CFR Symposium: Organized Crime in the Western Hemisphere: An Overlooked Threat?

Illicit transnational flows of goods, money, information, and people increasingly dominate U.S. relations in the Western hemisphere. Latin America remains the major source of cocaine and many other illegal substances for the United States as well as for the growing European markets. Mexico has become the newest power center for the criminal underworld: once considered primarily a "transit" country for illegal drugs from Colombia, Mexican drug trafficking organizations now dominate these markets, extending their reach from initial production in the Southern Cone to final destinations within the United States and elsewhere. Mexican cartels have a strong presence in source countries such in the Andes for cocaine and in Argentina for the precursors for methamphetamine, and they control coastal routes in the Caribbean and pipelines in Central America. On the other end of the chain, the Department of Justice's December 2008 National Drug Threat Assessment states that "Mexican drug trafficking organizations now represent the greatest organized crime threat to the United States." The limits of regional and global policy cooperation and coordination have worked to the advantage of organized criminal syndicates. Displaying great resourcefulness, trafficking organizations exploit the policy divide over how best to define and conduct counter-drug and other crime strategies. They also benefit from the weakness of public safety and security mandates within existing multilateral and regional organizations. The challenge for the international community and Western Hemisphere nations in particular, is to build on initial areas of cooperation, finding new ways and new regional mechanisms to reduce the harm that these violent organizations reap on populations across the region.

The first session will take stock of expanding organized crime and transnational threats throughout the Western Hemisphere, reflecting on the development and expansion of organized crime networks and their effects across the region in the last two decades. The second panel will focus on local and national experiences and policy responses in Colombia and Mexico, outlining the challenges, government and civil society responses, and lessons learned as the region aims to move toward greater cooperation and coordination on this issue. The last panel will focus on hemispheric policy responses to shifting regional dynamics, and the potential role for multilateral institutions and forums.

This symposium is on the record.

This symposium is supported by a grant from the Robina Foundation, the Hauser Foundation, and the Tinker Foundation.

Rapporteur Report for CFR Symposium on Organized Crime in the Western Hemisphere (65K)

Meetings

Conference Panel Session

Regional and Multilateral Responses

Speakers:

Adam Isacson, Director of Programs, Center for International Policy, Francisco Thoumi, Tinker Visiting Professor of Latin America Studies, University of Texas

Presider:

Shannon K. O'Neil, Douglas Dillon Fellow for Latin America Studies, CFR
November 18, 2009

This meeting is on the record.

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Conference Panel Session

Organized Crime and Transnational Threats

Introductory Speaker:

Richard N. Haass, President, CFR

Speakers:

David Holiday, Policy Analyst and Program Officer, Open Society Institute, William F. Wechsler, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats, U.S. Department of Defense, Lee S. Wolosky, Principal, International Corporate Practice Group, Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP; and Adjunct Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Presider:

Stanley S. Arkin, Chairman, The Arkin Group
November 18, 2009

This meeting is on the record.

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Conference Panel Session

Local and National Policy Responses

Speakers:

Ramon Garza Barrios, Mayor, Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, Rodrigo Pardo, Former Foreign Minister, Republic of Colombia; and Director, Revista Cambio

Presider:

Andrew D. Selee, Director, Mexico Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
November 18, 2009

This meeting is on the record.

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