dissidents; National Liberation Army (ELN)

The event: On January 12, 2022, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, spoke on the issue of child recruitment by armed militant groups in Colombia. Despite a decrease in violations against children in Colombia since the signing of the 2016 Peace Agreement between the FARC rebels and the Colombian government, children continue to suffer from the impact of hostilities. Violations include their recruitment and abuse by armed groups, and their killing and maiming during military operations.[2] Between 1996 and 2016, more than 18,000 children were forcefully taken to join guerrillas in Colombia.[3] Colombia’s rural communities have been disproportionately targeted by FARC and ELN rebels.[4] Families from Arauca, a key region for drug smuggling to Venezuela,[5] are migrating to other Colombian regions, fleeing the war between FARC dissidents and the ELN.[6]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Children are almost certainly particularly susceptible to radicalization due to their young age making them impressionable. Child soldiers likely witness and commit violence from a young age, and likely connect their identity to the mission and ideology of the extremist group, likely making it more challenging for them to leave it. Both FARC and ELN are very likely to continue recruiting children because they can serve as the next generation of soldiers, likely helping ensure the longevity of the group. As such, continued child recruitment is very likely to contribute to the conflict’s perpetuation.

  • Given the FARC-ELN war, kidnapping of minors will very likely continue in the Arauca region. It is very unlikely that the conflict will end in the short term given Arauca's importance for drug smuggling. As guerrillas continue to take children by force, security issues will very likely increase, causing a rise in social unrest.

  • A return by any rebel member back into the community, even if they are children, will very likely cause fear, rejection, or resentment among citizens. This will very likely make reintegration back in society difficult for former rebels, likely causing many child soldiers to return to the guerrillas to subsist.

Date: January 12, 2022

Location: Latin America

Parties involved: Latin America; Chilean government; Chilean President Gabriel Boric; Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado; El Salvador President Nayib Bukele; Millennials; Conservative parties

The event: Latin American politics are undergoing a generational turnover in favor of so-called “millennial politicians.” In December 2021, the first Millennial president of Chile, left-wing 35-year-old Gabriel Boric, was elected. Costa Rica elected Carlos Alvarado, the youngest president in Costa Rican history, in 2018, while El Salvador elected 38-year-old Nayib Bukele in 2019. Millennial politicians are more prone to defying stable party affiliations, often switching parties or creating new ones to advance their political careers.[7]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Latin America’s generational political turnover will very likely lead to an increase in the number of political parties. Increased party fragmentation will very likely make it harder for single parties to gain absolute majorities. As political coalitions will almost certainly be needed to govern, Latin American governments will likely be composed of a wide range of dissimilar parties. This will very likely make it harder to reach consensus.

  • As many South American governments share the same political agenda as the new Chilean administration, they will almost certainly try to establish relationships with the Boric Administration, likely affecting the power balance between left- and right-wing South American countries. This will likely bring increased social movements in right-wing countries in the region by citizens calling for economic and political reforms.

  • With older generations of politicians aging out of politics, countries such as Chile and El Salvador will very likely encounter fresh perspectives in the form of progressive policies. However, efforts by younger elected officials to change the political environment will likely lead to backlash from conservative parties. This will very likely hinder said officials' ability to enact changes within their countries.

Date: January 13, 2022

Location: Russia

Parties involved: Russian government; Russian President Vladimir Putin; Latin American countries; US government; US President Joe Biden; US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan; The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); Russian negotiators; China

The event: On January 13, 2022, a top Russian official refused to rule out military deployments to Cuba and Venezuela if tensions with the West over Ukraine continue to escalate. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan dismissed the statements as “bluster in the public commentary,” also stating that if Russia did move in that direction, the US would deal with it “decisively.”[8] To date, the US remains the largest trading partner to Latin America and the Caribbean.[9]

Analysis & Implications:

  • While it is unclear whether the Putin Administration is planning to send military deployments to Latin America, their public reminder of this possibility very likely seeks to induce NATO to suspend its military activities near the Russian border for fear of conflict escalation. However, Western perceptions of “bluster” regarding the Russian statement indicate that it is unlikely that the US will curtail its activities regarding Ukraine. Russia’s reminder will likely affect ongoing talks’ progress that aim to resolve the tensions between Ukraine and Russia, likely delaying the process of reaching a diplomatic solution.

  • The US will likely take economic action against countries allying with Russia as China’s growing influence in the Latin American region is almost certainly causing political concern in the US government. Being one of Latin America’s major trading partners, the US will very likely implement economic pressure, such as increased economic sanctions in both Cuba and Venezuela, to deter these countries from allowing the Russian military to enter. If the US enforces economic sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela, it is likely neighboring countries who are US allies, such as Brazil and Colombia, will increase their own sanctions as well. Increasing economic and political tensions in the region would almost certainly hinder economic development as trade barriers reduce economic growth.

  • If Russia were to move troops to Latin America, countries like Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Ecuador would likely give them political support at the international level, which would almost certainly complicate the US’ influence in a region with strong leftist tendencies.

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[1] "No + FARC" by Camilo Rueda López licensed under Creative Commons

[2] Colombia: Children still ‘used and abused’ despite historic peace accord, United Nations, January 2022, https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/01/1109662

[3] Las FARC reclutaron a más de 18.000 niños como soldados en Colombia, El País, August 2021, https://elpais.com/planeta-futuro/2021-08-12/las-farc-reclutaron-a-mas-de-18000-ninos-como-soldados-en-colombia.html (Translated by Jhamil Moya)

[4] Rural Colombian groups seek help from new US gov’t amid violence, Al Jazeera, January 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/23/rural-colombian-groups-seek-help-from-new-us-govt-amid-violence

[5] Fighting intensifies in eastern Colombia, at least 23 killed, Border Report, January 2022, https://www.borderreport.com/politics/fighting-intensifies-in-eastern-colombia-at-least-16-killed/

[6] A Cúcuta están llegando desplazados de Arauca, Vanguardia, January 2022, https://www.vanguardia.com/colombia/a-cucuta-estan-llegando-desplazados-de-arauca-AE4732442 (Translated by Jhamil Moya)

[7] Millennial politicians are shaking up Latin America. Here’s how they differ from the old guard., The Washington Post, January 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/01/12/latin-america-millennials-presidents/

[8] Russia threatens Latin America troop deployments amid US tensions, Al Jazeera, January 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/14/russia-threatens-latin-america-troop-deployments-amid-us-tensions

[9] Latin America & Caribbean Trade, World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS), January 2022, https://wits.worldbank.org/CountrySnapshot/en/LCN

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