This Christmas the Colombian government is sending small shining spheres through the rivers of poor regions controlled by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Inside each shining orb there will be a message: "Do not let this Christmas go by. Demobilize". This is perhaps the first time Christmas decorations have been used for counterinsurgency purposes. After the death of the top leader of the FARC, Alfonso Cano, during an army operation last November, the government hopes to reach a record figure for demobilisations of guerrillas during the festivities and the two following months.
The 66th Session of the UN General Assembly on 21 September, presented a precious opportunity for Brazilian president Dilma Roussef to shine on the international stage, even without the personal charisma of her popular predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. She held talks with US and European authorities on the financial crisis and in November will again be in the international spotlight during the G20 summit in France.
Ollanta Humala, a former army officer who once led a military rebellion to overthrow the Peruvian government, has been sworn in as the country’s new president. Eleven years have transformed his political views. He was once an ally of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez and a ﬁerce adherent of populist politics, drawing support from the poor and indigenous sectors of society. This year, however, he has attained the presidency through promising a moderate path, combining the reduction of social inequalities with economic development.
For decades a generation of Latin American thinkers criticized the unequal relationships between the region and developed countries - especially the US. Their preferred weapon was Dependency Theory, which focuses on the pattern of poor countries providing cheap labour and natural resources to rich ones, and receiving in exchange manufactured goods in a way that perpetuates the backwardness of Third World economies. In the last decade, the rise of another developing economy, China, has made the old theory resurface.
There is nothing like a pile of heads to show that there is something wrong with global policies towards drugs - the so-called war on drugs. The macabre finding was made in the northern Guatemalan province of Petén, near the Mexican border. When local farmers refused to cooperate with a group of men from one of the largest Mexican drug cartels, they were killed with axes and decapitated (27 victims in total and one survivor, who played dead and emerged from the pile of bodies to find the grim message left by the cartel members). A total of 40,000 people are estimated to have died in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón increased the armed response to the drug cartels in 2006. Now the war is going south.