U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield will travel to Central America this month to discuss joint efforts to fight the drug trafficking and violence that is gripping the region.
In a recent interview, he said the current crisis in Central America is “easily foreseen and foretold but impossible to avoid.” Ambassador Brownfield explained that as bilateral partnerships fighting drug trafficking meet with success, drug trafficking gangs migrate to more vulnerable regions.
For example, in Colombia, cocaine production has dropped by about 60 percent since the beginning of Plan Colombia 12 years ago, said Ambassador Brownfield:
“What other impact did this support have? It drove the narcotics trafficking industry from a Colombia headquarters to Mexico .”
In response, the Merida Initiative was conceived in 2007. It is an unprecedented partnership between the United States and Mexico to fight organized criminal groups and associated violence while respecting human rights and the rule of law. While there is still a great deal of work to do, the program is “beginning to bite,” Ambassador Brownfield said. Now, trafficking organizations are responding to increased pressure by heading to Central America:
“The good news is: I think we’re ready. The Central Americans themselves have put together their own structure or mechanism to cooperate, which they call SICA … We and the United States government have our own initiative that we call CARSI … to support the Central Americans.”
SICA stands for the Central American Integration System. CARSI, or the Central America Regional Security Initiative, works on a bilateral and regional basis to stop the flow of narcotics, arms, weapons, and bulk cash generated by illicit drug sales, and to confront gangs and criminal organizations. U.S. CARSI assistance also works on prevention efforts with marginalized communities and at-risk youth, as well as to strengthen rule of law institutions.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “The U.S. is committed to citizen safety in Central America. …. We are doing everything we can in the fight against corruption and impunity, in providing the equipment and the support that law enforcement and the military require, and helping to build civil society to stand against the scourge of drug trafficking.”