The attainment of U.S. priorities in Latin America must be the product of genuine partnership, said Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson during a recent interview. In this vein, Jacobson noted that the United States is constantly working to strengthen cooperative ties with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
This is particularly true in the area of citizen security, where U.S. initiatives are focused on supporting national and community-based efforts to break the cycle of violence through expanded opportunity, especially for youth, and more effective administration of justice:
“The bedrock of those partnerships is how we improve institutions -- not just the forces of law and order, as important as they are: whether it’s police or military in some countries -- but how do we improve the judiciary to be more effective and more efficient and end impunity where that exists? How, do we improve prosecutors, defense attorneys? And how do we strengthen communities to resist crime and ensure that young people have another path for their future?”
The bedrock of those partnerships is how we improve institutions -- not just the forces of law and order."
There are four mutually reinforcing, sub-regional initiatives in the Western Hemisphere aimed at improving citizen security conditions. These include the Merida Initiative in Mexico, the Central American Regional Security Initiative, the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative and the Colombia Strategic Development Initiative.
In each program, the United States collaborates with local governments to increase the capacity of law enforcement officials, strengthen justice sector institutions, and support prevention efforts targeting at-risk youth and others who are susceptible to crime and recruitment by gangs and drug traffickers. Programming includes everything from police force training and material support to assistance in legal reform and the sponsorship of youth outreach centers.
Jacobson said each of the programs has achieved strong results, although much work has yet to be done:
“We have seen dramatic improvements in security in Colombia. And we believe that things are getting better avery slowly in Mexico: cartels that are being broken down -- quite a few achievements in Mexico. But, in Central America and Caribbean there are still grave concerns.”
The United States has appropriated $642 million to the Central American Regional Security Initiative since 2008 and $263 million to the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative since 2010. The hope is that the success of this “whole of society” approach will be duplicated in these regions.