Organized Crime Threatens Democracies in the Americas

By Dialogo
March 05, 2012

The violence and the capacity for corruption associated with organized crime constitute a threat to the democracies and the economy of the Americas, according to authorities at a forum of judicial and prosecutorial officials and ministers from the countries of the OAS that opened in Mexico on March 1.

“Transnational organized crime represents the greatest challenge to the state at this point in time around the world, and particularly in our afflicted continent,” Mexican President Felipe Calderón said at the opening of the High-Level Hemispheric Meeting against Transnational Organized Crime.

“In the previous 15 years transnational criminal networks have forged new and powerful alliances among themselves and with powerful figures in business and government,” U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said in his speech.

With more than 150,000 homicides in 2010, according to an Organization of American States (OAS) report released in 2011, the Americas are the most violent region in the world.

Behind many of those murders are criminal groups, which are also responsible for crimes such as the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and immigrants, among others, and have become “a full-scale threat to democratic governance,” according to OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza.

At the inaugural session, OAS Secretary for Multidimensional Security Adam Blackwell warned that organized crime threatens to interfere in electoral processes in the Americas, even to the point of imposing candidates.

He added that crime and violence are “the chief threats to security” in the Americas, where more than 357,000 violent deaths were reported in 2010, including more than 150,000 intentional homicides, 75 percent of them using firearms, according to a report by the OAS Security Observatory.

Blackwell also mentioned that economic activities, such as agriculture and tourism, are directly affected by organized-crime activities.

In response to this threat, Calderón called for the launch of a common front, by creating hemispheric frameworks of cooperation and updating the various international instruments in order to adapt them to the new challenge posed by transnational crime.

“All of our countries should form a common front in order to put a halt to this enemy, which does not recognize borders,” he stressed.