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Public Security in the Hemisphere on the Road to the Summit of the Americas
Feb 9, 2012 - 6:32:03 PM

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Date: February 08, 2012 Place: Washington, DC Credit: Patricia Leiva/OAS

The 40th Policy Round Table of the Organization of American States (OAS) analyzed the issue of public security in the western hemisphere, to be one of the axes for discussion during the Sixth Summit of the Americas, to be held in April 13 and 14 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

Participants in the event, titled, “The Road to Cartagena: Hemispheric Cooperation to Strengthen Public Security,” included Anthony T. Bryan, senior fellow at the Institute of International Relations, University of West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago; María Victoria Llorente, Executive Director, Fundación Ideas para la Paz, Colombia; and Rubén Aguilar, journalist and Press Secretary for former President Vicente Fox, Mexico. It was moderated by Richard Feinberg, Professor of international political economy at the University of California, San Diego.

The OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, recalled at the event’s opening that the issue of public security has grown in importance in recent years, not only in multilateral forums, but in the societies of the countries of the continent, and he highlighted, in this context, the growing influence of organized crime, which he called “a real industry of crime that threatens our democracies.”

“The demand by the public for this issue to be faced has been growing in our region,” he said. “This is an issue of the greatest importance, and the government of Colombia, which is charged with the organization of this Summit, with good reason selected it among the agenda items the region must face to make progress towards prosperity.”

The head of the hemispheric Organization also highlighted the need to handle “concrete proposals” on this issue. “What the Summit wants is to obtain from you concrete proposals on cooperation between the countries to be able to make progress towards finding a solution to this problem,” he added.

Anthony T. Bryan talked specifically about the issue of public security in the Caribbean, warning that without the implementation of adequate measures, “It won’t be long before the Caribbean is deeply enmeshed in what you see going on in Central America.”

Bryan highlighted the growing drug production in the Caribbean, though he specified that it is fundamentally of marijuana. “Despite the gravity of the situation as it seems to us, I do not classify any of our countries as being narcostates,” he stressed, adding that, “They are not there yet and hopefully they won’t ever be there.”

María Victoria Llorente highlighted the importance of International cooperation to face tretas to public security, though not just any type of collaboration. “What is important is to ask ourselves about what experiences we are exchanging: are these experiences being correctly evaluated? Do we know that this or that program really works or doesn’t work?” she asked. “We have many intuitions in the region on what works and doesn’t work, but little is based on reality,” she warned.

Also, she remarked on the relevance of the role of intelligence services in the fight against crime and collaboration between countries. “I think there is an important state of affairs that is settling in Ameripol, where the issue of cooperation and intelligence is not only a technical matter, but one of trust,” she said. “Mechanisms such as Ameripol generate the kind of trust that is required for the exchange to begin to flow, and, necessarily, if there is an important lesson from Colombia in the fight against organized crime in recent years it has to do with the role of intelligence,” she said.

Rubén Aguilar said security is a public good charged to the State, “not only to the government but to civil society.” In this sense, he called for focusing efforts on the violence that affects the population every day.

“What violence are we talking about? Ninety-five percent of violence in Mexico is common jurisdiction—theft on the street, in a car, express kidnappings,” that is, “acts of violence that truly affect society.” “It seems therefore that what appears to be the bulk of the violence is not in the press, it is not either in the discussions between public officials or in the discussion between political parties,” he added.

Also, he called for adopting a new paradigm to face drug trafficking, including the possibility of legalizing marijuana. “The great priority from my point of view is to question the paradigm, to think in a different way on how to face the problem,” he said.

The event was moderated by Richard Feinberg, who highlighted the progress achieved in the process of the Summits of the Americas, such as the measuring of results, independent monitoring and evaluation, and participation by civil society, among others. “We are building, we are moving forward.”

In closing remarks, Ambassador Luis Alfonso Hoyos Aristizábal, Representative of Colombia to the OAS, highlighted as representative of the host country of the next Summit of the Americas, that these forums must be enriched “more and more,” “because here we have witnessed, as the Secretary General said, that this is an issue of utmost concern to the citizens of the continent.” “And, in second place,” he continued, “the importance for this discussion to be not only among governments or academicians, but that it be held more and more in the public forum and civil society and political debate, because that is the way to appropriate it collectively and create a much broader reflection, including the opinion, interests and ideas of a much broader public.”

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.

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