March 21, 2011

CNAS Policy Brief: Growing Western Hemisphere Violence Demands Regional Response

most dangerous threat to the United States and its allies in the Western
Hemisphere is the growth of powerful transnational criminal organizations in
Mexico and Central America, according to the authors of a new policy brief
released today by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). In Security Through Partnership: Fighting
Transnational Cartels in the Western Hemisphere
, authors Bob
Killebrew and Matthew Irvine write that increased regional cooperation –
which has been a topic of President Obama’s Latin America tour – is needed
to combat the growing violence and instability in the Western Hemisphere.

“Transnational cartel networks cannot be defeated in just one area, one border
or one country. These organizations conduct activities throughout the region
and therefore are able to adapt quickly to new security measures taken to
counter them,” write
authors Killebrew and Irvine. “A reinvigorated partnership between the United
States and Colombia, Mexico and the nations of Central America is the most
effective means to attack this transnational threat and promote the rule of law
and justice throughout the region.”


Killebrew and Irvine recommend that the United States and its regional

  • Prioritize attacking cartels. While mitigating the effects of illegal drugs is an
    important policy issue in the concerned countries, the United States and
    its regional partners should target the cartel networks throughout the
    region as the primary threat.
  • Work regionally.
    The United States and its partners stand the best chance of securing the
    region against the most dangerous cartels by deploying a regional security
    strategy, rather than directing efforts to just one area, one
    border or one country.

addition, the United States should:

  • Help others lead. Successful efforts against transnational criminal
    organizations need not originate in Washington. The United States should
    encourage bilateral or multilateral partnerships in the region that may
    not include direct U.S. sponsorship or control but focus on shared goals.
  • Revitalize its partnership with Colombia. The United States should anchor its regional efforts
    in a new relationship with Colombia based on a shared interest in
    countering transnational criminal networks and bolstering the rule of law.

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