With its commitment to help build safe, prosperous, and democratic societies in Central America, the United States of America today revealed strategies to combat crime and insecurity in the region.
In her remarks at INCAE and Woodrow Wilson Private Sector Initiative to Address Crime and Insecurity in Central America, Under Secretary Maria Otero talked about three key areas of the U.S. strategy to combat crime and insecurity in Central America.
First, what the U.S. is doing to reduce the demand for illicit drugs in United States, which is a major factor in the transnational issue, she stated.
The second, is how the U.S. is utilizing new international partnerships to address transnational organized crime and citizen security.
“And lastly, the need for a comprehensive, community-based approach to address citizen security in each country in Central America.” -Ms. Otero
She cites that at the Summit of the Americas, President Obama and Secretary Clinton engaged with the leaders of the region in a robust and healthy dialogue on a range of issues, including the U.S. strategy on drugs.
The U.S. has acknowledged that the high demand for drugs in the US is a major contributing factor to drug trafficking and its effects in the region, she noted.
In response to the concern, President Obama charted a new direction for its efforts to reduce illicit drug use and its consequences by launching a National Drug Control Strategy in 2010.
This week, President Obama has announced a revised strategy that provides a review of progress, and looks ahead to continued reform.
“This new strategy rejects the false choice between an enforcement-centric “war on drugs” on the one hand and the notion of drug legalization on the other, an issue that was also addressed in Cartagena.” -Ms. Otero
While the United States remains open to engaging in discussion on this issue, the US stresses that legalization is the path towards a holistic solution to combat drug trafficking and organized crime and improve citizen security across the region.
The United States believes there must be a balanced approach to reducing illicit drug use, and our efforts are yielding results.
According to Ms. Otero, the rate of overall drug use in America has dropped by roughly one-third over the past three decades.
Since 2006, meth use in America has been cut by half and cocaine use has dropped by nearly 40 percent, she reported.
She notes that in 2011, the United States spent over 10 billion dollars on drug prevention and treatment; 9.4 billion dollars on domestic law enforcement; 3.6 billion on interdiction, and 2.1 billion on international drug control programs.
The President’s revised National Drug Control Strategy seeks to redouble our efforts, and employs a balance of evidenced-based public health and safety reforms, she stressed.
Another pillar of the strategy is strengthening international partnerships, Ms. Otero noted.
With the leadership of Secretary Clinton, the United States has created new partnerships to address the security challenges in Central America.
The United States has developed new modes of cooperation starting by addressing security issues that are identified by Central Americans themselves.
Ms. Otero underlines that Secretary Clinton firmly believes that the solutions to the problems in Central America must come from Central Americans and that is why the U.S. supports the Central American Integration System, commonly known as SICA.
Today’s event further contributes to the Central American-led effort to identify practical solutions to the security challenges facing the region, Ms. Otero added.
The U.S. programmatic efforts are funneled through the Central America Regional Security Initiative known as CARSI which is an integrated, collaborative program designed to disrupt and dismantle the gangs and transnational criminal organizations.
She notes that from 2008 to 2011, the United States has allocated over 361 million dollars to CARSI efforts.
Recently, at the Summit of the Americas, President Obama announced that the U.S. will allocate 130 million dollars for CARSI in fiscal year 2012.
“Our support is focused not just on helping security forces track down criminals.” -Ms. Otero
The United States is working to address the root causes of violence, from impunity to lack of opportunity.
The United States is working to build accountable institutions free from corruption that respect human rights and enhance the rule of law.
“We are building partnerships to improve courts and prisons, train police and prosecutors, and enhance education systems and job-training centers.” -Ms. Otero
The US government is working towards building partnerships with political leaders, but also with civil society, businesses and with the elite, who have a special obligation to help confront these challenges, Ms. Otero added.
In addition to new partnerships with Central Americans, the United States also is building partnerships across the Americas.
“One example is our cooperation with Colombia in Central America.” -Ms. Otero
Solving the crime and insecurity that plagues Central America requires a set of multi-faceted responses that include involvement by every sector of society, Ms. Otero stressed.
In March this year, the United States of America addressed the security challenges in Latin America where climate of insecurity throughout the region is evident.
The persistently high homicide and crime rates throughout Central America, the Caribbean, and the horrific reports of violence inside Mexico, are symptoms of a broader climate of insecurity throughout the region.
U.S. partnerships with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean – as well as the growing trend of regional alliances among many of those countries – have resulted in “significant progress” in fighting the illicit drug trade.
Mexico is the principal transshipment route to the United States for South American drugs, a major source of heroin and the key supplier of methamphetamine.
The tri-border area shared by Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay “remains vulnerable to exploitation as a transit zone for narcotics trafficking and other transnational crime as well.
US asserts that despite serious challenges in the hemisphere, collaborative efforts against illicit drugs are achieving impressive results – in the United States and in neighboring countries. The use of illegal drugs by teenagers in the United States has dropped by nearly 20 percent since 2001.