The United States History of Systemic Racism: A Primer for Latin Americans, and Some Parallels

Naomi Roht-Arriaza*

Versión en español aquí.

Juneteenth, June 19, commemorates the day in 1865 that the last US slaves were freed. The holiday was celebrated across the United States this year with marches calling for defunding the police and tackling continuing systemic racism, continuing weeks of protests after the police killing of George Floyd and others. These demands for radical change might at first seem unnecessary and extreme – after all, the US recently had a Black president, and slavery ended long ago – but they reflect the way government action throughout the 20th century until today created and supported institutionalized racism.  With the disproportionate effects of both COVID-19 and unemployment on the Black community, these patterns have become obvious.  In particular, the protests respond to the failure of decades of reform efforts to stop the police killing of unarmed black people across the country, a failure rooted in the isolation and control of Black and Latinx communities and the defunding of services to these communities.  The US experience provides an illuminating window into the persistence of racism and racist policing elsewhere in the Americas, as well as some intriguing pathways forward.

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Closing safe havens for Venezuelan State Organized Crime: “Inverted rule of law,” impunity, and challenges in international cooperation in extradition between the U.S. and Spain

Jan-Michael Simon

Criminal actors linked to Venezuelan State Organized Crime, be they in or outside the country, profit from Venezuela’s ruling system of “inverted rule of law” and impunity. The present article sheds light on international challenges that have arisen while seeking accountability abroad. Criminal proceedings currently underway in the U.S. and Spain provide insight as to the spectrum of the criminal activities and the magnitude of the assets stolen. Venezuelan State Organized Crime has been described as “a multi-jurisdictional corruption enterprise that makes Odebrecht look like a downtown Caracas pickpocket.” It is an interesting comparison considering that the U.S. Department of Justice has called the “Odebrecht” precedent “the largest foreign bribery case in history.” Many cases related to Venezuelan State Organized Crime are only beginning to be uncovered. Yet, the cases in the U.S. and Spain make clear that the criminal operations involve illicit transnational relations at the global level between actors of different nationalities and residencies.

Based on three case studies, this article concludes that former high-level public officials linked to Venezuelan State Organized Crime residing in Spain have sought refuge there while trying to elude investigations in the U.S. This article concludes that to ensure that Spain is not a safe haven for such crimes, Spanish authorities must take good faith measures toward prosecution and ensure due diligence, or extradite to the U.S. Failing to do so would result in the Spanish justice sector contributing to the impunity of actors involved in Venezuelan State Organized Crime.


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