Security Issues in the Americas


Carla Angulo-Pasel,
CIGI Research Officer

As one of the major themes for discussion at the Summit of the Americas, security has once again come to the fore with the rising violence in the northern regions of Mexico. The drug violence of major drug gangs in Mexico has not only taken the lives of over 6,000 people last year, but has also reduced tourism which is especially challenging given the economic situation in the region.

Drug trafficking as a transnational crime is not new and achieving a feasible long-term solution will not be an easy task. Counter-narcotics initiative like “Plan Colombia”, despite some observers claiming it as a success, does not achieve a reduction in coca cultivation. Though statistics may show a reduction in coca cultivation in one area, Colombia, for instance, in the same year there, is an increase in another area, either Ecuador or Peru – the classic balloon-effect. In addition, reducing the cultivation of coca only damages the farmers in rural areas who are dependant on this livelihood, by not only destroying the crop but, in many instances, forcibly displacing people and causing serious health maladies which directly contradict the other agenda items at SOA: reducing poverty, respecting human rights, and improving health.

Of course the better solution would be to solve the core problem of poverty by providing alternative livelihoods for these farmers. However, this is easier said than done – this type policy began to be instituted in Colombia, but did not achieve much success. In the past, there has always appeared to be a preference for a military hard security approach. With all eyes on the new Obama administration and the good will approach he has been promoting, it will be interesting to see how the issue of drug trafficking and its connection to security will be handled.

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