Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

National Intelligence Threat Assessment and Latin America

By Ludovico Feoli

On January 31st the Director of National Intelligence presented his assessment of worldwide threats faced by the US to the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence. As it regards Latin America, the assessment is interesting for what is says as much as for what it omits. The main threats identified are from the drug trade and its derivative violence, but little is said about the strategic implications of waning US regional influence and environmental challenges.

While not stated explicitly, the threat level assessed for the region does not seem particularly significant. Progress is recognized in terms of the region’s stability, both economic and political. While democracy is seen as having advanced regionally, reversions are attributed to “populist, authoritarian leaders” in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. The implications of such reversions are not considered, with the partial exception of Venezuela, where it is suggested that Chavez’ inability or unwillingness to deal with succession despite his uncertain cancer prognosis may lead to a power vacuum. Also implied is the potential for instability given the “country’s 25 percent inflation, widespread food and energy shortages, and soaring crime and homicide rates.” Venezuela has the second largest level of proven oil reserves in the world, on which the US still depends for a large, albeit declining, percentage of its imports.

The drug threat to the US is seen as central, mainly due to its effect on violence and corruption in the region, which are undermining governance and the rule of law along the drug corridor of Central America. In turn, this is seen as fostering a “permissive environment for gang and criminal activity to thrive”. Mexico is described as the primary front of the war on drugs and its progress in degrading cartels and disrupting criminal operations is recognized. The heavy toll in terms of violence is also recognized, with over 28,000 deaths in 2010 and 2011 alone. Yet, the security implications are seen as largely confined to Mexico: “We assess traffickers are weary of more effective law enforcement in the United States. Moreover, the factor that drives most of the bloodshed in Mexico—competition for control of trafficking routes and networks of corrupt officials—is not widely applicable to the small retail drug trafficking activities on the US side of the border”. This view seems at best sanguine. It ignores the broad-ranging social implications of repressive anti-drug policies and the strains they create for law enforcement and the judiciary system. It also underestimates the consequences of a militarized policy that places the onus of enforcement on regional governments. As the dead pile up those governments will be less willing to pay the human costs of US drug consumption, and inter-regional relations will become increasingly strained.

The assessment is remarkably scant about the consequences of waning American influence in the region. While it notes the region’s accommodation of “outside actors”, such as Iran, Russia, and China, it says nothing of the implications. While Iran’s influence is limited to the Bolivarian Alternative partners, the reach of Russia and, especially China, is much broader. China has become the largest trade partner to Brazil, Chile, and Peru and has engaged in direct investment and joint ventures throughout the entire region. It has also sought to increase its soft power with good will gestures like the construction of high-visibility public works, soft loans and donations. The strategic significance of these inroads for the US should merit attention. At issue is competition for scarce natural and energy resources that will become increasingly vital for future economic growth. But also the clout in international affairs that comes with these types of economic and political relations.

Also absent in the assessment is consideration of environmental challenges with regard to Latin America, although elsewhere the report comments on the risks of water security and natural disasters. Environmental degradation and resource scarcity are potential contributors to international conflict. Global warming and climate change can also pose considerable risks for Americans at home. Deforestation and other forms of environmental degradation can intensify the impact of natural disasters creating humanitarian and refugee crises that bear upon the US, as was illustrated by hurricane Mitch in Central America and the Haitian earthquake, among others. The US has a key security interest in partnering with Latin America for the pursuit of environmental goals. The region concentrates a large portion of the world’s biodiversity and forested areas and is therefore an indispensable partner for the control of global emissions and natural conservation.


  • Ludovico Feoli

    Executive Director - Center for Inter-American Policy & Research





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Dennis A. Georges Lecture in Hellenic Culture

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Join Dr. Emily Greenwood as she will be speaking about Greek language/literature, slavery, and the “politics of the human” when she delivers the Dennis A. Georges Lecture in Hellenic Culture.

Emily Greenwood is Professor and Chair of the Classics Department at Yale University where she also holds a joint appointment in African American Studies. She is one of the pre-eminent thinkers on Greek historiography of her generation as well as the leading figure in re-evaluating the legacy of Graeco-Roman culture in colonial and post-colonial contexts. In addition to her book Afro-Greeks: Dialogues Between Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Classics in the Twentieth Century (Oxford 2010) [Joint winner of the Runciman Prize], she has published over a dozen articles and book chapters that investigate the rich and nuanced reception of ancient Greek literature in the African Diaspora, especially in Caribbean literature.

Africana Studies Brown Bag Lecture with Prof. Dan Sharp

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“Naná Vasconcelos: Afro-Brazilian Percussion in Paris and New York City”

Dan Sharp is currently research for a book that revolves around the 1980 album Saudades by Afro-Brazilian Naná Vasconcelos. The book will situate Naná‘s reimagining of percussion and voice in the context of his itinerant life in New York, Europe and Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s. Snacks provided!

Why Marronage Still Matters: Lecture with Dr. Neil Roberts

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What is the opposite of freedom? Dr. Neil Roberts answers this question with definitive force: slavery, and from there he unveils powerful new insights on the human condition as it has been understood between these poles. Crucial to his investigation is the concept ofmarronage—a form of slave escape that was an important aspect of Caribbean and Latin American slave systems. Roberts examines the liminal and transitional space of slave escape to develop a theory of freedom as marronage, which contends that freedom is fundamentally located within this space.In this lecture, Roberts will explore how what he calls the “post-Western” concept and practice of marronage—of flight—bears on our world today.

This event is sponsored by the Kathryn B. Gore Chair in French Studies, Department of French and Italian.
For more information contact Ryan Joyce at or Fayçal Falaky at

Newcomb Art Museum to host María José de la Macorra and Eric Peréz for Gallery Talk

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Join us at the Newcomb Art Museum in welcoming Mexican artists María José de la Macorra and Eric Peréz for a noontime gallery talk as they discuss the current exhibition Clay in Transit: Contemporary Mexican Ceramics (which features works by María José de la Macorra) and the focus and process of their work. The talk is free and open to the public.

The Newcomb Art Museum is featuring two ceramic exhibitions entitled Clay in Transit featuring contemporary Mexican ceramics and Clay in Place featuring Newcomb pottery and guild plus other never-before-exhibited pieces from the permanent collection.The exhibit presents the work of seven Mexican-born sculptors who bridge the past and present by creating contemporary pieces using an ancient medium. The exhibit will feature works by Ana Gómez, Saúl Kaminer, Perla Krauze, María José Lavín, María José de la Macorra, Gustavo Pérez, Paloma Torres.

Exhibition curator and artist Paloma Torres explains, “In this contemporary moment, clay is a borderline. It is a material that has played a critical role in the development of civilization: early man used clay not only to represent spiritual concerns but also to hold food and construct homes.” While made of a primeval material, the exhibited works nonetheless reflect the artists’ twenty-first-century aesthetics and concerns as well as their fluency in diverse media—from painting and drawing to video, graphic design, and architecture.

The exhibit will run from January 18, 2018, through March 24, 2018. For more information on the exhibit and the artists, please visit the Newcomb Art Museum’s website.

Clay in Transit is presented in collaboration with the Consulate of Mexico.

The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Jennifer Wooster (NC ’91), Lora & Don Peters (A&S ’81), Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University, Andrew and Eva Martinez, and the Newcomb Art Museum advisory board

Bate Papo! Practice your Portuguese and enjoy some Brazilian treats: kibe

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Bate Papo! Try a bit of Brazil’s Middle Eastern flavor with these kibe treats. This event is sponsored by TULASO and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies. Admission is free. All levels welcome. For more information, please contact Megwen at

Bate Papo! Practice your Portuguese and enjoy some Brazilian treats: bolo de aipim

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Bate Papo! Drop by the LBC mezzanine floor for a slice of manioc sponge cake. We will be spread out across the green couches so come by to take a load off and chat for a bit. This event is sponsored by TULASO and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies. Admission is free. All levels welcome. For more information, please contact Megwen at