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The Ramos Kidnapping and Violence in Latin America

The surge of crime throughout Latin America has crashed into the United States’ consciousness with the recently thwarted abduction of baseball star Wilson Ramos, which rocked the American sports world. The young, talented multi-millionaire catcher for the Washington Nationals had been playing in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League this offseason when he was seized by armed captors and taken from his home on November 9, 2011.

This incident, extensively covered by the international media due to the player’s fame and popularity in the U.S., drives home a critical point: it is necessary to fathom the disturbing crest of violence to be found today in every corner of Latin America. Kidnapping and murder rates throughout the region, and in Venezuela particularly, have expanded meteorically. Perhaps the incident will now inform a once unaware populace that crime rates can be expected to surge south of U.S. borders and motivate all concerned to unearth the causes of such violence.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Director Larry Birns and COHA Research Associate Zac Deibel.

To read the full analysis, click here.

A "Major Win" for Panamanian Corruption: Free Trade Agreement Destined to Benefit Tainted Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches

On October 12, 2011, the United States Congress passed free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. The Obama administration hailed the agreements for their supposed ability to create U.S. jobs and expand exports. The President lauded the passage of the agreements, calling them a “major win for American workers and businesses.” On the other hand, liberal democrats and labor rights groups have decried the agreements, claiming that they will result in both the loss of U.S. jobs and poor labor conditions and environmental standards abroad. Neither side, however, was prepared to acknowledge that an agreement with a country with such questionable ethics and values as Panama would not only fail to provide a level playing field for U.S. businesses, but would try to persuade the U.S., its citizens, and its businesses to become mired in dealings with a corrupt government.

After the agreement with Panama was passed, President Martinelli spoke of “fortifying a great and historic friendship between Americans and Panamanians.” Contributing familiar political hyperbole, he diverted attention from the crucial issue of corruption in Panama. While proponents believe that the free trade agreement will increase transparency, no provisions in the agreement could be expected to have a long-term effect on the prevalent patterns of corruption that have sullied all three branches of the Panamanian government.
This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associates Courtney Frantz and Sierra Ramirez.

To read the full article, click here.

Barbados Ahead of the Pack as the Most Competitive Country in the Caribbean

Barbados steps ahead of much of the rest of the Caribbean Basin, including the English-speaking Caribbean islands, in terms of its quality of life. The United Nations’ annual Human Development Report (HDR) showcases the Human Development Index (HDI) principles. Over the past two decades, it has been ranking its 187 member states and regions, while providing data on the measurement of three basic societal dimensions: health, education, and income. Barbados, a tourist destination with a population of approximately 280,000, has an HDI of 0.793, which translates to a rank of 47 out of 187 countries, leading all of the other English-speaking islands in its qualitative ranking in 2011; this represents an impressive improvement in its standing over the previous year.

With respect to the Caribbean and Latin American region, Barbados, which was deemed the only “developed” country in the 2010 HDR and labeled by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s 2011 economic report as “the most competitive country in the Caribbean”, is above average for the region (0.731) and merits being placed in the ‘Very High Human Development’ category. Barbados is ranked third throughout the Americas and Caribbean for its HDI and first in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Melissa Beale.
To read the full analysis, click here.


The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers." For more information, please see our web page at; or contact our Washington offices by phone (202) 223-4975, fax (202) 223-4979, or email


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