Latin American security officials agree to strengthen cooperation to fight organized crime
By Dialogo December 22, 2013
Security officials representing the 20 Latin American countries which are part of the American Police Community (Ameripol) recently agreed to strengthen international cooperation in the battle against transnational organized crime.
Representatives from the 20 countries, as well as officials from seven other nations, reached the agreement at the end of the 6th Ameripol Summit, which was held in San Jose, Costa Rica, on Nov. 12-13, 2013.
The 20 Latin American countries which are part of Ameripol are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. The United States is also a member nation.
The conference was inaugurated by Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla, who urged police forces to combat organized crime “with strategies that seek to go beyond the mere reaction of law enforcement agencies.”
Focus on strengthening police cooperation
The security officials who attended the conference focused on strengthening cooperation among law enforcement agencies of different countries in the fight against transnational criminal organizations, according to written statement from Ameripol.
Latin American security officials who attended the conference, including police chiefs, agreed to engage in higher levels of cooperation to strengthen the Regional Security Plan. The goal is to generate higher levels of coordination between law enforcement institutions of different countries in the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking.
The security officials at the conference also agreed to promote initiatives and cooperation mechanisms with “intergovernmental, regional, and global organizations, allowing to generate a synergy between police agencies.”
Facing a transnational threat
The members of Ameripol also approved exchanges between law enforcement agencies to promote the improvement of skills and technological capabilities.
Law enforcement agents must continue to improve their capabilities to face the evolving threat posed by transnational criminal organizations, said Rodolfo Palomino, the president of Ameripol and the director of Colombia’s National Police.
“The big cartels have turned into criminal gangs or mini-cartels,” Palomino said. “Security forces are facing these smaller groups. These criminals do not respect borders or the law.”
International cooperation is crucial in the fight against drug traffickers, Palomino said.
Attention on Central America
Central America in particular requires a high level of attention from security forces battling drug trafficking, firearms smuggling, and human trafficking, Enrique Galindo, the executive director of Ameripol and the commissioner general of the Mexican Federal Police, told Notimex.
“It is very important to give Central America full attention and to take care of what is going on with trafficking, all types of trafficking,” Galindo said.
Transnational criminal organizations, like the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas, transport large amounts of cocaine through Central America to Mexico, the United States, Central America, Europe, and Africa.
In addition to trafficking humans, drugs, and firearms, organized crime groups in Central America engage in extortion, kidnapping, domestic drug sales, and bribery.
Up to 90 percent of the more than 700 tons of cocaine which enters the United States from Colombia each year passes through Central America, according to U.S. officials. Drug traffickers generate annual profits of more than $320 billion (USD) throughout the world, according to a recent report by the Colombian National Police, which was released at the 82nd Interpol General Assembly in Cartagena, Colombia.
Street gangs and international drug traffickers
In addition to fighting transnational criminal organizations, security forces in Central America are also battling more than 900 local gangs, which have more than 70,000 members, according to the International Control Board’s 2012 Annual Report. Two of the biggest gangs are Mara Salvatrucha, which is also known as MS-13, and Barrio 18, which is also known as 18th Street.
Security forces throughout Latin America face different challenges from international drug traffickers, according to an Ameripol report, “Situational Analysis of Drug Trafficking.”
The report detailed the threats faced by different countries:
• Brazil has become a haven for fugitive drug traffickers and a bridge for the distribution of drugs to Europe and West Africa. Three organized crime groups control drug trafficking in Brazil: The First Capital Command (PCC), the Red Command, and the Pure Third Command.
• Bolivia is one of the largest producers of cocaine hydrochloride, which is trafficked to different parts of the world through Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Paraguay.
• Ecuador is a transshipment and storage point for drug traffickers. Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel transport drugs through Ecuador.
• Peru is one of the largest producers of cocaine in the world. About 800 tons of cocaine are produced worldwide every year, and most of the production occurs in Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia.
• Panama is a transit country for transnational criminal organizations which smuggle drugs north from South and Central America to Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.
The need for cooperation
While organized crime groups in Latin America engage in a variety of illicit enterprises, drug trafficking is their largest source of revenue, according to Nestor Rosania, the director of the Center for Studies in Security, Defense, and International Affairs (CESDAI), in Colombia.
Nations should confront transnational criminal organizations on a cooperative basis, Rosania said.
Coordination and cooperation among Ameripol member countries in the fight against organized crime groups is good but needs to be strengthened, Rosania said. An ongoing dialogue to give continuity to the police models is necessary, he added.
The Ameripol conference and other events like it help foster dialogue and a spirit of cooperation, Rosania said. Such meetings allow police officials from different countries to share their experience fighting transnational crime, he said.
Support for an educational model
During the Ameripol conference, security officials also agreed to promote the consolidation of the Inter-American Network for Police Development and Professionalization, a virtual education model for police which is led by the Public Security Department of the Organization of American States (OAS). for A led by the OAS Public Security Department, which is a strategic partner in obtaining a virtual education model for agents.
The Ameripol Board of Directors elected Commissioner Juan José Andrade Morales, head of Costa Rica’s Police Force, to serve as president during the 2014-2015 sessions