US Seeks to Redefine Its Anti-Drug Strategy in Latin America
By Dialogo April 27, 2012
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s Latin American trip fits into a strategy of reducing costs and sharing responsibilities in the anti-drug fight, and Colombia is signing on as the chief U.S. ally in the region, analysts meeting in Mexico indicated.
After visiting Colombia on April 23 and 24, where his stay was dominated by the issue of the fight against drug trafficking, Panetta travelled to Brazil, and on April 26, he departed for Chile, where he was expected to analyze the issue of security and collaboration in the fight against transnational crime.
Panetta’s visit took place after the recent Summit of the Americas, held in Cartagena, charged the Organization of American States (OAS) with a complete review of policies and alternatives in response to the fight against drugs in the Americas.
In Cartagena, U.S. President Barack Obama, taking an unprecedented position for a president of that country, accepted the opening of debate and the inclusion of issues such as concerns about arms smuggling from the United States to its neighboring countries.
According to Jorge Hernández Tinajero, Mexican chair for the Collective for a Comprehensive Drug Policy, in accepting the search for other options, Washington is reacting “to the region’s evident unease with the results that anti-drug policy has had over the last 40 years.”
Tinajero emphasized that “there is genuine concern among the Central American nations and Mexico upon seeing how a country’s democratic life and the conditions for social development and economic opportunities deteriorate, when you’re marked by a war that is impossible to win on the terms in which it is proposed.”
“The problem of drug trafficking is a problem of shared responsibility; that was established at the Summit of the Americas. There’s time to put forward different possibilities and positions, and we’re going to see distinct alternatives,” Francisco Cumsille, from Chile, explained to AFP.
Cumsille, director of the OAS Inter-American Observatory on Drugs, who participated in the forum organized by the National Autonomous University of Mexico, indicated that the review done by the OAS should take all experiences into account, including Colombia’s experience.
That country has allowed the entry of U.S. troops, but it has also provided support to other countries under Washington’s guidance, training thousands of Mexican and Central American police officers, for example, an initiative that could be replicated.
“The kind of partnership that we have here in Colombia is an example (…) that we hope to be able to develop elsewhere,” Panetta stressed during his visit to Colombia.
For the Pentagon, which needs to cut personnel and costs in coming years, greater involvement by other countries in training, logistics, and intelligence to attack organized crime lessens its own burden.
Recently, the United States signed an agreement with Brazil and Bolivia to combat coca cultivation in border areas of the two South American countries.