OAS member nations strengthen cooperation in fight against organized crime
By Dialogo December 19, 2013
Security officials in Latin America need reliable equipment, technological tools, and sound tactical and strategic plans to succeed in their battle against organized crime, officials from more than 30 countries agreed following a recent conference.
These were the main conclusions reached during the IV meeting of the Ministers of Security in the Americas (MISPA) in Medellin, Colombia. Officials from the 35 countries which comprise the Organization of American States (OAS) participated in the conference, which took place Nov. 21-22 2013.
Security officials at the conference also determined that regional cooperation between OAS countries is crucial in the fight against transnational criminal threats.
Strengthening joint actions
Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, and United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. were among the officials who attended the conference.
The two-day meeting strengthened ties between OAS countries which battle transnational criminal organizations, Pinzón said.
“The summit is an instrument that strengthens and reinforces joint actions against transnational crime and criminal behaviors that are common in these countries,” Pinzón said.
Many OAS members face the shared threat posed by transnational criminal organizations, Pinzón explained. Transnational criminal organizations are “a global challenge that prevents the development of countries and violates human rights,” the defense minister said.
Organized crime activity increases violence
The criminal activities of organized crime groups, such as drug smuggling, extortion, kidnapping, and human trafficking, have led to increased levels of violence in several OAS countries in recent years.
For example, from 2000 to 2011, the homicide rate in El Salvador jumped from 60 to 69 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). During that time, the number of killings in Honduras rose from 51 to 92 per 100,000 residents. In Guatemala, the number of killings ncreased from 26 to 39 for every 100,000 inhabitants.
The violent street gangs Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and Barrio 18, or 18th Street, operate in each of those countries, where they engage in domestic drug dealing, extortion, and firearms trafficking. Those gangs are responsible for much of the violence in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. These gangs also have alliances with Mexican drug trafficking organizations, such as the Sinaloa Cartel, which is led by fugitive kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and Los Zetas.
Gangs in Colombia
Colombian security forces are battling several organized crime groups, including the drug trafficking gangs “Los Rastrojos” and “Los Urabeños.” Both of these gangs have alliances with Mexican drug cartels. ”, both linked to drug trafficking in collusion with Mexican drug cartels, especially the Sinaloa Cartel, led by the fugitive of justice, Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán.
Colombian officials are negotiating with representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which has been fighting the government for 50 years. The ongoing negotiations are taking place in Havana.
Cooperation crucial in the fight against organized crime
At the end of the meeting, MISPA defined strategies for regional cooperation in the fight against transnational criminal organizations. The strategy calls for joint investigation protocols and improving the lines of communication for police forces from different countries to share information.
Several OAS member countries are already cooperating in the fight against organized crime.
For example, on Nov. 14, 2013 in Piura, Peru, the presidents of Peru and Ecuador agreed to strengthen cooperation on security in the fight against human trafficking and the illegal sale of fuel. The agreement President Ollanta Humala of Peru and President Rafael Correa of Ecuador marked the closing of the VII Binational Ministerial Cabinet.
On Nov. 23, 2013, President Correa met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to discuss the progress of the agreements reached during the first Binational Cabinet meeting between the two countries. This meeting was held in December 2012, in Tulcán, Ecuador, where eight agreements were signed on issues of security, transportation, education, tourism, and petroleum.
An international commission
During the MISPA meeting, Insulza urged officials from OAS nations to support the idea of forming an international commission to fight transnational crime.
“I hope that the proposal for an Inter-American Commission against organized transnational crime is considered and realized, because even today, in the second decade of the 21st century, we do not have a technical-political agency dedicated to organizing and coordinating collective efforts to address the growing threat of transnational organized crime,” the OAS Secretary General said.
“In the five years that have passed since our first meeting in Mexico City, the issue of public security has become a cornerstone for OAS actions. MISPA has been institutionalized and response capabilities of the various agencies have increased,” Insulza said.