The United States of America today addressed the security challenges in Latin America where climate of insecurity throughout the region is evident.
In his testimony before the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs of the House Appropriations Committee, Assistant Secretary William R. Brownfield discussed security threats in the Western Hemisphere as well as US efforts to address them.
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, Mr. Brownfield reported.
He says the crime and violence are exacerbated by widespread poverty and unemployment.
“This is brought into greater focus as criminal organizations react to the increasing pressure placed on their operations by governments in the region with support from the United States.” -Mr. Brownfield
These threats undermine and pose profound challenges to good governance, citizen security, and the rule of law, Mr. Brownfield cited.
He adds that absent these fundamental principles, transnational crime, gangs, and other illicit activity can flourish in many countries, threatening stability and public security.
“To counter these threats, this Administration has advanced an integrated approach of U.S. assistance programs.” -Mr. Brownfield
US efforts include from traditional prevention, law enforcement and counternarcotics programs, to anti-corruption, judicial reform, anti-gang, community policing, and corrections efforts.
The US is transforming its relationship with foreign partners by moving from the traditional donor-recipient relationship to one built on equal partnerships that involve shared responsibility and accountability.
The US government coordinates its efforts with others in the U.S. government who work with communities, civil society, and the private sector, recognizing that security solutions require a whole of society approach.
According to Mr. Brownfield, some 95 percent of the cocaine from South America destined for the U.S. transits the Central America/Mexico corridor.
With these activities comes violence: Battles between criminal groups for territory and transit routes; clashes between criminals and law enforcement; and violent crime fuelled by drug consumption, all with the ultimate motive of making a profit, Mr. Brownfield underlined.
In 2008, anticipating that Mexico’s efforts to challenge cartels would result in the movement of trafficking routes elsewhere, the U.S. government formed a partnership with Central American nations to enhance their security capacity which is now called CARSI.
In Mexico, reports say shocking news reports of killings and violence are evident.
However, the Government of Mexico, with assistance from the United States through the Merida Initiative, has had some significant results, Mr. Brownfield cited.
Through bilateral law enforcement cooperation, 47 high value targets have been arrested or removed in Mexico, including 23 of Mexico’s top 37 most wanted criminals, since December 2009.
Mr. Brownfield stresses that the Government of Mexico, through our Merida Initiative is transforming Mexico’s security forces and has strengthened Mexican government institutions in order to confront trafficking organizations and associated crime, and maintain public trust and citizen security.
In Colombia, Mr. Brownfield says best practices learned over decades in Colombia have informed overall hemispheric strategy.
The United States developed a program called the Colombia Strategic Development Initiative (CSDI), which supports the Colombian Government’s National Consolidation Plan.
According to Mr. Brownfield, the CSDI provides for civilian institution building, rule of law, and alternative development programs, along with security and counternarcotics efforts in those areas where poverty, violence, and illicit cultivation or drug trafficking persist and have historically converged.
In Caribbean Nations, the deleterious effects of drug smuggling, gangs and violent crime are also adversely affecting many countries in the Caribbean, including transnational criminals returning in a limited nature to air, maritime, and terrestrial routes in the Caribbean to traffic illicit products.
In 2009, President Obama launched the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, which like other initiatives is a collaborative endeavor undertaken in partnership with various United States departments and agencies, as well as the nations in the region.
Citizen security is the single most important issue confronting the Caribbean as narcotics-driven crime and violence have reached epidemic proportions, threatening the safety and security of United States and Caribbean citizens alike, Mr. Brownfield highlighted.
He pointed out that the challenges to secure and safe societies in the hemisphere are vast, and insecure societies host the majority of criminals whose crimes directly threaten our nation’s security.
The United States recognizes that there is no easy fix for these problems, and it will continue to evaluate their progress and adjust their approaches as these complex and dynamic threats evolve.
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.
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.