U.S. Will Unify Initiatives to Combat Organized Crime in Latin America

By Dialogo
February 09, 2011

The United States is seeking to unify the plans it sponsors against organized crime in Latin America, in order to achieve greater coordination and effectiveness, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield announced in Guatemala on 6 February.

The official, who is on a trip to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Colombia, said at a press conference that he hopes to find “synergies” in these countries to improve established programs and efficiently combat international mafias, especially drug-trafficking ones.

“After this trip, and if we have a coincidence of perspectives in the region, (we hope) that this will enable us to design a new structure that could arise in order to have more collaboration among the countries of the Mesoamerican region and also the other countries in the hemisphere that want to be supportive and participate,” he affirmed.

He explained that in Colombia there already exists Plan Colombia; in Mexico, the Mérida Initiative; and in Central America, a plan that the United States has developed jointly with the Central American Integration Secretariat (SICA).

“What we’re seeking is to unify criteria, not to change or eliminate an initiative; we’re seeking to construct an umbrella under which countries on the inside or or on the outside can construct an infrastructure,” he noted.

“We know perfectly well that we have shared threats, illicit drugs, gangs, international organized crime, the movement of illegal weapons, that in other words, we’re all victims of those threats; the question is how we can collaborate better in order to resist, combat, and eventually defeat those threats,” he added.

Brownfield began his regional tour on 6 February in Guatemala, where he inaugurated an Automated Fingerprint Identification System, financed with U.S. cooperation funds, which will contain data on 57,000 criminals in its first phase.

The system will link four political, judicial, and penitentiary institutions, which will be able to make use of the information in order to improve performance of their respective tasks.

The official concluded his visit with a closed-door meeting with Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom, after which no statements were made to the press.

Brownfield, who was sworn in as assistant secretary on 10 January, is travelling together with Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson.

Both travelled on Tuesday to El Salvador, where they met with the deputy security minister, Henry Campos; the director of prisons, Douglas Moreno; the head of the police, Carlos Ascensio; and the attorney general, Romeo Barahona.

In Honduras, Brownfield and Jacobson met with the state secretary for security, Óscar Álvarez, and participated in a working meeting of the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) chaired by President Porfirio Lobo and U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens.

In Colombia, Brownfield will meet with the attorney general, Viviane Morales; with the commander of the Armed Forces, Adm. Edgar Cely; and with the director of the National Police, Gen. Oscar Naranjo.

Brownfield has extensive experience in Latin America, where he has served as ambassador to Colombia, Venezuela, and Chile.

In addition, he worked as counselor for humanitarian affairs in Argentina and El Salvador and was temporarily assigned as political advisor to the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Southern Command in Panama, from 1989 to 1990.