Connectivity Conflicts and their Effects on Ibero-American Security

This article is part of the book Challenges and Threats to Security in Latin America.


American hegemony has ushered in a multipolar world in which great powers compete by applying a defiant punitive unilateralism, significantly more dangerous. Simultaneously, the rivalry between the great powers in the economic and technological fields has caused a decoupling movement in globalization. This has resulted in a global restructuring based on the struggle between the People’s Republic of China and the United States. On the one hand, connectivity has become a double-edged sword. The new form of warfare is the use of any network or flow as a weapon. On the other hand, globalization has provided a new arsenal of instruments of war such as sanctions, boycotts, export controls, tariffs, import prohibitions, or illicit appropriation of intellectual property that make it possible to attack all kinds of interrelationships. In this sense, the current state of the world has broken down the existing barriers between security and business.

The new situation may force Ibero-American states to take a position on the fragmented geo-economic and geo-technological map that is about to emerge. The obligation to choose for Ibero-America would mean a waiver that does not favor their interests. The fragmentation of the continent and the failure of integration processes today, make it impossible to constitute an alternative geostrategic reference that, at least, had the possibility of giving itself its own voice on the global stage. Nonetheless, greater diplomatic collaboration, commitment to harmonizing its foreign trade, construction of a shared strategic vision, development of internal infrastructures, collaborative efforts in the defense of its natural resources, collective action to combat environmental crimes on the continent with the greatest biodiversity, and the global fight against international criminal organizations are valuable meeting points that will aid the convergence toward global reach.

Keywords:  Ibero-America, Integration, Globalization, Competition Between Great Powers, Weaponization, Conflicts of Interdependence, Punitive Unilateralism, The War in Ukraine, Global Decoupling, Biodiversity, Organized Crime.

Introduction: The Inadequacy of the Global Governance System and its Effects

The European Union (EU) has understood, thanks to the dramatic experience of the continent’s history, that effective multilateralism is part of its DNA and is therefore reflected as an objective in its constitution. Consequently, multilateralism in the exercise of power is a European proposal, a consequence of its failures and weaknesses, with added value for the world. It is a model that invites others to pick up what they have learned from Europe’s horror and suffering during the twentieth century, but also from its ability to overcome them.

The eclecticism of the EU is refractory to hegemonic unilateralism, regardless of who exercises it. However, the history of Europe teaches that the balance of power, while limiting unilateralism, does not in itself prevent the unilateral strategies of the different centers of power. Multipolarity is not enough to consolidate global multilateralism. So, in that regard, the facts show that the hegemony of the United States gives way to a situation of multipolarity where the parties adopt a far more unstable and dangerous unilateralist approach.

The shift from the American unipolar moment to punitive unilateralism began to be evident during Obama’s administration. The financial crisis of 2008, the wars in Syria and Libya in the Mediterranean, the war in Georgia and, later, in Ukraine, the militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea, the turn to the Pacific, and the economic and technological rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), are sufficient indicators to identify the change of pace and momentum. Today, it is common to hear from most analysts the same and repetitive diagnosis of the world, based on a pathology that is presented with a well-known euphemism: competition between great powers.

In a scenario regulated by others, some great powers can survive temporarily as revisionist powers. If the aspirant maintains a sufficient margin of action to question the system of governance imposed by the dominant power, then it has a good chance of wearing it down. The great powers know how to patiently wait for the right moment. Strategic patience becomes a sign of proven virtue that adorns an old narrative, but that is renewed by knowledge and willingness to build the moment of turn without intolerable tensions.

As a result, the US has transformed from a “benevolent unilateralism” to a “competitive and punitive unilateralism.” The EU proposal has been unable to break through. As a result, Venus has been left alone in the face of a Mars that has been replicated across nations with the capacity to sustain a State with enough revisionist potential to make its story and dream credible. The EU’s level of ambition is not the result of its strategic reluctance. There is no means to develop the necessary mechanisms of power to influence the global agenda and governance due to its inherent nature and impossibility.

In the Ibero-American case, it can be said that the fragmentation of the continent and the failure of integration processes make it impossible to constitute an alternative geostrategic reference that, at least, had the possibility of giving itself its own voice on the global stage. The vision of security and defense continues to define the attempts of Ibero-American States to create their own strategic identities, renouncing a shared perception sustained by regional or institutional commitments and agreements. In this context, the EU has failed to win the right to be heard among the major competitors; Ibero-America does not even have its own discourse to contribute. As a result, there is a marginalization of an area and a culture with a Hispanic identity which is constrained by its own limitations and internal divisions. Regardless of the origin of the diagnosis, it’s hard not to consider how true it is: “Either we unite, or we sink.”

The financial crisis of 2008 and its subsequent development were an indicator that global interrelationships had advanced much faster than world governance. The continued U.S. trade deficit and President Trump’s tariff war were only a reaction to the mismatches in global flows. COVID-19 has confirmed that global governance standards are insufficient and that interdependence without policy guarantees carries serious dangers for humanity. The World Health Organization still does not know the origin of the Wuhan virus.

Considering the ability of international architecture to transform itself to adapt to new risks and threats may only be a way to avoid the need for a complete institutional redesign, which is beyond Europe’s capabilities, and does not seem to be in the interests of the strongest international actors. The result of betting on an unsustainable world order without an institutional system accepted by the most powerful can translate for Europe into irrelevance and absorption by one of the competing power blocs. Ibero-America may not even be aware that its future will be the same.

Great powers can force Europeans and Ibero-Americans to take up positions in the new geo-economic map. The outcome, of the identified competition between great powers, is hegemony or preeminence for each of them. The quest for hegemony on the economic and technological fronts drives the disengagement from globalization. Temptation will soon knock on your doors to invite you to take sides. This means that sooner than expected, some circumstances -foreseen or not- may place them in an uncomfortable position. Competitive unilateralism in search of hegemony may try to impose on them a decision that involves a painful renunciation.

The rivalry between China and the United States structures the world, although attention is now focused primarily on Ukraine. Secretary of State Blinker clearly expresses the idea: “Even if President Putin’s war continues, we will remain focused on the most serious long-term challenge to the international order, posed by the PRC.” [1] The difficulty is that mainland China is also part of the world economy and is a decisive actor in addressing global security problems that affect everyone, such as those related to climate change or pandemics, for example. The United States cannot -even if it wanted to- completely disengage from the PRC. Even so, it continues to strive to lead the relationship, protecting its national interests and, at the same time, collaborating in fields of mutual interest.

Even the most powerful states, based on their own experience, have concluded that it is preferable to avoid the direct military option to the greatest extent possible, even when the enemy may be much weaker. The U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has taken a heavy toll on the power, influence, and economy of the hegemonic power. The political, financial, image, ethical, diplomatic, and narrative costs for the United States have been devastating. The degradation of US penetrating soft power, using more subtle dominance mechanisms, has been weakened using military force. Even non-democratic countries have internalized the high price that, for their intelligent and penetrating power, conventional or asymmetric war imposes. The war in Ukraine also clearly demonstrates that military aggression, with a supposed and clear conventional superiority, does not guarantee success. The social, political, and economic costs imposed on Russia can be too great for too little geopolitical gain.

Where power becomes manifest, resistance always emerges. The resistance is always stronger the more evident and dramatic the exercise of power. Consequently, nothing wears down power more in our globalized world than the direct use of overwhelming military force in the eyes of cameras and mobile phones. To avoid the drain of power, caused by force, interconnected international spheres are used, which end up as the new battlefields of war, where disputes are resolved without the need for bloodshed.

Non-military tools are chosen because of the risk of waging wars where military forces are primarily responsible for achieving victory. It is this very questioning of the sense of military victory that drives the commitment to other mechanisms of less strident domination and influence. In this political war, the discourse of the powerful can be blunt for their partners: They are with me, or they are against me. As regards Ibero-Americans, the obligation to choose a position would imply their resignation, which would not be in their best interests. The PRC is, for much of South America, its main customer, and the second one is the United States or, in some cases, the EU. For Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, the United States remains its main trading partner, but the PRC may offer interesting options over time.

Therefore, the polarization of the powers in dispute for hegemony is not good news. A defense of Ibero-American interests without an idea of regression of diplomatic channels avoids – as much as possible – adopting a position committed to only one of the parties while defending a system of international norms for all, which can be reformed in response to Ibero-American voices. However, the conflict in Ukraine has shown Europeans that, faced with a situation entrenched for years, the Russian invasion offered no alternative. Economic ties with the Russian Federation, especially oil and gas supplies, have soared in the last few hours. This shows that the European energy system has to be rebuilt by giving up the supply of hydrocarbons and minerals from Russia.

Much of Europe, when renouncing nuclear energy as a source of electricity generation, had to bet on gas, combined cycle power plants, and cogeneration through turbines. Gas is an indispensable source for the EU’s energy model, accounting for 40 % of Russia’s consumption. Therefore, the impact is so great that the once perverse option of nuclear power plants is now being viewed as acceptable. While Germany closed, at the end of 2022, three of its six nuclear power plants in operation, having planned before the end of 2022 the closure of those that remain active, the European Commission put into circulation its proposal to modify the classification of green energies. For many, it was a surprise and, for others, a scandal that the Commission recognized nuclear energy as green energy.[2]

On 18 May 2022, the European Commission presented a plan to end the EU’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels (REPowerEU).[3] Dispensing with Russian imports of hydrocarbons will require the EU to invest an estimated 297,000 million euros. This is not counting the losses generated by the closure of the facilities built to transport Russian oil. To this is added the increase in prices of hydrocarbon transport by sea and the new rise in gas and oil prices. The measures of the Commission’s plan involve increased use of coal and nuclear energy, energy source- until now- stigmatized, but essential to address the transition of the current European energy model.

The REPowerEU has the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) to provide additional EU funding to Member States in their energy transformation. The available loans enabled by the RRF currently reach 225,000 million euros. This amount would be increased with the new subsidies for the auctioning of emission allowances worth 20,000 million euros more, and other activated mechanisms such as (1) The voluntary transfer of cohesion policy funds of up to 12.5 % of the national allocation of Member States, an amount that could mean an additional 26,900 million euros to the 100,000 million euros already allocated under the policy cohesion to support decarbonization and ecological transition projects; (2) The voluntary transfer of 12.5 % allocated to the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, which could amount to an additional EUR 7.5 billion; and (3) The new calls for proposals for the Connecting Europe Facility, designed for infrastructure projects of common interest, which are increased by €800 million.

The effects of the war in Ukraine for an EU forced to disengage from Russia will have a high economic cost for the whole of Europe. As a result of sanctions on Russia and the decoupling of the gas and oil pipelines that supply fuel to Europe from that country, the EU and its members will be faced with an unpredictable boomerang effect that will alter the difficult budget balances. The situation is complicated by runaway and unforeseen inflation. The danger of stagflation is real; overcoming it with levels of debt unprecedented in history will not be easy. Europe’s macroeconomic picture, which was beginning to overcome the effects of COVID-19, has become complicated because of competition between two major powers, Russia, and the United States. The war in Ukraine could have been avoided in a less challenging context. The truth is that most analysts understand that this war, with intensity, will be long. Putting things back together will take several decades.

In a world that is experiencing a moment of geopolitical, geo-economic, and geo-technological competition between the United States and China, where the Russian Federation has demonstrated its willingness to continue maintaining its status as a global power, where the EU aspires to reconfigure itself as a strategic actor, although the war in Ukraine has blown up its long-term multilateral aspiration, where local conflicts are affected by the intervention of emerging regional actors that can pivot the balance of the area, and where the great powers aspire to assert their interests through their local allies, in the so-called “proxy wars“, the deteriorated institutions of global governance cannot be expected to act effectively and favor a fairer redistribution of losses or earnings. It was to be hoped that everyone would lose, but the redistribution of efforts and incentives needed for economic and financial reconstruction would not be balanced.

The international system born after the Second World War, with all its defects, has avoided an armed conflict between nuclear powers. It has allowed the development of a global economy that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. However, it is questioned by the rise of revisionist powers, the aspirations of emerging countries, and the needs of less developed or poor countries. In the periphery and semi-periphery of the international system, discordant voices have emerged that demand attention.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a May 2022 lecture at George Washington University, referred to the need to reform and modernize the rules-based international order. The new order proposed by Secretary Blinken aims to ensure “the representation of the interests, values, and hopes of all nations, large and small, in all regions, and also to meet the challenges we face today and will face in the future.” [4] The proposal, which is certainly encouraging, is not assured of success. Any international order will always have detractors. Having the resistance is essential to articulate the necessary mechanisms of surveillance, maintenance, and updating that any regulatory model requires. To be sure, there are times when friction can be so severe as to block any attempt at modernization or change. Only the effect of a serious global upheaval could suddenly create a propitious scenario for reconfiguring the questioned model of global governance and certainly implementing Mr. Blinken’s proposal.

At a time marked by geopolitical, geoeconomic, and geo-technological tension, reformulating the rules of an international system affected by the disruptive flows of globalization and, at the same time, by the centrifugal impulse of competition from the centers of power, implies idealism, arrogance, or excessive cynicism, without excluding the possibility of a combination of all of them. In any case, recognizing the need for change in the international system that was born after the Second World War implies an assessment of its current limitations.

In that sense, the international order that existed has been diluted by the predatory practices of some actors, so recomposing it will be a titanic task. The security and defense of the new system of power in the era of the pandemic and the post-pandemic depend on the ability to rethink and rebuild a more effective and inclusive global institutional order. Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine does not allow us to expect anything other than an accelerated and progressive retreat from globalization, and disconnection of interdependencies. Avoiding, as much as possible, being dragged down by this dynamic is fundamental for the security and defense of Ibero-American interests.

The Decoupling Movement of the Great Powers

Western countries have long held the conviction that the integration of the PRC into the global system of international markets and its economic development were inescapably linked to a process of political evolution of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to adapt to a social and economic space more open to freedom of choice. The dogma of indivisible freedom prefixed a democratic political evolution, unquestionably linked to the transformation promoted by the freedom of the markets.

The shared perceptions of strategic success on the part of the CCP and the United States, of the revisionist power and the established power vying for supremacy, are striking. For 40 years, success indicators have been complementary and convergent. The CCP aspired to a peaceful rise, and the United States viewed such a rise as a favorable strategic foundation. The prolonged complicity in the perception of success has ended up mutating into a new form of competition between great powers.

The trade war between the United States and the PRC, and to a lesser extent Brexit, exposed the risks of the excessive extension of the interrelationships of national economies before the arrival of COVID-19. Geopolitical tensions were being reshaped into geo-economic tensions that implied an exponential increase in the danger to the productive model of global interdependence. Highly stretched value and production chains could easily break down at some link, breaking down the entire business process. Risk-aware internationalized companies slowly began to reduce the exposure of their value and supply chains before the arrival of COVID-19. The pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of globalization for the productive fabric of Western economies. In a world that depends on complex networks, any transnational tension threatens the relationship of heavily delocalized companies with their suppliers, customers, factories, and supplies. It also complicates logistics management, causing a general paralysis that spreads throughout the system.

In 2020, the Bank of America Global Research announced that the phenomenon of corporate relocation was unstoppable and would end up causing tectonic changes in the world economy. The bank’s surveys surprised analysts because of the strength of expected movements in global supply and value chains. More than 80 % of U.S. companies surveyed had relocation plans.[5] Many wanted to start coming home and China is where most want to come from. The change will be slow, it has just begun, but within a decade most of the leading productive sectors will have completed it.[6]

COVID-19 has led to an acceleration of trends that were already present. Disengagement from globalization, automation, and digitalization are already present phenomena, but their impact will skyrocket exponentially. As the future unfolds, new possible roadblocks will arise due to different reasons, which will particularly harm the People’s Republic of China. China has become the main -or even the only- source of production of basic and strategic resources, including health supplies and medical equipment.

Supplies that, in the past couple of years, were both vulnerable to a pandemic and, at the same time, were so simple and easy to produce, such as masks, personal protective equipment, respirators, and, in general, medical, and pharmaceutical equipment, weren’t available in time and couldn’t be manufactured in the quantities demanded. Too many essential items are produced almost exclusively by China and, of course, determine the priorities of their supply.

The PRC has become the largest importer among all central economic regions. Most importantly, however, for most of these imports, China is the dominant producer. The factory of the world is the PRC. Everything that could affect it is transferred immediately and multiplied to the most advanced economies, with which it competes for technological dominance. Over-reliance on China is an added risk to potential new mobility restrictions, as well as a serious strategic risk.

Dependence on the PRC is a danger to the United States and the EU, which have launched initiatives and plans to encourage the return of their companies. In July 2020, the president of the National Security Council, Robert O’Brien, launched the initiative known as “Back to the Americas,” which offers financial incentives to U.S. companies returning to the United States or setting up in Latin America, leaving Asia, especially if they come from China.

First estimates of the effects of these stimulus measures to move investments from China to Ibero-America estimate that investments would range between 30,000 million and 50,000 million dollars, especially in infrastructure, energy, and transport. The terms “nearshoring” and “reshoring” reflect the meaning of this new offshoring. The concept refers to re-designing the outsourcing of a company’s activity through contracting with others in nearby countries (nearshoring) or within the country itself (reshoring). Mexico is undoubtedly the Ibero-American country that meets the best conditions for the relocation of US companies, surely followed by Colombia and Panama, but they are not the only ones that could benefit from this current. The penetration and strength of PRC companies or interests in some Ibero-American countries will be another factor to be considered by US investment companies.

In February 2021, President Biden signed several executive orders to make supply chains in the United States “more resilient and secure for critical and essential goods.” Protection affects different products, including pharmaceuticals, those related to health services, food -especially fish-, or computer chips. In June of the same year, President Biden expanded the scope of an executive order signed by former President Trump that vetoed the investments in the country of some thirty Chinese companies for, supposedly, supporting the efforts of Beijing’s intelligence, military, and security apparatuses. This time the new list incorporated 59 more firms from the Asian country, including the giant Huawei and the three largest telecommunications companies in the nation.[7] In 2022, Washington’s pressure on Beijing has continued to grow. For example, in February, another 33 Chinese companies were banned, in a move by U.S. tech companies to progressively disengage from markets and investments in China, to protect their intellectual property from misappropriation.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission[8] has decided to exclude Chinese companies from U.S. markets if they do not meet the requirements of their audits. For several years, U.S. hedge fund managers have been dumping securities of Chinese companies, but the regulator’s decision has multiplied exit movements. Washington demands full access to the accounting documentation of Chinese companies listed on its markets, but Beijing prohibits foreign inspection of its companies’ documents.

Financial asset markets have been affected by regulatory changes and possible restrictions on listing or investing in Chinese companies. Stock prices of Chinese companies have fallen instantly and subsequently recovered based on the risk of sanctions. Knowing the impact that U.S. investment can have on Chinese securities helps to understand the scale of the problem. Goldman Sachs estimates that U.S. institutional investors hold about $200 billion in ADR (American Depositary Receipts)[9] certificates from highly exposed Chinese companies.[10]

For its part, the European Commission called on Member States to adopt more robust mechanisms to protect European companies that, at this time of crisis, could be acquired by Chinese companies at bargain prices. He requested that they be alerted to prevent foreign purchases of strategically important assets that could be vulnerable and to prevent the purchase of European companies by state companies or with subsidies from other countries. These defense measures are a shield against Chinese companies’ interests in controlling key sectors in the EU.

COVID-19 made States and regional blocs aware of the need to guarantee their supply chain and reduce their dependence on the outside world in strategic sectors. Its excessive dependency on the PRC did not ensure reliable supplies of the necessary means to tackle the pandemic, nor did it guarantee timely delivery of those means. In addition, China -as the great winner of globalization- increasingly manifested its revisionist assertiveness and its willingness to reconfigure the political, technological, and productive norms and standards of the nascent fourth industrial revolution. Therefore, interdependence had gone too far. The need for sufficient industrial support to ensure the timely supply of components, sometimes complex and sometimes extremely simple, required consideration of the sufficiency of national and regional strategy. China could no longer be the factory of everything and the factory of all.

In addition, the PCC has maintained, since the beginning of its peaceful ascent, a willingness to use international connections to violate, in its favor, the rules of regulation of exchanges. The CCP managed to join globalization to gradually parasitize the system from within, enhancing its power inside and outside China. The PRC has consistently failed to comply with the principles of global markets to increase its competitiveness, advantage, and development.

The PRC’s attitude was evident from the start. Its revisionist character too. The clear ambition of the PRC and its default formulas did not prevent Western companies from finding it attractive to invest in the country because of the large profits they could make. Much of the funding for China’s economic and technological base comes from Western businesses and consumers, who saw it profitable to do business and trade with a state dominated by a Communist Party, with a particular Chinese way of understanding socialism.

Since 2017, the situation of competitive imbalance between the great powers, a consequence of the PRC’s insightful mechanisms of non-compliance and oppressive penetration, began to be considered an unacceptable geopolitical and geoeconomic threat. Then, the only possible solution to the “Weaponization of Everything” or political war of the CCP began to be proposed: the progressive decoupling of economies and exchanges. Evidently, the war in Ukraine has unexpectedly accelerated the announced tilt of global disengagement.[11]

Understanding the movement of disconnection does not necessarily mean that Ibero-America should follow it beyond its own interests. Undoubtedly, it is an opportunity to review the risks, especially those related to the control of telecommunications, critical infrastructures, the energy sector, or any other sector identified as strategic. However, the rhythm, timing, and need of others should not necessarily be mimetically adopted.

Connectivity Conflicts

Connectivity, like it or not, is a double-edged sword. Mark Leonard in his book, The Age of Unpeace: How Connectivity Causes Conflict, states that the unforeseen has arrived.[12] The flows of globalization, which for a long time were interpreted as effective mechanisms to strengthen peaceful relations, the expansion of the free market and democratic development in illiberal or totalitarian countries, have become a danger to stability, the rules-based order, and the expansion of spaces of peace and freedom.

Interdependence has not promoted democratization in China or the reduction of Russia’s ambition for domination of its near abroad has not modulated its revisionism or reduced the possibilities of conflicts in its environment. Contrary to what is generally expected, the increase in interrelations with the PRC and Russia has ushered in an era of non-peace, where the line between war and peace is increasingly blurred. “Rather than removing tensions, connectivity offers new means to compete and conflict.”[13]

The increase in links and flows between states and regions shows that any form of relationship can be used as a weapon of attack, one that at first appears harmless and even enticing to promote a more peaceful and collaborative environment. There is no difference between the mechanisms that promote mutual benefit and those used to achieve a position of dominance. National security becomes more complicated when it is more difficult to identify threats. Activities such as economics, commerce, finance, culture, science, and technology can be powerful weapons of war that can deter and respond to international actors who violate international norms.

Connectivity conflicts are more frequent, effective, and lethal than conventional wars. However, some may be unable to identify the damage they are causing. They may even feel convinced that they are enjoying a privileged space of peaceful relations, without discovering what lies behind the business, investment, and assistance of the great powers. In this regard, Mark Leonard invites us to recognize the new arsenal of weapons that the interconnectivity of globalization provides for competitive unilateralism. When states discover that others long ago began to use the bonds of peaceful relationships as weapons of penetration, influence, and dominance, it may be too late to order defense. Thus, the new battlefields will be the most solidly interconnected areas of the world where there is no accepted governing power. This idea is also supported by Mark Galeotti in his new book The Weaponization of Everything: A Field Guide to the New Way of War.[14]

The world’s interdependence with the PRC has allowed the CCP to expand the battlefield so far as to avoid the need for decisive battles by large armies and navies. Future supremacy will not be elucidated in a naval air battle in the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait. The PRC aspires, with its political war, to turn scientific and technological development along with control of production and supply chains into the center of gravity of the dispute between great powers, exploiting the vulnerabilities of the system. The Chinese model could be identified in English as the weaponization of interdependence.[15]

At the beginning of 2022, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)[16] has begun to become a reality, becoming the largest free trade agreement in the world, formed by Asia-Pacific countries, including Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, Myanmar, and the Philippines.[17] The new Association represents a market of about 2.3 billion people, 30 % of the population, and about 25 % of world trade in the region with the highest economic growth. RCEP will increase the PRC’s export trade opportunities in Asia-Pacific to the detriment of the United States. It is difficult to question that the impact of the RCEP treaty in the region will be far greater than the strategic alliance between the United States, Japan, India, and Australia, known as the “Quad”, or the AUKUS, which links the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. RCEP will allow the PRC, the big winner with the agreement, to practice strategic patience because time plays in its favor in the region.

The PRC’s relentless efforts to boost the growth and maturation of the national industrial and technological base have important implications for the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The objectives of military modernization have been in line with, and part of the broader aspirations for national development. The CCP leadership has directly linked the pace and scale of the modernization of the PLA to the overall development of the country. In the coming decades, the centrality of scientific and technological development in the development objectives of the PRC will give greater weight to the requirements of new state-of-the-art weapons systems, linked to Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, robotics, automation, nanotechnology, and quantum computing.

Some of the PRC’s anticipated developments may be revealed by COVID-19 and its economic and logistical consequences, which may alter its time estimation in pursuit of geoeconomic and geotechnical dominance. In any case, the PRC has developed strategies and forces that allow it to coerce, subdue or attack countries allied or partners of the United States in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. At the same time, the PRC is becoming more confident every day in its ability to assume or manage the risks and potential costs that may arise from its actions.

The dangers of hyper-connectivity are polarizing societies into bubbles filled with barriers to compete, especially in nations aspiring to hegemony. Globalization has provided a new arsenal of weapons for competition among great powers. Countries now wage conflict by manipulating the very things that bind them together, using sanctions, boycotts, export controls, tariffs, or import bans for political purposes.

However, the militarization of interdependence goes far beyond trade. Vaccines during COVID-19 have also been a weapon of interference in disadvantaged countries. It seems that the fronts of strategic infrastructure, communications, information, technological development, environmental preservation, migration, and even the fight against greenhouse gas emissions are also new battlefields on which bloodshed is not necessary to exert political pressure and accomplish the objectives set by doubling the opponents’ will. The gray zone expands into spaces that were not previously clearly identified as areas of geopolitical competence.

Paradoxically, the best way to unite the world is to leave enough space for a necessary distance to guarantee safe ties ordered by mutually accepted norms. The disengagement from globalization, as it was understood, is a chapter that must be structured to preserve the security of interconnections, without feeding a dangerous dynamic of mistrust and fear.

The war in Ukraine is a clear expression of how to influence the gray zone with mechanisms that, without turning Western countries into belligerents, allow them to strengthen and sustain the Ukrainian resistance, seeking to weaken Russia. While Europe supplies arms and ammunition to Ukraine, Russia continues to supply gas and oil to the very countries that support its enemy. Certainly, Russia seeks to maintain export earnings to finance itself, but at the same time, this also serves as a means of pressure on European countries that need Russian imports.

Priorities for Ibero-American Security and Defense in a Scenario of Competitive Unilateralism

Prioritizing forces to choose, inevitably, implies giving up. However, before a decline can begin, it is necessary to identify the prevailing trends in the global, regional, and national context, to assess the different options. What we may discover may not be pleasant, but it is a start. Competitive unilateralism is a way of expressing the situation that shapes the world chessboard of the coming decades. Consequently, the rivalry between China and the United States structures the world and will continue to do so in the time horizon of 2050. Current geopolitical dynamics have revealed the interrelationships of globalization as a double-edged sword, through which the great powers deploy their mechanisms of influence and dominance.

The decoupling of the great powers may lead to polarization in the future which will pressure states to take a stand. This scenario is not favorable to Ibero-American interests. To maintain a balanced position regardless of excessive commitment and strategic dependence on the great powers, diplomacy must be utilized as an instrument for restructuring the disputed global governance system. For the Ibero-American republics, having international mechanisms that represent them when designing the framework of mutual relations with the great powers would increase their bargaining power.

Currently, the great powers aspire to conquer the necessary technological superiority to set the standards and bases for the development of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotization, the internet of things, communication and interconnection systems, and the control of data and information. Arriving first and defining departure requirements will give the market power to the first mover. Ibero-America has no possibility of being heard when defining the supports and pillars of development of the new key technologies in the fourth industrial revolution that is to come. However, if there were any possibility of referring the resolution of preliminary technical issues to international institutions that can channel them, there would be a greater guarantee of security. In any case, the security of critical infrastructure, energy security, and the security of communication systems must necessarily be carefully analyzed before making commitments with companies controlled by US or Chinese capital.

On the regional chessboard, Ibero-America is an insufficiently integrated region with no voice of its own. The emancipation of Spanish America meant an unforeseen destruction of the links established between territories and populations during the Spanish monarchy. The great homeland longed for by American heroes never came to fruition. The Panama Congress was a dramatic failure. The different overlapping processes of partial integration of the Ibero-American republics have not been consolidated and in many cases have ended up being a failure. The volume of internal trade within the countries of the region barely exceeds 15 %, while in the EU it accounts for 70 %. Without common interests among States, it is very difficult to build integration mechanisms that will allow the construction of a true political community in the future.

Shared interests are not only economic. No Ibero-American State, not even Brazil, can build its own geopolitical design, much less equip itself with the necessary capacities to have its own geostrategy. The insufficiency of the parties does not nullify the possibility of thinking about the advantage of converging. If it could feel like a need, then this insufficiency is what creates that possibility. In a globalized world, the dispersion of the weak does not make it easier for their voice to be heard.

It would be possible to get started through increased diplomatic cooperation and among the strategic think tanks of the region; along with facilitating the exchange of students between the higher-level or command and staff schools. In the same way that the EU launched the Erasmus program, which allows students from all EU universities to study part of their career in university centers in other partner countries, in Ibero-America the exchange of university students between centers throughout its geography can be implemented. The fruit of this last initiative can only be expected to be reaped in the long term, but personal vital ties are undoubtedly the most vigorous support to promote the unity of the people. In this case, sharing the same language, but maintaining a different accent, favors integration and the depth of the effects of the exchange.

Ibero-America is the region with the greatest biodiversity in the world, but it is also the one that is losing it the fastest. Brazil is the country with the greatest biodiversity of flora and fauna on the planet. Colombia ranks second with 10 % of the world’s fauna and flora. Ecuador, being a small country, has more plant species per square kilometer than any other country in Latin America. Mexico, Venezuela, and Peru are also on the list of megadiverse countries due to their privileged geographical position, the variety of climates, and their complex topography.[18]

Alicia Bárcenas, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, has highlighted that one of the biggest imbalances in international markets is their inability to give economic visibility to natural capital and ecosystems. The value of biodiversity is not reflected in prices because it is not quoted in any market. “Natural capital is an asset and an economic good that reduces risks and increases resilience to external shocks such as climate change.” [19] The lack of visibility of the real value of the natural environment does not favor the global production system to identify the costs generated by the external costs of its activity. “The result is that, indirectly, the natural heritage of Ibero-America is subsidizing the most developed countries, without charging for the costs or impacts on nature, exporting the riches cheaply and keeping the damages.”[20]

On the other hand, the wealth of Ibero-American natural resources needs to be protected from illegal exploitation and trafficking. The most serious crimes against the environment perpetrated by transnational criminal organizations are (1) Illegal logging and deforestation, (2) Illegal fishing, (3) Illegal mining and illegal trade in minerals, (4) Pollution with toxic and dangerous waste, and (5) Poaching and illegal trade in wild fauna and flora. In this sense, Ibero-American States need to equip themselves with laws that allow adequate protection of the environment and the prosecution of crimes related to its abusive and out-of-control exploitation. There are many instances where the penalties do not address the seriousness of the threat to the natural heritage of the continent, which is also a world heritage site. Organized crime’s involvement in these crimes, which allows their financing, often goes unconsidered. Nor is the impact on the environmental, economic, and social development of countries and local communities sufficiently valued.

Strategies for the illegal exploitation of natural resources are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are associated with more developed methods of money laundering. International organized crime that commits these crimes against the environment can also participate in drug trafficking, use violence to impose its practices, promote corruption, exercise control of territory and population, destroy peaceful coexistence in regions where institutional presence is insufficient, and end up becoming the most serious threat to State security.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that illicit funds generated by criminal and criminal activities in the world represent 4 % of global GDP. [21]  Interpol and the United Nations Environment Program consider environmental crime to be the third most serious criminal activity in the world, after drug trafficking and counterfeiting. In 2018, these environmental crimes represented benefits of up to $281 billion. The figure would be sufficient to adopt measures, but the danger is also accentuated by the high rate of growth of these illegal activities, between 5 and 7 % per year; that is, between two and three times the pace of global economic growth.[22]

The amount of money available to international criminal organizations could exceed the GDP of several Ibero-American states. The financial resources available to the mafias can serve to permeate State institutions through corruption, perpetuating their businesses and facilitating their laundering. Associated with these immense businesses, it appears violence, and the number of murders skyrockets. “The absence of authority, the deficit of institutional control, the multiplication of organized crime groups and illicit economic activities, also threaten the strategic natural resources of the Nation and its future development.” [23]

The importance and gravity of the threat of transnational crime require concerted global action because of the many interrelationships that exist and the increasing complexity of criminal networks. Regional collaboration between different States is essential to prevent transit and control traffic at borders. The difficulty of border control in the countries of the region may require a significant amount of continued investment and, possibly, the collaboration between the armed forces and civil authorities. Colombia is the country most affected by these problems, so it seems appropriate that its security and defense policy address this dark aggression against national sovereignty.

Defense and Security Policy (PDS) for the legality, entrepreneurship, and equity, released by the Ministry of Defense of Colombia in 2019, represents a progressive initiative that will work to build a system of effective collaboration between different resources, organizations, and government institutions, as well as civil society and citizens to coordinate the effort in building a national defense project that is comprehensive and coherent with the complexity of the threats.[24] The PDS introduces water, biodiversity, and the environment as the main and predominant national interests. Undoubtedly, Colombia, the second country in the world in terms of biodiversity, cannot accept that in the past decade more than one million hectares were deforested, a large part for the planting of illicit crops. It is obvious that empty or precarious institutional spaces pose the greatest threat to security, including environmental security.

The estimated value by the United States Agency for International Development of illegally traded timber in the world would amount to between 50,000 and 150,000 million dollars in the year 2021. For Interpol, profits can be significant enough that they can be used to finance conflicts in some parts of the world. Illegal logging is such an important crime that InSight Crime,[25] in collaboration with American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, has spent two years investigating Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Peru. The details and data offered by the published reports are very worrying and reading them can help to understand the dimension of the problem.[26] In the case of Peru, which is not the only one, illegally harvested timber is destined for the PRC. Pucallpa, the capital of Ucayali, is Peru’s main timber trafficking hub.[27] InSight Crime’s report uncovers the complex web behind this criminal business.

On the other hand, among the 15 countries in the world with the largest marine area under its jurisdiction, there are three Ibero-American countries. Argentina should be fourth, but the United Kingdom occupied the Malvinas, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands, which were recognized as dependent and non-self-governing territories. Brazil, Chile, and Mexico have more than three million square kilometers of a marine area within their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Chilean case is especially relevant because the extension of its area of influence in the sea is five times greater than its territory. In addition, the maritime area of national responsibility of Chile in maritime search and rescue (SAR area) exceeds 26 million square kilometers, an area equivalent to the entire African continent. Chile is the fifth country in the world with the largest SAR area.[28]

Ecuador also deserves to be highlighted because it has a marine area under its jurisdiction that approaches 5 times its land area. In addition, Ecuador aspires to expand its waters 150 miles beyond its current EEZ, relying on the rights granted by the recognition of a wider continental shelf. To do this, it needs to prove, through technical and scientific studies, that the continental shelf is as wide as it claims. If it succeeds, all waters between the mainland and the Galapagos Islands would come under Ecuadorian jurisdiction. In this regard, Ecuador and Costa Rica have submitted to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf the previous studies related to the Carnegie and Cocos submarine mountain ranges, which would support their rights to expand jurisdictional waters.[29] It would be an important step forward for Ecuador and Costa Rica to conserve the rich biodiversity of a unique area in the world threatened by overfishing, especially from China. [30]

The first fishing campaign in distant waters of the PRC registered in Ibero-America was in 2001, mobilizing a total of 22 vessels. In 2015, the number of Chinese fishing boats exceeded 250 and, by the end of the decade, exceeded 500.[31] Its largest part is located outside the EEZ of both countries at mile 201. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is a serious problem affecting not only conservation but also development and security. In 2017, Global Financial Integrity[32] published a report entitled Transnational Crime and the Developing World. In this report, it is estimated that illegal fishing generated an estimated income of between 15,000 and 36,000 million dollars.[33] The Chinese fishing fleet is responsible for this type of illegal exploitation, although it is not easy to prove it. There are many indicators that, taken together, point in the same incriminating direction.

The 2019 Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime establishes a global index of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing measured on an analytical basis of 40 different factors. The PRC is the state with the most unfavorable data, standing out as the great champion of criminal fishing activity.[34] Illegal and unreported fishing accounts on average for approximately 15-35 % of the total volume of fish production, equivalent to between 12 and 28 million tons of fish.[35] The predatory practices of the PRC deep-sea fishing fleet are a serious threat to the preservation of the natural environment.[36] The current situation could change if the UN were to advance the process of approving the international agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Sea areas beyond national jurisdiction account for almost two-thirds of the surface of the oceans and half of the planet. The efforts made by the United Nations system to regulate the protection of this important part of the planet began 15 years ago. However, they have not yet come to fruition. However, since 2019, a draft project has been developed to regulate international law’s protection of global interests on the high seas and its seabed.[37] Resuming the approval process of the agreement is of vital importance to preserve biodiversity in the waters surrounding Ibero-America. The new treaty would identify the basic requirements necessary for the inspection and management of damage caused by the exploitation of resources in international waters. It would facilitate the expansion of marine protected areas by coastal countries and sustain the necessary capacities for developing countries to protect the sustainable use of the high seas.

Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, with an adequate instrument of international law, would be in a position to request international support to prevent overfishing or illegal fishing beyond mile 201. However, legality is not sufficient without the necessary mechanisms and capacities to monitor and enforce international standards. Ibero-American navies and coast guard services need to have sufficient patrol vessels on the coasts and in the deep waters of the ocean. An adequate number of hydrographic and research vessels is also essential to be able to observe and monitor fishing grounds. This will allow for sustainable exploitation of the region’s immense fishery resources.

Undoubtedly, public opinion is becoming more and more sensitive to crimes against the environment. The protection of the natural heritage of the Ibero-American republics is a demand of societies increasingly aware of the importance of resources and the value of the immense biodiversity of the region. At the same time, the protection of this natural wealth is associated with the persecution of international criminal organizations that, diversifying their illicit businesses, have landed from drug trafficking to the illegal exploitation of forestry, mining, fishing resources, and the irregular trade of wild fauna and flora. The difficulty of controlling compliance with the law in large spaces, far from population centers, often inhospitable and difficult to access, together with the militarization of transnational crime groups, requires the mobilization of military institutions to achieve an effective and coordinated prosecution of crime.

In May 2022, the Joint Command for Reaction to Adverse Emergencies of the armed forces was presented in Bolivia. The 2022 National Plan for Fire Prevention and Fighting, called “In Defense of Life and the Environment.”[38] was also released simultaneously. The joint command directs six regional commands that will have air force aircraft, navy river ships, Search and Rescue Service teams, and army assets. The mission of this new command will be to respond, limit, and prevent risks from disasters of natural origin or caused by human action.

The new Bolivian military organization has its antecedent in the Spanish Military Emergency Unit (UME). The EMU was created in October 2005. At the time, it was very controversial, so it meant supporting the budget of the Ministry of Defense a joint unit with missions that were not strictly military. Over time, the EMU has become the first intervention unit of the armed forces to respond to emergencies and catastrophes. The annual campaign to fight forest fires is a fundamental contribution to preserving Spain’s environmental heritage, one of the richest in Europe. The prestige of the UME has exceeded all expectations, contributing significantly to the twinning of society with its army. The UME has fulfilled its mission of assistance outstandingly and at the same time has strengthened the identification of Spanish society with its armed forces.

When the population discovers that in difficult times, the army is willing and prepared to reach where others have been overwhelmed, it becomes a particularly relevant reinforcement of social trust in the armed forces. The defense of the rich terrestrial and maritime natural heritage together with support in situations of natural disasters is an effective form of military contribution to the protection of population and resources and at the same time a mechanism for controlling territory and prosecuting crimes associated with international crime.


The shadows of globalization are long and dark. The immense increase in global wealth generated by the opening of world markets, international value chains, the interconnectedness of real and financial economies, migratory movements, and the increase in the size of markets has not been accompanied by a stronger system of international governance. Many times, it has been read and heard that now, there is a situation of competition between the great powers. However, it may not have been considered what it entails. The competition between great powers is a soft and ambiguous way of describing the tensions between the most powerful nations. This is the result of a multipolar world where the big powers engage in competitive unilateralism to impose their norms and standards. The current state of the world has dissolved the barriers between security and business.

The dominant trend of decoupling from interdependencies is new, but it could have been anticipated as inevitable. Political warfare, which some now identify as a hybrid strategy, is a geostrategic mode of dispute for geoeconomic and geo-technological dominance, where each of the Ibero-American States can be a key piece in favor of one of the competitors for hegemony. It is possible that, if the threat is underestimated, it will be too late for some Ibero-American republics to undo a situation of excessive dependence for their sovereignty and independence. Defiant interdependence can impose a dangerous discourse on nations that do not have a state strong enough to sustain the weight of their sovereignty in an interconnected world.

The rivalry between China and the United States structures the world, although attention is currently focused on Ukraine. A great power’s desire to gain an advantage may threaten international actors with insufficient capacity to counter its progressive penetration. The influence of the PRC or the United States need not be related to the coercive exercise of force.  The Weaponization of Everything, that is, the use of any kind of interrelation to exert pressure on Ibero-American countries and condition their sovereign decisions has become a serious threat. The next few decades are likely to see the battle for dominance intensifying, so much so that it becomes difficult to compel people to take sides in the conflict.

Taking sides would mean for the Ibero-American States a choice associated with a loss of opportunities. China and the United States are both important partners. The obligation to swing in one direction or another, imposed by an unbalanced balance in relations, would mean the closing of windows of opportunity for Ibero-American countries. In this inescapable struggle to maintain sovereignty, the fragmentation of the region plays a detrimental role. Without an integrated Ibero-American vision, the region will not have the geopolitical criteria or the geoeconomic strength to assert itself. There is more to life than facts, but possibility as such is a key component. Paradoxically, one of the most distinctive characteristics of the historical reality of the Ibero-American republics is not that they possess a territory. Long before the existence of any republic, Ibero-America was considered a single reality. A reality linked to the legacy of Spain on the other side of the Atlantic. This is how Francisco de Miranda, Simón Bolívar, San Martín, and Artigas understood it. This was also understood by the royalist soldiers and generals who fought against them.

Ibero-America is the continent with the greatest biodiversity in the world. For all Ibero-American countries, the protection of their natural heritage is especially important. The magnitude of the threat requires the involvement of international organizations and the close collaboration of the countries of the region.

The significance of the losses caused by environmental crime is still not sufficiently visualized. The magnitude of the loss of resources, money laundering, the effects on crime, or threats to State security affects everyone. These illicit activities against the environment are clearly connected to the financing of international criminal organizations, terrorism, and subversive groups, such as the residual FARC or the ELN in Colombia. The borders between Ibero-American countries cannot be an obstacle that prevents the combined and joint fight against this threat.

Water, biodiversity, and the environment are vital national interests for Ibero-America. The common interest in defending this heritage imposes an obligation on nations to equip themselves with capacities to act against crime and natural disasters. However, the effectiveness of the means will not be sufficient without collaborative agreements between States to prevent criminals from having secure sanctuaries, beyond the national borders of the States where they perpetrate their crimes.

Finally, it is intended to highlight the importance for society of defending its cultural and natural heritage. Defending biodiversity, protecting the environment, and responding to natural disasters to minimize their effects, while simultaneously combatting transnational criminal organizations is a mission that, without a doubt, will promote a more successful and immediate bond between the people and their armed forces.


  1. Marin Saillofest, ” La Doctrina China de la Administración Biden,” The Grand Continent (May 28, 2022),
  2. Bernardo de Miguel and Guillermo Abril, ” La Comisión Europea reconoce la energía nuclear como verde al menos hasta 2045″, El País (Brussels: January 1, 2022),
  3. ICC News, “REPowerEU: A plan to rapidly reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels and fast forward the green transition”, Intelligent Cities Challenge (May 30, 2022),,-Home&text=On%20May%2018%2C%20the%20European,considering%20the%20current%20geopolitical%20contex.
  4. Speech by Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered on May 26, 2022 at George Washington University. Available in: Marin Saillofest, “La Doctrina China de la Administración Biden”, El Grand Continent (May 28, 2022),
  5. Ben Poole, “Tectonic shifts identified in global supply chains”, Cash & Treasury Management File (February 11, 2020),
  6. The most important moves are being made in the consumer durables, retail, technology hardware, and semiconductor sectors. The first two are changing mainly by relying on better profitability with automation and robotization. The last two sectors are moving due to the tension between the United States and China, which causes uncertainty due to possible sanctions or political restrictions.
  7. Redacción BBC, “Estados Unidos vs China: la nueva orden de Biden contra empresas chinas que refuerza la dura posición de Washington con Pekín”, BBC News Mundo (June 4, 2021),
  8. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is an independent federal government regulatory agency responsible for protecting investors, maintaining the orderly and fair functioning of securities markets, and facilitating capital formation. Available in: SEC & Regulatory Bodies, “Comisión de Bolsa y Valores (SEC)”, Traders Studio (February 26, 2022),
  9. An ADR is a tradable certificate issued by a U.S. bank that represents shares of non-U.S. companies listed on one of the U.S. stock exchanges. In this way, the mechanism of ADR certificates allows Chinese companies to issue shares directly on the US Stock Exchange.
  10. SEC & Regulatory Bodies, “Comisión de Bolsa y Valores (SEC)”, Traders Studio (February 26, 2022),
  11. Weaponisation of Everything can be translated as the use of all things as a weapon of political war.
  12. Mark Leonard, The Age of Unpeace: How Connectivity Causes Conflict (London: Bantam Press, 2021).
  13. Mark Leonard, “La Guerra de la conectividad “, Project Syndicate (December 1, 2021),
  14. Mark Galeotti, The Weaponization of Everything: A Field Guide to the New Way of War (London: Yale University Press, 2022)
  15. Henry Farrell and Abraham L. Newman, Weaponized Interdependence: How Global Economic Networks Shape State Coercion (International Security 2019, no. 44), 42–79, Weaponization of interdenpendence is not easy to translate into Spanish, it could be something akin to the militarization of interdependence or, perhaps better, the use of interdependence as a weapon.
  16. RCEP aims to eliminate tariffs and quotas on 65 % of products, which will be expanded to 90 % in 20 years, and other barriers to free trade. The treaty harmonizes intellectual property rules and addresses the digital economy and e-commerce but contains no regulation on labor rights and environmental impact.
  17. Myanmar and the Philippines have not yet ratified it.
  18. The United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) Global Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) has identified a total of 17 megadiverse countries: Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, United States, and Venezuela.
  19. CEPAL Noticias, “CEPAL reafirma importancia de contabilizar el capital natural en América Latina y el Caribe e insta a promover espacios de cooperación regional e interinstitucional en la materia”, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (December 9, 2021),
  20. CEPAL Evento, “Conservación y uso sostenible de la biodiversidad para una recuperación sostenible: desafíos y oportunidades de América Latina y el Caribe,” Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (March 8, 2022),
  21. Actualidad, “El dinero del crimen organizado: hágase la luz”, Assistance Program against Transnational Organized Crime (November 5, 2021),
  22. News Interpol, “Interpol marks a decade of tackling serious organized environmental crime”, International Criminal Police Organization (November 23, 2020),
  23. Government of Colombia, “La Política de Defensa y Seguridad PDS. For legality, entrepreneurship and equity”, Ministry of Defence from Colombia (January 2019),
  24. Ibid.
  25. Delitos, “Delitos Forestales”, International Criminal Police Organization (2021),
  26. Deborah Bonello, “Cómo los carteles de la droga se colaron en la tala ilegal en México”, Insight Crime (September 18, 2020),; Héctor Silva Ávalos, “Los barones de la madera en Catacamas, Honduras”, Insight Crime (September 18, 2020),; César Molinares and Natalia Moreno, “Cómo los reguladores colombianos se convirtieron en proveedores de madera ilegal,” Insight Crime (September 18, 2020),; Juan Diego Cárdenas, “Panamá lucha por combatir el tráfico de madera en sus bosques y puertos”, Insight Crime (April 4, 2022),
  27. The timber were given the order to look for and cut “shihuahuaco” and “storaque,” as the Dipteryx Micrantha and Myroxylon Balsamum species, tropical woods desired for the construction of floors and terraces, especially for importers, especially by importers of the largest wood business partner of Peru: China. Available at: James Bargent, “Los Patrones y sus patrones en Ucayali, Perú”, Insight Crime (September 18, 2020),
  28. Francisco Pablo García-Huidobro Correa, et al Horizonte en el Pacífico: Visión Oceánica de la Armada de Chile, (April 2019),
  29. The underwater mountain ranges and that of coconuts are dorsal of the Pacific Ocean between the coasts of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and are subject to the commission of limits of the UN continental platform.
  30. In 1984, the Galapagos archipelago was declared by UNESCO a Biosphere Reserve for hosting hundreds of species of flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. The Humboldt Current, also called the Peru Current, which travels from south to north, from the upper third of Chile to the borders between Peru and Ecuador, is responsible for the great marine wealth of the waters of the Ibero-American Eastern Pacific. In the Galapagos Islands, in addition to the Humboldt Current, there are the Cromwell Current, which comes from the western coast of the archipelago, and the Panama Warm Current, which comes from the northeast. This convergence of waters fosters unparalleled biodiversity, which allows an exclusive mixture of ecosystems. In the Galapagos Islands, we can see cold water species coexist with tropical species. Available in: News, “Reserva marina de Galápagos”, Ecuador Galapagos Info (2022),
  31. Frameworks Kisner Well, “La flota pesquera china y su impacto sobre las pesquerías”, Alert Economic (May 21, 2021),
  32. Global Financial Integrity (GFI) is one Think tank based in Washington, DC. which produces analyses of illicit financial flows, advises developing country governments on effective policy solutions, and promotes transparency measures as a means for global development to combat illicit activities and promote security.
  33. Channing Mavrellis, “Transnational Crime and the Developing World”, Global Financial Integrity (March 27, 2017),
  34. GI History, “Catalyzing the Building Blocks of a Global Strategy”, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (2022),; Look Gutierrez and Guy Jobbins, “China’s distant-water fishing fleet: scale, impact, and governance”, Overseas Development Institute (June 2, 2020),
  35. Miren Gutierrez and Guy Jobbins, “China’s distant-water fishing phleet: Scale, Impact and Government”, Overseas Development Institute (June 2, 2020),
  36. At the beginning of July 2020, the Ecuadorian Navy published a bulletin warning of the presence of a formidable Chinese fishing squadron, of about 260 boats, fishing on the limit of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) near the Ecuadorian archipelago of the Galapagos. At the end of the month, the number of boats exceeded 340, mostly trawlers. Available in: News, “Armada de Ecuador”, Government of Ecuador (2022),
  37. Draft text of an agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Available in: Victor Luis Gutierrez Castillo and Carlos Soria Rodriguez, “Hacia un nuevo acuerdo internacional que proteja la biodiversidad en alta mar“, The Conversation, (August 15, 2021),
  38. Press Note, “FF.AA. inician tareas de prevención y atención a emergencias en el país ante posibles desastres naturales por incendios y otros eventos”, Ministry of Defense of Bolivia (May 12, 2022), /4569


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The ideas contained in this analysis are the sole responsibility of the author, without necessarily reflecting the thoughts of the CEEEP or the Peruvian Army.

Image: CEEEP