Geopolitical Considerations of the NATO-Colombia Cooperation Agreement

Colombian Navy
Photo: Cristianmed230/Wikimedia Commons.

In June 2013, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Colombia signed a security cooperation agreement aimed at exchanging intelligence information in order to improve the capabilities on both sides of the Atlantic to face common threats, particularly transnational crime.  This accord was sent to the Colombian Congress in September and, at the time of writing, is still awaiting ratification. It should be noted that this accord has weathered criticism, in particular from several Latin American leaders who regard it as a potential NATO “beachhead” into Latin America. The objective of this article is to place this agreement into the proper context of Latin American geopolitical and geosecurity affairs.

The Agreement

The Security of Information Agreement between Colombia and NATO was signed on June 25, 2013 between NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow and Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno. The goal is to strengthen security relations between the Alliance and the South American nation.

According to media reports, Bogotá will provide the Alliance with its experience in combating drug trafficking and international terrorism, while “Colombia will allegedly receive intelligence information from NATO, as well as gain access to best practices in relation to transparency, humanitarian operations, and strengthening the army.” In September 2013, the Colombian Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs sent a bill to the Colombian congress to ratify the Bogotá-NATO accord. The document highlights how “an objective of Colombia is to strengthen cooperation with multilateral organizations and nations […] to guide the future vision of the Colombian armed forces.” Hence, closer relations with NATO are strongly encouraged.

Drug Control Policies are Changing: Why? And Why Has it Taken So Long?

Poppy field in Afghanistan's Helmand Province
Poppy field in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. Photo: U.S. Marines via ISAFmedia/Wikimedia Commons.

Administrations at local, national and international level are busy reforming laws, strategies and programmes for controlling psychoactive drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin. Many are challenging the principles of a set of international treaties developed and agreed upon during the 20th century, that had as their central principle the absolute prohibition of the production, distribution and consumption of a wide range of psychoactive substances for recreational (as opposed to medical or scientific) use.

While many authorities (most notably in the Netherlands) have turned a blind eye to aspects of the recreational drug market, or just did not have the resources to react, recent developments have been notable in that they are openly challenging the validity of the global drug control system. The Bolivian government has refused to continue complying with the global prohibition on coca leaf; two US states (Washington and Colorado) are in the process of setting up a legally regulated market for cannabis (and seem sure to be followed by others in the next few years); and Uruguay looks destined to become the first country to implement a national regime for the legal production and consumption of cannabis.

Review – Mexican Cartel Essays and Notes

Police take a suspected drug trafficker off a helicopter
Police take a suspected drug trafficker off a helicopter in Hermosillo in the state of Sonora, Mexico. Photo: Knight Foundation/flickr.

Mexican Cartel Essays and Notes is a collection of twenty-three Small Wars Journal (SWJ) articles supplemented by operational and tactical notes covering a variety of cartel-related subjects. With a preface by Major General (ret) Robert Scales and foreword by Texas Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples, this volume, edited by Robert J. Bunker, collates much of the extant material and analysis available on the Mexican drug cartels published in the El Centro section of the SWJ between 27 May 2011 and 30 November 2012. Mexican Cartel Essays and Notes follows an initial anthology, Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency (May 2012). It paints a consolidated picture of the effects cartels have on governments and social constructs. The influence of cartels on all aspects of Mexican life, and their ever-expanding influence on life in the Border States and deeper into the U.S. is frightening when viewed in context and within a single volume.
Dr. Bunker’s innovative approach and selected content reflect deep concern with the growing threat posed by cartels in light of the U.S.’s failure to provide secure borders for its citizens and states. Through the volume’s consolidation of the works of thirty-two contributing authors, the perspectives and analyses of the cartel problem therein are wide ranging, covering various issues such as diversified income streams, cartel conflicts with U.S. law enforcement, human trafficking, and government corruption. Fundamental to such an approach is the desire to produce a centralized source of information that can be utilized by multiple stakeholders: policy makers to inform decision making; academics to draw on for future research; and educators to inculcate the long-standing Mexican cartel problem into discussions on the realities of transnational crime, human and narcotics trafficking, and the spread of violence and corruption across international boundaries.

New Opium Elimination Plan in Myanmar

Opium poppy. Photo: Laughlin Elkind/Flickr
Opium poppy after harvest. Photo: Laughlin Elkind/Flickr.

A recent peace initiative in Myanmar’s eastern Shan State could play a key role in poppy eradication in a country which is the world’s second largest opium producer, experts say.

“It’s a very important milestone,” Jason Eligh, country manager for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Myanmar, told IRIN explaining a new plan to wean farmers off poppy in rebel-controlled areas. “It demonstrates a good starting point in developing trust.”

The plan, involving the Burmese government and its military, an armed ethnic group in Shan State, and UNODC, will allow survey staff into Shan State, responsible for 90 percent of the country’s poppy cultivation.

Despite past government efforts to rid the country of poppy, the rate of cultivation has steadily risen over the past six years, experts say.

Four Marijuana Moments

Nogales CBP officers seize shipment of marijuana.

Latin America and the United States have experienced what one could call a series of “marijuana moments” over the past few weeks. Given growing support for ending the senseless and bloody decades-long “war on drugs,” these signs of progress toward decriminalization and legalization should not pass unremarked.

The first moment took place during the Organization of American States’ annual General Assembly, held this year in Antigua, Guatemala, at the beginning of June. The OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, presented a report entitled “The Drug Problem in the Americas,” which had been requested by the region’s heads of state when they met at last year’s Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.

The report was drawn up by experts from almost all OAS member states, and was divided into two parts: an excellent analytical section, and a brief and somewhat exasperating chapter devoted to future scenarios. The document itself represents a watershed, because it provides the data needed for a scientific and empirical discussion of an issue that is too often debated in ideological terms.