Unasur Seeks a Regional Response to the Spread of Crime

By Dialogo
May 08, 2012

At a meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, on May 3, defense ministers and holders of other portfolios from Unasur countries sought regional responses to drug trafficking and other criminal networks that operate across their borders.

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón inaugurated the two days of private meetings by warning his counterparts of the risks that organized crime entails for democracy itself in the region.

“Transnational organized-crime activities are making their presence felt as the most serious threat to the security and stability of democratic governments, order, and social development,” Pinzón stated upon opening the meeting of 27 defense, justice, interior, and foreign ministers from the 12 countries of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur).

Pinzón explained how drug cartels and other organizations have shifted from operating with national and centralized systems to functioning in “complex transnational networks that take advantage of the region’s distinguishing characteristics.”

“If crime crosses borders, law enforcement has to do the same,” the minister emphasized.

In their remarks, Paraguayan Foreign Minister and Unasur President Pro-Tempore Jorge Lara, Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín, and Unasur Secretary María Emma Mejía agreed that the response to this challenge should be greater security integration.

Mejía recalled that, in pursuit of transparency and cooperation, the Unasur countries will make public an initial evaluation of the record of their military spending in Quito on May 10.

The Colombian Defense Minster warned of the challenges that could come with the spread of drug trafficking in the continent, less affected than Central America and Mexico at present.

A month ago, an Organization of American States report warned that cocaine use has spread in Latin America and that in some countries in South America, it is reaching European levels.

Pinzón also drew attention to other transnational crimes such as arms trafficking, migrant trafficking, and illegal mining.

This working meeting was organized for the purpose of integrating a mechanism for cooperation against transnational crime into the Unasur structure for the first time since its establishment in 2008.

Ministers or deputy ministers from the 12 Unasur countries met in Cartagena: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.