What SFS accomplished in 2021
2021 was a year of recovery. Still pushing through the pandemic, SFS adapted to the circumstances and overcame new obstacles to achieve growth and produce policy impacts countering Iran, Russia, and China, combating foreign disinformation, strengthening counterterrorism, and helping top partners in Latin America at a critical time for the region.
This year SFS published 28 in-house reports, released 14 original short videos, participated in 76 webinars, and earned almost 600 media hits in leading TV, print/online, and radio outlets, including 47 podcast episodes of the #NewWorld Report on CBS Eye on the World with John Batchelor.
Thanks to the support of our committed donors and the dedicated team of staff, fellows, and scholars at the Center for a Secure Free Society, SFS continues to advance freedom and security in the Western Hemisphere and worldwide.
For a look back at the major accomplishments for SFS in 2021 please read below and download our Year In Review by hitting the button:
- Supporting America’s top partner in Latin America – Colombia
In late April, Colombia burst into crisis as national protests spiraled to extreme violence and vandalism throughout the country. Learning from similar incidents in 2019, SFS quickly assessed the situation and found high-levels of foreign disinformation steering the protests away from legitimate causes and towards more chaos.
In mid-May, in the midst of the protests, SFS published a prominent report (SITREP) assessing the state of affairs in Colombia and explaining the geopolitical context. The report went viral, with more than two dozen interviews on TV and radio in Colombia, prominently cited by leading media outlets, such as Diario La Republica, Semana, La FM, El Tiempo, and CNN en Español. To complement, SFS introduced a new video series on YouTube called “Deciphers” to explain who is behind the violence in the Colombia protests through short two to three-minute videos.
After the report, SFS took a month-long trip to Colombia to brief high-level Colombian policymakers in the Duque government and the Congress. In Bogota, SFS helped train its Defense Ministry on multidimensional security. In Medellin, we briefed the private sector on foreign disinformation. And in Cucuta and Arauca, we took a fact-finding trip to the two most dangerous hotspots on the Colombia-Venezuela border. Back in Washington, SFS briefed several members of the U.S. Congress and, in December, SFS Executive Director Joseph Humire co-authored a comprehensive policy report on Colombia published by The Heritage Foundation.
- Combatting Foreign Disinformation in Latin America
Malign actors and adversaries of the United States are increasingly using disinformation to attack our freedoms and weaken our institutions. The same thing is going on with U.S. partners in Latin America. The pandemic was just the breaking of the dam, as foreign disinformation flooded out of Venezuela, Russia, Iran, and China (see VRIC Monitor), intended to polarize the Western Hemisphere and weaken American influence abroad.
In 2021, SFS partnered with the DT Institute’s Independent Media program, which helps “strengthen societies resilience against disinformation” to begin mapping and analyzing foreign disinformation in Latin America. Through detailed data analysis and artificial intelligence, SFS is building a comprehensive understanding of foreign disinformation in Spanish and Portuguese. With more than 850 million people worldwide who speak Spanish or Portuguese, and 20 countries that count Spanish as their official language, SFS counter-disinformation efforts in Latin America will continue in 2022.
- Strengthened a Hemispheric Counterterrorism Network focused on Hezbollah
Since 2019, five countries in Latin America officially designated Hezbollah a foreign terrorist organization. Colombia did so on January 19, 2020, and has now become a catalyst for a regional counterterrorism network focused on analyzing and countering Hezbollah’s criminal and terrorist network in Latin America.
In 2021, SFS co-organized private webinars and in-person seminars in Bogota with the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, Armed Forces, and National Intelligence Directorate in Colombia. Military and law enforcement officers, intelligence analysts, and prosecutors from 10 countries throughout the region participated. We also partnered with a prominent Colombian public policy think tank, Instituto de Ciencia Politica (ICP), as well as the Colombian War College (ESDEGUE), to hold several webinars on Hezbollah in Latin America. And SFS Executive Director Joseph Humire authored two articles featured in SOUTHCOM’s leading military magazine, Diálogo, about Iran’s strategic alliance with Venezuela and its penetration of Latin America. The magazine is distributed to all of the defense ministries and militaries of partner nations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
- Helped improve US-Brazil bilateral relations
On October 22, SFS International Fellow Leonardo Coutinho, a Brazilian national and U.S. resident, was decorated with Brazil’s Order of Aeronautical Merit Medal alongside two officers and three colonels from the Brazilian Air Force. This came after the 2019 nomination of the Order of Defense Merit Medal, a military award for exceptional contributions to Brazil’s national defense. Early next year, Coutinho will be awarded the Order of Rio Branco Merit Medal by Brazil’s Foreign Ministry alongside the former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Mr. Sergio de la Peña.
In 2019, U.S.-Brazil bilateral relations improved greatly and since then SFS has stayed committed to helping strengthen defense and foreign relations with Latin America’s largest country and one of America’s top strategic partners.
- Going Beyond the Border, During Unprecedented Mass Migration
2021 is the year of an unprecedented border crisis. Major waves of mass migration in the Western Hemisphere – Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians, Hondurans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans – have converged on the U.S. southern border to hit more than 1.7 million encounters and apprehensions by Customs and Border Patrol.
Traveling to the Darién Gap in Panama and speaking with customs and border officials from Panama, Colombia, Honduras, and Guatemala, SFS briefed several U.S. Senators and Homeland Security officials, and held two webinars, on the multidimensional aspects of the U.S. border crisis. Moreover, Joseph Humire presented about Human Smuggling Facilitators and Venezuela at the 20th Parliamentary Intelligence-Security Forum in December held at the National Archives in Washington D.C.
- Embarked on new Digital Marketing strategy
This year, SFS embarked on a new journey to enhance our digital marketing efforts. This began by hiring the talented video editor and graphic designer, Leonardo Gonzalez, whose extensive experience producing and promoting digital content, working with Google’s Digital Marketing Partners team in Latin America, helped bring SFS into the digital age. In 2022, Leonardo Gonzalez will be our new SFS creative director managing all digital marketing and social media content.
This year you might have noticed new video content uploaded on our Youtube page. We are excited to vastly increase our video content in 2022.
Becoming an independent national security think tank in 2012, SFS now has a decade of experience monitoring and analyzing Transregional Threat Networks in Latin America and the Caribbean. This experience is more important than ever as democracy is on the decline and free markets are under attack at home and abroad. We keep this in mind as 2022 brings important presidential elections in Costa Rica, Colombia and Brazil. Elections that could define Latin America for the next decade.
2022 is the 10th anniversary year of SFS and we are eager for the new year to begin. SFS has big plans to defend freedom and security in the Western Hemisphere in new ways, with new tools and new partnerships. Stay tuned for more.