Sunday, August 30, 2015

E-IR: Review – The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

"The Man From U.N.C.L.E."
W. Alejandro Sanchez
E-International Relations
August 28, 2015
Originally published:

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Year of Release: 2015
The Man From U.N.C.L.E., released in August, has so far received mostly positive reviews and has performed well in the box office. While this action-comedy-spy film will not break any attendance records, it could be the start of a new espionage franchise. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is an entertaining production, but there are aspects regarding intelligence operations in the film that, from the perspective of international relations experts, should be discussed.
The Plot
A basic summary of the plot is necessary to properly assess the movie’s qualities and shortcomings from an international relations standpoint. [1] (Warning, this will contain plot spoilers).
The movie centers around two intelligence operatives, an American CIA agent, Napoleon Solo (played by Henry Cavill) and a Soviet KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (played by Armie Hammer).  The year is 1963, and the two agents are ordered to work together to locate a missing scientist suspected of working for an Italian corporation whose owners have ties with the Nazis. To make matters worse, the Italians are trying to develop a nuclear bomb. Solo and Kuryakin’s are charged with stopping the would-be terrorists with the help of Gabby Teller (played by Alicia Vikander), who is a relative of the aforementioned scientist.
Ultimately, the trio saves the day and foils the villain’s plan. Thanks to their successful mission, Solo, Kuryakin, and Gebber are told in the closing scene that they will now work for a new multinational intelligence agency led by a British agent: the United Network Command for Law Enforcement (U.N.C.L.E.).
An Underutilized Female Lead
Perhaps the biggest problem with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is the underutilization of the female lead, Gabby Teller. Apart from an exciting car-chase at the beginning of the movie and a couple of amusing jests, Teller does not play an important role in stopping the Nazi sympathizers. This marginalization is even more troubling when it is revealed that she is actually an agent for the British intelligence agency MI5, unbeknownst to the CIA and KGB.
The writers arguably did not give Teller a big role because the focus  was on Solo and Kuryakin; after all, they are the main characters of the film.
With that said, real-life female intelligence agents and informants have played an important part in intelligence agencies and operations throughout 20th century global conflicts. We cannot provide a comprehensive list of all female operatives, but one prominent name is Ethel Rosenberg, who, along with her husband, was executed in 1953 by the United States for providing Moscow with information on the atomic bomb. A more recent case is Anna Chapman (born Anna Kushchyenko), a Russian who migrated to the United States for espionage but was arrested, along with members of a spy ring, by U.S. authorities in 2010. She was returned to Russia as part of a prisoner swap. (For a complete list of female spies during World War I and World War II, click here). Teller does some undercover work, however it does not appear critical to the film’s plot; at least not as critical as that done by real-life female spies.
Aside from giving her greater importance in the espionage plot, the film’s producers could have allowed Teller to be more physically active (to add to the car chase scene and one quasi-fight with Kuryakin), considering that Cold War era spies would have been inspired by the heroines of World War II; known for their courage in the field. One major example is the New Zealander Nancy Grace Augusta Wake, AKA “The White Mouse,” who worked in occupied France for the Allies and at one point killed an SS Sentry with her bare hands.
Should The Man From U.N.C.L.E. get a sequel, Teller will hopefully play a larger and more pivotal role in future U.N.C.L.E. operations. This adjustment would be a respectful homage to the female operatives who risked their lives for their countries and governments, regardless of which side of the iron curtain they were on.
Joint Intelligence Operations
Another important feature in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. are intelligence services actively working with each other. The events in the movie take place in 1963, at the height of the Cold War after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. It would have been bizarre for the CIA and KGB to choose to collaborate, but the underlying idea is that the evil Nazi organization’s ambition to obtain a nuclear bomb is a threat that temporarily supersedes tensions between Washington and Moscow. In other words, the saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is the reason Solo and Kuryakin find themselves working together.
The idea of allies fighting against a common threat is, of course, nothing new. However, the idea of Washington and Moscow jointly countering a major threat in 1963 demands further analysis. One can certainly point to World War II, when the Allies and Russia united against the Nazi threat. Moreover, after the 9/11 attacks and the rise of Al Qaeda there was an (unfortunately brief) era of cooperation again between Washington and Moscow. For example, “on July 6, 2009, Moscow and Washington signed theMilitary Transit Agreement on regular transit of US military equipment and personnel to Afghanistan over Russian territory.” Finally, even though Cold War-era tensions have started to resurface, especially because of to Russia’s role in the conflict in Ukraine, Washington and Moscow have recently tried to promote intelligence sharing to jointly confront the Islamic State.
Around the world there have also been initiatives to combat common security threats between one-time foes. For example, there have been instances of collaboration between the Israeli Defense Forces and the Egyptian military to counter al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups; between the Israeli and Lebanesenavies in the Mediterranean; between the Pakistani and Afghan intelligence services to combat terrorism, and between Peru and Chile against money laundering and terrorism. In other words, there are precedents that indicate that the Hollywood imagined CIA-KGB partnership could have occurred.
Numerous analysts have discussed the necessity to share intelligence information, particularly to combat non-traditional global threats with “an international approach,” because it will bring different perspectives and help create more common vocabularies and decrease misunderstandings.[2] Some scholars also stress, “if you do not share information, you can have only marginal success in fighting global terrorism. On the other hand, by sharing information, you can also get burned … there is an unwritten rule, which is called ‘trust.’”[3]
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. portrays the necessity for two enemy states to put aside their differences in order to fight a different kind of threat: a non-state actor that wishes to obtain a weapon of mass destruction. That does not mean that Solo or Kuryakin fully trust each other, though, which is illustrated in a memorable scene where they throw the transmitters/recording devices at each other that they had placed in each other’s hotel rooms. Similarly, MI5 does not inform the CIA and KGB until late in the operation that Teller, who everyone thought was a civilian, is actually an undercover agent working for the British. In that sense, the movie is accurate, as even close allies will likely want to retain some intelligence information, even from their most trusted partners.
The U.N.C.L.E. Utopia?
One final aspect worth discussing occurs at the end of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. After the world is saved, a MI5 agent announces the creation of a multinational agency, U.N.C.L.E. The MI5 agent will be its director, and it will have the CIA’s Solo, KGB’s Kuryakin, and M15’s Teller as its agents. Presumably, Solo and Kuryakin’s respective bosses have approved this initiative. U.N.C.L.E’s objective is not specified in the film, though it can be assumed that it will deal with global security threats. (In the 1960s TV show, U.N.C.L.E.’s main adversary was another fictitious organization, called T.H.R.U.S.H.).
The idea of a multinational agency that will carry out security operations throughout the world has existed since World War II at various levels. For example, we have the United Nations (UN), which carries out peacekeeping (or sometimes peace-enforcing) operations in conflict zones around the world. Moreover, organizations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) have long discussed the idea of creating a standing army made up of their members. The closest the EU has come to achieving this goal is the creation of a Rapid Reaction Force. As for law enforcement, the International Criminal Police Commission, most commonly known as INTERPOL, was created in 1923 to promote police cooperation among its member states. There are also regional law enforcement initiatives, namely the European Police Office (EUROPOL) and the Latin American & Caribbean Community of Police Intelligence (CLACIP).
As for multinational intelligence operations, these are (unsurprisingly) more difficult to identify, but we know of the existence of a few; for example, there is the Intelligence Directorate of the European Union’s Military Staff (INTDIV) and the Join European Union Situation Center (SITCEN). Meanwhile, NATO has an intelligence division under its International Military Staff. It would not be inconceivable that other blocs of close allies may develop an intelligence branch. One possible example could be the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which has Russia and China as its two leaders and has been promoting security among its members to combat terrorism in Central Asia. This agency even has a security branch called the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure of SCO (RATS SCO). Nevertheless, there is too much distrust and too many competing interests between Moscow and Beijing for such an initiative to fully develop á la SITCEN or NATO. With that said, as with the CIA, MI5 and KGB in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., sufficient common external threats could bring two or more competitors together.
As for multinational intelligence agencies openly working with each other and carrying out operations, one well-known example is the controversial “Alliance Base,” a Paris-based organization that brought together countries like the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and other close allies.[4] The objective of the agency was to crack down on Islamic extremist elements.
The aforementioned examples demonstrate that multinational intelligence agencies like the fictitious U.N.C.L.E. can exist because they have in the past. Nevertheless, a major global security threat would be necessary to bring foes together to cooperate at the intelligence level, as this would mean discussing information (and sources of information) that agencies would probably prefer to not disclose (i.e. MI5 not informing the other agencies about Teller’s true identity). Moreover, the idea of intelligence supranationalism, or, to put it in U.N.C.L.E.’s terms, that a CIA agent will take orders from an MI5 officer (seemingly without having to consult his/her superiors at Langley first), is a concept that needs to be further researched. But given the covert nature of intelligence work by default, finding concrete examples to argue or not whether an U.N.C.L.E.-type organization can exist today would require significantly more information than is publicly available.
The U.N.C.L.E. Should Return
There has been no word yet whether The Man From U.N.C.L.E. will have a sequel, though one would provide, as one critic argued, the “zany fun, the unashamedly silly dialogue, the dryly delivered non-sequiturs, and the old fashioned sight-gag humor” featured in the first movie. From a cinema-goer’s perspective, it would be a welcome development to have an espionage franchise that does take itself seriously, á la James Bond, Jason Bourne and Mission Impossible (for the record, I am a fan of these series as well).
Moreover, at the scholarly level, it would be interesting to see more movies that take place throughout the Cold War, in order to analyze their plausibility in comparison to real events. For example, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. properly approaches the challenges of intelligence cooperation between two or more agencies in order to combat a common foe. There certainly have been many cases of this collaboration, including real-world rival governments that have put aside some of their differences as they recognize that, in order to fight a non-state threat, cooperation is key. On the other hand, the movie underutilizes some of its main characters, particularly the female lead; hopefully future adventures allow the Gabby Teller character to develop so she can properly portray the valuable role female intelligence officers played during World War II and the Cold War. As for whether a multinational intelligence and surveillance agency like U.N.C.L.E. could exist, there are modern-day examples, but these have been successful due to the close governmental relationship among its members, something that was lacking in the 1960s between Washington and Moscow.
Overall, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is an enjoyable movie for moviegoers in general; while for IR scholars, it will provide a fun opportunity to observe how many mistakes, or accuracies, the film depicts with regards to the real Cold War.

[1] There was a television show of the same name that aired in the 1960s. Parallels, or lack thereof, between the show and the movie will not be discussed in this review.
[2] Janine McGruddy. “Multilateral Intelligence Collaboration and International Oversight.” Journal of Strategic Security. Volume 6 / No. 5. Fall 2013: Supplement: Ninth Annual IAFEI Conference: Expanding the Frontiers of Intelligence Education. Article 24. P. 215.
[3] Katarina Zivanovic. “International Cooperation of Intelligence Agencies against Transnational Terrorist Targets.”  Consortium Quarterly Journal. Winter 2008. P. 139
[4] Dana Priest, “Help From France Key In Covert Operations,” The Washington Post, July 3, 2005.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Quoted in: The scary history and future of Brazil’s booming drone market

"The Scary History and Future of Brazil's Booming Drone Market"
By: Lorien Olive & Orlando de Guzman
August 24, 2015
Originally published:

Felipe Castro da Silva, an engineer and UAV coordinator with AEL Sistemas, slipped on a black sports jacket as we began our interview. He was talking about the Hermes 900 unmanned aerial vehicle—a UAV or, in more common terminology, drone. A young man with salt and pepper hair, Castro was in Rio de Janeiro’s sprawling RioCentro Mall to dazzle the 40,000 of attendees of the Latin American Aero and Defense Exhibition with details of of Brazil’s newest medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone. We were next.

“This UAV,” he said, “patrolled the Maracanã Stadium during the 2014 World Cup and will be used again during the 2016 Olympics.” Able to fly for 30 hours uninterrupted, the Hermes 900 can reach altitudes of up to 30,000 feet and is used mainly for surveillance, reconnaissance, and communications relay. From the ground, it is nearly undetectable, he said.

During the World Cup, Castro added, the drone was fitted with a Sky Eye sensor, whose 17 cameras allow security personnel on the ground to track activity in an area of 100 square kilometers. It also has high resolution sensors, able to identify license plates and even faces at 30,000 feet. In terms of its capabilities, the Hermes 900 is comparable to its more notorious American counterpart, the MQ-1 Predator drone.

AEL Sistemas, based in Porto Alegre, became a subsidiary of the Israeli company Elbit in 2001, at which time it began developing a new generation of Brazilian surveillance drones using Israeli technology. But the Hermes 900 was just one example of Brazil’s growing role in the booming global market for unmanned aerial systems. The LAAD expo’s interior was filled with them.
While the U.S. military’s use of deadly Predator and Reaper drones has dominated headlines, the popularity of UAVs among developing countries has gone largely unreported beyond the pages of defense trade publications. However, Alejandro Sánchez, research fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and one of a handful of researchers tracking the region’s drone boom, said in a recent phone interview that the relative low cost of UAV technology has put drones within reach of even the poorest countries in the Latin America. Indeed, several governments are already developing home-grown UAVs, including Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, and Mexico, which boasts the most affordable surveillance drone priced at a mere $600. Or, as Sánchez put it: “The era of the UAV in Latin America has arrived.”
How Mexico is becoming the drone capital of Latin America

Brazil leads the pack in attracting foreign technology and investment in unmanned aerial vehicles and systems. Its booming defense budget, forecasted to expand by US$10 billion to US$41.1 billion in 2020, has brought leading aeronautics companies to see Brazil as a growth engine for the industry.

In June 2014, Brazil also became the first Latin American country to export home-grown UAVs, when São Paulo-based Flight Tech announced that they won a contract with two undisclosed African countries for a fleet of FT-100 Horus Mini-UAVs.

Sánchez says one reason for Brazil’s rapid ascension in the drone revolution can be found in the history of the military dictatorship. Military rulers built on Brazil’s already formidable industrial prowess by nationalizing key sectors and investing significant state resources toward the development of a military industrial complex. Thus, the dictatorship of Brazil stood out from contemporaries in Chile and Argentina, by cultivating an international reputation as an exporter of quality weapons and aircraft. Embraer (Brazil’s state-owned aeronautics company), established by General Emilio Medici in the 1980s, is currently the 4th largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, after Airbus, Boeing, and the Canadian company, Bombadier. The Brazilian military’s also began its precocious experiments in drone technology in the 1980’s, more than a decade before any other Latin American country.

For many UAV companies, including American ones, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are appealing sites for research, development, and production: Brazil and its counterparts offer a highly unregulated airspace to companies fleeing the strict regulations of the American FAA. Brazil’s deregulated airspace, the absence of a rigorous permit system, significantly lowers research and development costs for foreign UAV producers. By investing in homegrown industry, licensing technology, and establishing local subsidiaries, foreign manufacturers are transforming the Brazil into a regional base of drone production for the world market.

According to AI Online, an aerospace and defense magazine, the sales contracts resulting from the 2015 LAAD show that U.S. companies were losing significant ground to international competitors. Despite the fact that the U.S. is home to 86 drone companies (more than double that of any other country), Israeli companies are currently dominating the global market for UAV technology. According to a 2013 Frost & Sullivan report Israeli companies are cornering sales in the developing regions, such as Africa and Asia-Pacific, with a particularly strong presence in Latin American markets due a legacy of robust arms trade between Israel and regional governments throughout the turbulent 1980’s. The U.S. government, meanwhile, continues to heavily regulate the sale of weapons to foreign buyers, especially those considered enemies or otherwise untrustworthy.

Embraer’s capacity to build more highly-sophisticated drone prototypes has greatly expanded in recent years due to healthy infusions of technology and capital. AEL Sistemas, Embraer’s joint venture with Avibras and Elbit, has rolled out not only the Hermes drones, but also the Harpia UAV, a surveillance drone designed to compete with the popular Heron model made by Elbit’s Israeli rival, IAI.

Not to be outdone, following this year’s LAAD, IAI acquired minority holding in the Avionics Services in 2014, as part of its strategic investment in the Brazilian defense market. Together, the two companies are developing the Caçador (Portuguese for hunter), a long endurance UAV designed for the rigors of patrolling Brazil’s vast Amazon rain forest.

Mega-events like the World Cup and Olympics have also been a bonanza for Israeli UAV makers and their Brazilian partners. All told, Brazil spent between US$850 and US$900 billion on high-tech security equipment for the 2014 World Cup, and at least US$350 million went toward a multi-stage contract to purchase fourteen IAI drones and accompanying equipment. And last October, IAI announced that it had won a $2.2 billion contract for security at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Not everyone is happy, however, with the increasingly cozy relationship between Israeli and Brazilian UAV companies. Only last month, the Rousseff administration publicly denied the existence of the Olympics security contract with IAI after labor and left-wing social movements raised complaints about the company’s troubling history of dealing arms to Central American paramilitary and counterinsurgency groups, including IAI’s founder Al Schwimmer’s role as middleman in the infamous Iran-Contra Affair. If the contract does materialize, however, IAI would join other major private-sector telecom and security companies that make up the Consorcio Brasil Seguro– the consortium responsible for security at mega events—in their effort to maximize the surveillance capacity of the existing drone fleet.

The possible uses of UAVs are endless, Alejandro Sánchez reminded us during our phone interview. Indeed, drones are already being put to use for many civilian purposes, including scouting for archaeological remains in the Amazon, irrigating crops in the arid northeast region, and surveying infrastructure in far-flung Brazilian states.

The Brazilian military and law enforcement have also embraced UAVs as versatile and cost-efficient mechanisms for surveillance. The use of drones for patrolling the country’s border, which spans nearly 10,500 miles and touches every South American country except Chile and Ecuador, has received massive national media attention. And Rousseff’s government has repeatedly held up UAVs as critical for national security, as well as Brazil’s growing aspirations to regional military dominance. Thus far, Brazil has tread lightly with its use of drones in surveillance, anti-smuggling, and counter-terrorism missions that cross its borders, especially for missions that involve the sensitive tri-border region where Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay meet. As a gesture of transparency and good will, Rousseff has insisted on adding code-of-conduct provisos to any bilateral agreement for drone surveillance. These agreements set basic standards for prior notification of cross-border flights, types of surveillance carried out, and data-sharing between Brazil and the neighboring country in question.

Such gestures seem to be paying off. Following the 2008 expulsion of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency from Bolivia’s coca-growing regions under allegations of espionage, Bolivian President inked an agreement with the Brazilian Air Force to begin cross-border UAV patrols. Hailed by both governments as a victory in regional cooperation in the on-going war on drugs, Bolivian law enforcement credited Brazil’s Heron I drones with spotting 240 jungle cocaine labs which narcotics agents were able to later destroy during a single month in 2012.

While the use of drones for border security and regional surveillance is a cause celebre for the Brazilian government, information about the use of UAVs in urban areas is much harder to come by. It is difficult to tell whether this is because the military is reluctant to use potentially invasive surveillance technology in densely populated areas or whether they are concealing the activities of urban UAV programs.

Nonetheless, there is some evidence that the use of drones is gaining traction among law enforcement agencies responsible for urban security. As early as 2012, Rio’s elite military police force, known by the acronym BOPE, began using UAVs for surveillance, according to the online trade magazine Piloto Policial. In the days before the World Cup opening in June 2014, Bloomberg News also reported the first confirmed instance of a UAV used in urban special operations, when the Israeli-made Heron drone’s heat sensors helped the federal police track a top drug kingpin, Little P, into the heart of Rio’s Complexo da Mare favela.

To find out more about the urban applications of UAVs, we caught up with Maurílio Nunes, a Major in Rio’s military police (BOPE) following his energetic presentation to fellow Rio law enforcement officers in attendance at LAAD. Nunes wore the all-black uniform of the military police, his shoulder emblazoned with the ominous BOPE emblem—a grimacing skull pierced by a dagger and two pistols crossed behind it. When we asked him about the use of drones for urban security operations, he responded that BOPE is committed to finding cost-effective ways to combat urban crime and civil unrest, and that drones would be a cheaper and safer alternative to helicopter surveillance of urban “conflict areas.” Despite indications to the contrary, however, he claimed that BOPE was not currently using or testing drones in urban areas. He cited legal restrictions on martial use of UAVs in populated areas. However, our research revealed that under current Brazilian law (AIC N 21/10, September 23, 2010) no such restrictions on UAVs exist, a conclusion confirmed by Alejandro Sánchez. Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Authority is racing to propose regulations ahead of the 2016 Olympics, but these new restrictions will apply to only commercial drones, and not police or military UAVs.
Standing in front of a large yellow sign that prominently displayed Rio’s iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer alongside the Hermes 900 as it glided over Maracanã Stadium during the 2014 World Cup, Felipe Castro concluded the list of the UAVs benefits by noting its substantial 350 kilogram payload. When asked, he acknowledged that the drone could theoretically be equipped with arms, but quickly followed up by saying that the Brazilian Air Force currently has no plans to weaponize UAVs.

Nevertheless, the very same tight-knit bond among military, research institutions, and private industry that makes Brazil so enticing to foreign UAV companies, is also the product of a violent legacy of military authoritarianism. In particular, the secrecy surrounding past military aggressions against freedom of press and expression fuels concerns about the potential abuse of drone technology in Brazil.

In an historic hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2013, Santiago Cantón, Argentine lawyer and executive director of Robert F. Kennedy Partners for Human Rights, testified that Latin American governments, and Brazil in particular, are being disproportionately targeted for the development and testing of drones for martial (rather than commercial) use. Cantón, and other experts on the human rights implications of UAVs, argued that the Brazilian military’s abysmal track record for transparency and accountability made the intensive development of drones for martial use a matter of great concern for the average citizen.

For his part, Alejandro Sánchez says that regulation, especially in terms of government accountability and the privacy of civilians, is one of the biggest uncertainties in the future of drones in Latin America. This is especially critical, he added, when Latin American governments make the leap toward weaponized UAVs. Presently, there are no international laws or treaties that govern the use or proliferation of armed drones. Only the broad terms of the Geneva Convention offer some guidance, but its language does not reflect advances in technology. Sánchez points out that groups such as the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are pursuing an international convention that would place pre-emptive restrictions on lethal UAV technologies, especially those with autonomous capabilities.

Ultimately, he predicts that “it’s likely not a matter of if, but when Latin American militaries will begin arming drones.”

One sign that weaponized UAVs may soon be a reality is an April article by Defense Web that South African drone company Desert Wolf would be courting Brazilian manufacturers at the 2015 LAAD in order to secure a regional base for production of their SKUNK riot control copter. As Tim Pool reported, the SKUNK UAV is equipped with non-lethal weapons such as pepper balls, paintballs, blinding lasers, and rubber bullets, and is touted by Desert Wolf’s managing director, Hennie Kieser, as a humane alternative to riot police because it removes human risk factors like error, fear, and anger from high-pressure scenes of civil unrest.

In an email exchange following the 2015 LAAD, Kieser told us that the SKUNK generated “huge excitement” among conference attendees. He added that while Desert Wolf continues to look for the best fit for its Brazilian manufacturing facility, they did receive an order for a fleet of ten SKUNK riot control copters, which will be delivered to their client in Rio once one additional feature has been installed. Kieser did not respond to follow-up requests for the name of the client and the additional feature.

Kieser has cited the 2012 Marikana massacre, a bloody clash between South African riot police and union members over labor conditions in a platinum mine, as inspiration for the creation of the SKUNK. Desert Wolf provided surveillance UAVs to the mining company during a chaotic confrontation that left 41 mine workers dead at the hands of security forces. Survivors of the Marikana massacre, along with international labor organizations and Noel Sharkey of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control campaign group, have publicly rejected Desert Wolf’s claim that the SKUNK drone would lead to more humane outcomes in the future.

Video credits:
Camera/Producer: Orlando de Guzman
Editor: Lorien Olive
Reporter: Tim Pool
Researcher: Lorien Olive

Music: Warner Library

Sunday, August 23, 2015


"U.S. SOUTHCOM vs. Narco-Pirates"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Center for International Maritime Security
August 21, 2015
Originally published:

The following is a guest post by author W. Alejandro Sanchez.  The author would like to thank CARICOM IMPACS for their assistance with this project.

On March 12, 2015, Marine General John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), testified before the Armed Services Committee about the security challenges that the United States and its Western Hemispheric allies face throughout the continent. In his Posture Statement, the general noted that SOUTHCOM is the U.S. military’s “lowest priority Geographic Combatant Command, hence the maxim ‘doing less with less’ has a disproportionate effect on our operations, exercises, and engagement activities.”

One particular focus of General Kelly’s remarks was transnational crime, specifically drug trafficking that originates in South America and crosses the Greater Caribbean towards the United States. There are several types of transnational crime occurring throughout Caribbean waters; due to space constraints, this commentary will only focus on the transportation methods utilized to move drugs throughout the Caribbean Sea and what this means for the security of the United States and its allies.

Low Priority & Insufficient Assets?
In his Posture Statement, General Kelly stated that Washington’s allies in the Western Hemisphere “are frustrated by what they perceive as the low prioritization of Latin America on our national security and foreign policy agendas, which is especially puzzling given the shared challenge of transnational organized crime.”It is not surprising that Latin America and the Caribbean are a low security priority for the United States, as the White House has had to deal with security crises elsewhere over the past years, such as the conflict in Ukraine, tensions with Russia, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Islamic State. Moreover, sequestration and other defense budget cuts have forced SOUTHCOM to try to do more, or at least the same as before, with less funds. The SOUTHCOM commander went on to explain how “force allocation cuts by the Services… are having the greatest impact… We are already feeling the impact at our headquarters, where we have implemented a 13% reduction in civilian billets and an 11% reduction in military ones.”
A similar situation is occurring with the U.S. Coast Guard, which has a wide area of operations in the

Caribbean. For the USCG, one immediate challenge is upgrading its aging equipment. Admiral Paul Zukunft, the Coast Guard’s Commandant, stated in April, “much of the Coast Guard’s infrastructure and many of our platforms are well beyond their service life.”

Both the SOUTHCOM commander and the Coast Guard Commandant have pointed out the challenge that transnational organized crime (TOCs), e.g. drug trafficking organizations, pose to U.S. security. General Kelly has highlighted the types of illegal goods that criminals are moving throughout the Western Hemisphere, like“drugs—including marijuana, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and methamphetamine—small arms and explosives, precursor chemicals, illegally mined gold, counterfeit goods, people, and other contraband.” Meanwhile, the Coast Guard’s 2014 security blueprint, the Western Hemisphere Strategy (WHS), explains how “organizations are able to quickly adapt to changes in their external environment, including everything from advances in technology to an increase in law enforcement activity… As maritime trade and travel have grown, criminal organizations have taken to the sea, using complex operations and tactics to avoid detection while in transit.” (Click here for an analysis of the Coast Guard’s WHS).

In other words, both Southern Command and the Coast Guard are well aware of the challenges posed by TOCs. However, defense cuts and other security priorities are affecting how well these agencies, among others, can play a role in improving security in the region. The United States’ Caribbean allies and extra-hemispheric partners (like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands) are actively working to crack down on Caribbean drug trafficking. However, given that the United States is the final destination for most of the drugs being moved around the Caribbean Sea, and given the still-limited resources of Caribbean states to stop drug trafficking through their territories (land and maritime), it would be ideal for U.S. security agencies to maintain a vibrant presence in the region, particularly since Caribbean drug trafficking entities have the funds, creativity, and willingness to constantly expand their methods of transporting drugs.

Narco-Methods of Transportation
As for criminals themselves, they are nothing if not (infuriatingly) resourceful and creative when it comes to thinking of new ways to move drugs across the Caribbean. As a disclaimer, I must highlight that one major obstacle with this analysis is that detailed information is sometimes not openly available regarding the specifications of narco-vessels. For example, U.S. Southern Command reported that the USS Kauffman, a frigate, interdicted 528 kg of cocaine aboard a vessel on June 17. Nevertheless, SOUTHCOM’s press release does not explain what kind of vessel it was, other than calling it a “narcotic-trafficking vessel in international waters in the Eastern Pacific” or a “suspected smuggling vessel.”

The information below about narco-vessels provide as much detailed information as this author has been able to find.

As part of my research for this report, I contacted the Implementation Agency for Crime And Security (IMPACS), a security branch of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM, an organization made up of 15 Caribbean states). CARICOM IMPACS explained that 80% of all illicit smuggling activity through the region that originated in South America is carried out through maritime means.
·         Speedboats / Go-boats: the standard method of transporting cargo. Just this past July, the Coast Guard cutter Dauntless, “along with the assistance of a Netherlands Coast Guard maritime patrol aircraft,”stopped a speedboat north of Aruba – on the vessel were six individuals carrying a cargo of 275 pounds of cocaine.

  • ·         Narco Subs: The evolution of narco-submarines over the past two decades is quite remarkable. The first narco-sub was stopped in 1993 and it had a crude design: it was slow and made up of wood and fiberglass. More modern narco-subs can be fully submersible, travel as fast as 11 miles per hour, with larger fuel tanks and space for cargo. Due to space issues, we cannot discuss the different types of narco-submarines. A comprehensive report by the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) entitled “Narco Submarines: Specially Fabricated Vessels For Drug Smuggling Purposes” discusses them in detail, including estimated costs, separating them from semi-submersibles, low-profile vessels, and submarines. These vessels have become alarmingly popular in recent years, as the narco-traffickers have sufficient funds to construct them. Case in point, this past June 18, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard intercepted a “semi-submersible craft” that was carrying the whopping cargo of 16,870 pounds of cocaine.

  • ·         Narco-Torpedos: One new technology is static narco-containers (AKA Parasitic Devices). The FMSO report defines them as “containers which are bolted or magnetically placed on the bottom of freighters and other large cargo ships by cartel and organized crime frogmen.”Narco-torpedoes were found on the hulls of ships going from Latin America to Europe in 2013. I have been unable to find current examples of such containers being utilized in the Caribbean, but it stands to reason that they could be utilized as well, particularly as there is a great flow of goods through Caribbean ports en route to the U.S. and elsewhere. Narco-subs and narco-torpedoes are the next evolution of drug trafficking in the region and, so far, there seems to be no limit to how large and equipped narco-subs can become.

  • ·         Inside cargo/fishing ships: Unsurprisingly, hiding contraband aboard vessels that apparently are carrying legitimate operations, such as fishing, continues to be an option for drug traffickers. For example, in early 2014 a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter operating out of a British Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel, the Wave Knight, stopped a vessel that was carrying 45 bricks of cocaine. This is a memorable mission, not solely because of the amount of narcotics seized, but because this marked the first time that a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter was launched from a British ship. That same year, on March 15, a fishing boat was seized off the coast of Panama. The U.S. Coast Guard investigated the vessel and found 97 bales of cocaine.

Finally, it is important to note that smuggling aboard vessels is more prevalent in some areas. CARICOM IMPACS explained to the author that smuggling among fishing vessels is common among members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (i.e. Dominica, Grenada or Saint Lucia) to French territories (i.e. Guadeloupe and Martinique) and Barbados. This is due to the fact that these nations have large fishing industries which are utilized as disguise for the flow of contraband.

  • ·         Narco-Aircraft: Planes and helicopters are also utilized for moving drugs, though they seem to be less common than maritime methods of transportation.  According to CARICOM IMPACS, air smuggling accounts for approximately 20% of narcotics shipments in the region, mostly around the Bahamas due to its geographical proximity to Florida (with Haiti and the Dominican Republic utilized as springboards between the two). Throughout my research for this report, I was unable to find recent incidents of air smuggling throughout Caribbean islands. A geographically close incident occurred this past May; a narco-plane, a Hawker twin-engine jet, crashed off the Colombian coast as it tried to flee from the Colombian Air Force. The aircraft reportedly left Venezuela and entered Colombian air space – authorities found 1.2 metric tons of cocaine among the wreckage. As for narco-helicopters, in 2013 the Costa Rican police cracked down on a criminal group that utilized helicopters to transport weapons and drugs along the country’s Caribbean coast.

The aforementioned list exemplifies how drug trafficking organizations employ a wide array of vessels and aircraft to move their contraband from South America, through the Greater Caribbean, and ultimately to the United States and Europe. Part of the reason for this variety is that drug trafficking groups use an “island hopping” strategy to move the narcotics – for example, a speedboat carrying cocaine may leave Venezuela and dock in Curacao; from there it will be put in another vessel until it reaches a different island, and from there it may be transferred a third time before it attempts to enter U.S. territory.

Shootouts At Sea?
One issue worth discussing is that most press releases that report on stopping suspicious vessels discuss the incidents as generally non-violent, or they are one-sided violent. At most, we hear about security forces that fire shots at suspicious vessels. For example, in January 2014, the aforementioned helicopter, launched from the HMS Wave Knight, fired warning shots at the suspicious vessel. “It was a unique and successful mission,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma. “We fired warning shots, and they tossed [the drug-filled] bails.” Meanwhile, a March 2014 operation included a Coast Guard helicopter shooting at the engines of a ship in order to stop it.

The interesting issue here is that both incidents include security personnel shooting at suspected drug traffickers but not the suspected criminals shooting back. There are some official videos available online of suspected drug smugglers being chased by U.S. security forces, but the footage seems to show the fleeing drug traffickers more than actively engaged in a firefight (video 1, video 2). Certainly, criminals have no problem shooting at security forces – just this past May, a Mexican military helicopter had to make an emergency landing when it was shot at by gunmen (three soldiers were killed). However, in the Caribbean, incidents of drug traffickers aboard speedboats shooting at security agencies appear to be less common (or at least, under-reported). Nevertheless, the possibility that drug traffickers could become more actively violent in order to evade capture–switching from a release cargo-and-flee strategy to actively shooting at security agents–is worrisome. (While this commentary focuses on drug trafficking, there is also an active weapons trade through Caribbean waters; hence it stands to reason that criminals could use weapons in their possession/cargo, such as rifles and handguns, to attack security agents trying to stop them).

Nowadays SOUTHCOM, U.S. Navy South/4th Fleet, and the U.S. Coast Guard must do “more with less” at a time when the U.S. defense budget is undergoing significant cuts, and, as General Kelly correctly points out, SOUTHCOM has the least priority of all the other U.S. military commands. On the other hand, drug trafficking criminals are constantly thinking of new, more ingenious ways to move their illegal merchandise across the Caribbean Sea. Spotting narco-vessels may become even more difficult in the near future, particularly if narco-subs become more advanced and if narco-torpedoes become more popular.

Moreover, drug traffickers may eventually decide to be bolder and shoot back at security forces rather than flee. This may be the case if a particular cargo is deemed as too expensive to be lost. I have been unable to find cases of narco-speedboats having built-in machine guns, but this is certainly a possibility.This is not meant as an alarmist declaration but rather an assessment of how the situation is evolving in the Greater Caribbean.

Concluding Thoughts
In his March 2015 Posture Statement to the Armed Services Committee, General Kelly declared,“I am frustrated by the lack of a comprehensive U.S. government effort to counter the [transnational organized crime] threat.” Documents like the 2014 Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere Strategy similarly explain the problem posed by TOCs, including those involved in drug trafficking, and the steps that can be taken to counteract them. The challenge nowadays for SOUTHCOM and the Coast Guard is having a budget that allows for the necessary personnel and equipment to carry out these objectives. General Kelly stated, “If sequestration returns in FY16, our ability to support national security objectives, including conducting many of our essential missions, will be significantly undermined. “

The goal of this analysis is not to imply that the U.S. government should give SOUTHCOM and/or the Coast Guard a blank check for obtaining new weapons. Nor should Washington solely focus on stopping the transportation of drugs through the Caribbean, while dismissing the other sides of the drug-equation, which includes demand (in the U.S. and European markets) and production (in South America). Rather, while the demand and production remain (unfortunately) vibrant, the interdiction of illegal narcotics among the various narco-corridors of the Greater Caribbean must remain a priority for SOUTHCOM and its supporting agencies like the Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, just like it is a national security priority for Caribbean nations and regional security agencies like CARICOM IMPACS.

While Washington does not regard developments in Latin America or the Greater Caribbean as a security priority (at least not comparable to developments elsewhere in the world), criminal organizations, particularly drug trafficking entities, continue to operate in areas like the Greater Caribbean. The list of vehicles used to transport drugs through that region demonstrates how drug trafficking groups continue to imagine creative new methods to move their illegal merchandise. Moreover, the rise of the narco-submarine is a problematic development as these vessels could become harder to spot in the near future, particularly as narcos have the funds to support their construction. The seizure of a narco-submarine just this past July is a clear example that narcos have not given up on these vessels.As General Kelly said, “criminal organizations are constantly adapting their methods for trafficking across our borders.”

W. Alejandro Sanchez is a Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) where he focuses on geopolitics, military and cyber security issues in the Western Hemisphere. Follow him on Twitter: @W_Alex_Sanchez

Presentacion: El analista de COHA, W. Alejandro Sánchez, da una presentación en la Academia de la Policía Nacional de Colombia

"El analista de COHA, W. Alejandro Sánchez, da una presentación en la Academia de la Policía Nacional de Colombia"
Bogota, Colombia
Agosto 20, 2015

El jueves 20 de agosto, W. Alejandro Sánchez, analista del Consejo de Asuntos Hemisféricos, dió una conferenci, via Skype en la Escuela de Postgrados “Miguel Antonio Lleras Pizarro” de la Policía Nacional de Colombia (PNC). El título de la presentación del Sr. Sánchez fue “¿Es que los movimientos violentos latinoamericanos, hoy en día, tienen una ideología política?” La audiencia incluyó a más de 200 oficiales de la PNC.

El Coronel Luis Ernesto García Hernández, director de la escuela de postgrados de la PNC, dió un mensaje introductorio.

El Sr. Sánchez ha llevado a cabo una extensa investigación acerca de las ideologías políticas y las motivaciones de los movimientos violentos latinoamerianos, pasados y presentes. Ponemos a continuación una lista de algunos de sus artículos sobre este tema:

  • Alejandro Sánchez. “Give War a Chance Revisited – The Price to Pay: The Military and Terrorism in Peru.” Defense Studies. 2011. Volume 11, Issue 3. Pages 517-540.
  • Alejandro Sánchez. “Sangre Joven: Understanding the New Wave of Armed Groups in Latin America.” Security and Defense Studies Review: Interdisciplinary Journal of the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies. Volume 12, No. 1 & 2. Fall-Winter 2011. P. 135 -153.
  • Alejandro Sánchez and COHA Research Associate Kimberly Bullard. “On Separatism in Latin America.” e-International Relations. May 20, 2013.
  • Alejandro Sánchez. “Defining Mexico’s Zapatista Army of National Liberation.” E-International Relations. October 22, 2012.
  • Alejandro Sánchez. “The End of Ideologically-Motivated Violent Movements in Latin America?” E-International Relations. September 24, 2012.

Presentation: COHA Senior Research Fellow W. Alejandro Addresses Colombia’s National Police

"COHA Senior Research Fellow W. Alejandro Addresses Colombia’s National Police"
August 20, 2015
Bogota Colombia

On Thursday, August 20, COHA Senior Research Fellow W. Alejandro Sánchez gave a conference via Skype at the “Miguel Antonio Lleras Pizarro” Academy of Graduate Studies, part of Colombia’s National Police force (Policía Nacional de Colombia – PNC). The title of Mr. Sánchez’s presentation was: “Do Latin American Violent Movements Nowadays Have A Political Ideology?” In attendance were over 200 PNC officers.

Colonel Luis Ernesto García Hernández, the director of Colombia’s police academy, provided introductory remarks.

Mr. Sánchez has carried out in-depth research regarding the political ideologies (or lack thereof) and motivations of Latin American violent movements, past and present. Some of his articles on the topic include:

  • Alejandro Sánchez. “Give War a Chance Revisited – The Price to Pay: The Military and Terrorism in Peru.” Defense Studies. 2011. Volume 11, Issue 3. Pages 517-540.
  • Alejandro Sánchez. “Sangre Joven: Understanding the New Wave of Armed Groups in Latin America.” Security and Defense Studies Review: Interdisciplinary Journal of the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies. Volume 12, No. 1 & 2. Fall-Winter 2011. P. 135 -153.
  • Alejandro Sánchez and COHA Research Associate Kimberly Bullard. “On Separatism in Latin America.” e-International Relations. May 20, 2013. Article available:
  • Alejandro Sánchez. “Defining Mexico’s Zapatista Army of National Liberation.” E-International Relations. October 22, 2012.
  • Alejandro Sánchez. “The End of Ideologically-Motivated Violent Movements in Latin America?” E-International Relations. September 24, 2012.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Blouin Beat: Mr. Robot: A realistic hacker show?

"Mr. Robot: A Realistic Hacker Show?"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Blouin Beat: Technology
August 18, 2015
Originally published:

The USA television network will soon air the finale of the debut season of Mr. Robot, whose popularity has already secured it a second one. This attention-grabbing program revolves around the members of a hacking group called F Society who are trying to bring down a fictitious villain company, named E Corp (or Evil Corp, to its enemies).
Mr. Robot’s main character is a young man named Elliot, a brilliant hacker who has emotional issues as well as social interaction problems. He works for the fictitious Allsafe, a cybersecurity company who has E Corp as a client. As hackers attempt to bring down the all-mighty E Corp, they produce online videos to criticize the company, expose information to get the company’s leaders arrested, and even approach a shadowy group of Chinese hackers for support. (There are various other subplots.) From a real-world standpoint, Mr. Robot is worthy of praise, as it properly exemplifies the complex world of cybersecurity.
One issue that Mr. Robot accurately portrays is how members of FSociety are able to exploit the lack of proper cybersecurity by the general population. For example, in one memorable scene, a policeman picks up a USB from the ground and plugs it into his computer at work. The USB displays a screen for free music, while in reality it is downloading a Trojan.
Luring unsuspecting victims into downloading a file from a website, inserting a USB, or clicking on a link in an email (maybe from an acquaintance or someone offering a one-in-a-million business transaction) is a common practice for cybercriminals. One recent example: Romanian banks being hit by the Tinba Trojan as it expanded via a maltervising campaign. The situation will become more problematic as Trojans appear in mobile apps, which many smartphone users download daily.
Clearly, Mr. Robot is accurate in that it does not portray its characters as omnipotent hackers who can penetrate a law enforcement network with a few simple clicks; rather, they rely on the naiveté of unsuspecting individuals who will infect their computers themselves. (An IT expert interviewed for this commentary explained how, as in the show, real-world police networks are offline systems referred to as air-gapped, and it is popular at IT-security conferences to find ways to break into them.) In fact, the use of USB sticks in the show is probably a nod to Stuxnet, a computer worm that crippled Iran’s controversial nuclear program and was delivered via a thumb drive.
What’s more, F Society’s main objective, to bring down a multinational corporation such as a bank or industrial conglomerate, has appeared often enough in the real world to be the inspiration for any number of Hollywood productions. For example, in 2013 the hacking groupAnonymous published “the login and private information from over 4,000 American bank executive accounts in the name of its new Operation Last Resort campaign, demanding U.S. computer crime law reform.” In other areas of the world, such as Brazil, hackers have attacked government websites. Moreover, Anonymous hacked Stratfor, a renowned global intelligence and security consulting organization. The group retrieved millions of emails, dated between 2004-2011, from the company’s employees as well as intelligence data. The information was then uploaded to the whistle-blowing site Wikileaks.
When it comes to carrying out its operations against E Corp, the hackers of F Society upload videos showing an individual with a top hat and a mask who explains, in a distorted voice, the wickedness that is E Corp. Creative yes, but also relevant. The rise of social media has increased the amount of platforms that hackers can use in order to disseminate their messages to the global masses. Anonymous regularly uploads videos in preparation for, or to report on, some of its operations; for example, in a June 17 video, the group announced its operations against the Canadian government in retaliation for the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill C-51.
Finally, one notable aspect about F Society is its composition – the group has around half a dozen members, including four men and two women, with ages varying between early 20s to mid 30s. Curious if such gender diversity is present in real-life hacking organization? Not yet. My own research at least seems to show that hackers are predominantly male. Nevertheless, if theInternational Women’s Hackathon is anything to go by, this gap may close in the near future. (Read “Mr. Robot, Ms. Robot for a discussion on how the show approaches gender norms.)
Motivations are another key element of the show: a few of the hackers question whether they are driven by a need for fame, the desire to bring about an “economic revolution,” or merely to embody the American dream as they perceive it? In real life, hackers’ motivations have been extensively analyzed (with one study dividing them into four categories: old school hackers; cyberpunks; professional criminals; and coders). Mr. Robot takes these nuances into account, rendering its characters more multi-faceted than the stereotypical Hollywood-hacker or socially awkward anarchist with a god-complex. USA’s surprise hit should not be placed in the growing ocean of television shows in which IT-savvy characters are drawn from stereotypical hacker clichés. On the contrary, Mr. Robot succeeds at displaying the complexities of the programmers behind the screen. Moreover, the show correctly portrays several issues of real-world cybersecurity, such as hackers attacking multinational corporations and boldly bragging about it online. In this way, it highlights the ongoing concerns surrounding personal online security. Hopefully, Mr. Robot’s season two continues to portray the intricacies of the hacker world. I, for one, will stay tuned.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Peru This Week: Peru - A Hub for Conferences?

"Peru: A Hub for Conferences?"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
August 17, 2015
Peru This Week

The Peruvian government is constructing a brand new convention center in San Borja, one of Lima’s posh neighborhoods. The goal is to have the center ready in time for the 2015 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, which will take place in Lima in October. But while it is important that Peru is hosting such important global gatherings, it would be even more welcome-news if such meetings occurred more often in cities other than the capital.

The Lima Centro de Convenciones (LCC)is a grandiose project that is currently in construction. According to the Peruvian government, it will cover an area of some 10,000 square kilometers. It will have 18 conference rooms (some of which can be subdivided, bringing the total to 22), and the biggest one will hold up to 5,000 people. Overall the complex will be able to accommodate up to 10,000 guests. The LCC is strategically located for easy access and a nice view, as it is close to two major highways (Javier Prado Ave. and Aviación Ave.) and next to the National Library and the Museo de la Nación (Museum of the Nation). The Peruvian government is sparing no expenses on this project, as the LCC’s price tag is around 530 million Nuevos Soles (roughly $166 million USD).

According to José Díaz, director of the “Nuestras Ciudades” program (“Our Cities;” part of the Ministry of Housing), the construction is on schedule and it should be completed by the end of August. Nevertheless, not everyone is happy with this major project, as people who live in San Borja have complained of the incessant noise due to the construction.

Noise pollution aside, a brand new convention center will help Peru become a go-to location for other major events. Of course, Peru has already made a name for itself in this area since it regularly hosts major gatherings. For example, in 2008 Lima hosted a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. More recently, in December 2014 I wrote about the importance of the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP 20/CMP 10), a major summit on climate change that was also held in Lima.

Very important gatherings have taken place in the capital, but other cities should also have the opportunity to host them. Thankfully, this is already occurring to a certain extent. Just this past July, President Ollanta Humala met with his counterparts from Colombia, Chile and Mexico – the members of the Pacific Alliance –in Paracas, south of Lima. The agreement signed at this gathering is called “The Declaration of Paracas,” which has a nice ring to it for people who know Paracas as a tourist destination and also due to its pre-Inca culture of the same name. As for upcoming meetings outside of the capital, the southern city of Arequipa will organize an international mining convention, Perumin32, this September.

Last September, while inspecting ongoing construction, Housing Minister Milton Von Hesse declared that thanks to the LCC, “Lima will finally have a convention center of an international scale.” This will turn the Peruvian capital into one of the best hub centers for events and conventions in Latin America. Lima becoming a global center for conventions is a positive and noble goal; however, other Peruvian cities should also be actively utilized. For example, Chimbote has a fairly modern convention center (the Centro de Convenciones – ULADECH Católica) that should also be utilized for major events, like ministerial meetings or multinational investment gatherings.

The Peruvian government needs to continue decentralizing the many meetings and summits it will host. Having one grandiose conference center in the capital, namely the LLC, makes sense for gatherings like the IMF, World Bank, or the 2016 APEC summit. However, the Andean nation’s other major cities should not be forgotten, but rather actively utilized as conference hubs. The ultimate goal should be that Peru as a whole should be Latin America’s conference hub, not just the capital.