Thursday, January 17, 2013

Crime and Violence in Mexico and Central America: An Evolving but Incomplete US Policy Response

Crime and violence have increased dramatically in Mexico and Central America in recent years — the result of a shift in cocaine-trafficking routes as well as the incomplete transition from authoritarian to democratic institutions of governance.

In Crime and Violence in Mexico and Central America: An Evolving but Incomplete US Policy Response, Wilson Center experts Andrew Selee, Cynthia Arnson, and Eric Olson examine the evolving US policy responses to the crime and violence.

The US government has significantly increased its attention to public security issues in the region since 2007-08, when it approved the Mérida Initiative, an extensive plan for security and economic assistance to Mexico, later followed by the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI).

The policy response has been hampered, however, by several obstacles, as the authors explore. Among them: Efforts at institutional strengthening and reform have come up against entrenched corruption, insufficient political will, and the lack of a broad societal consensus on the need to improve citizen security. Also, the US response has been less coordinated and strategic than warranted, the result of the multiplicity of US government actors involved in policy toward Central America.

The US policy emphasis has begun to shift in important ways, the authors suggest, moving from a near-total focus on the problem as one of drug trafficking and transnational crime to one with notably more attention paid to addressing the crisis of citizen security overall.

This report is the latest research from the Regional Migration Study Group, a partnership between MPI and the Latin American Program/Mexico Institute of the Wilson Center. The Study Group, co-chaired by former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, and former Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein, is a high-level initiative that in spring 2013 will propose new collaborative approaches to migration, competitiveness, and human-capital development for the United States, Central America, and Mexico.

Today’s report marks the last in a series of Study Group reports focusing on insecurity in the region. Earlier research focused on the perennial problem of lawlessness along the borders of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; the rise of Mexican criminal organizations and Central American gangs over recent decades; the economic costs of crime and insecurity; and the role of weak government institutions in allowing crime and insecurity to take root. To read the earlier reports, click here.

KJ

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