President Obama is scheduled to travel to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador from March 19 to 23. The countries the President will visit are grappling with poverty and development, and with crime and regional security matters. We will hear words like “partnership” and “engagement” used frequently during the visit. While positive, these words have little meaning if they don’t come with a commitment to expend resources – both political and financial – to help our “partners” address their main concerns: public security, unemployment, weak institutions, and – in El Salvador’s case – high levels of out-migration. Nonetheless, in a time of reduced power and deep budget cuts, questions remain as to what President Obama will bring to reinforce these partnerships. Will he be arriving largely empty-handed with few offers of new economic aid and few commitments to spend political capital?
Please find below some resources on key issues in Latin America and in U.S. – Latin American relations. WOLA’s experts can be reached for analysis and commentary at: (202) 797-2171 or by going to www.wola.org.
Overview of the Region and U.S. Policy
An analysis piece on the Obama trip looking at what the President’s visit means for the three countries and for the rest of Latin America by WOLA Senior Associate Adam Isacson.
Joy Olson, WOLA’s Executive Director, recently testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the future of U.S. policy in the region. Her testimony lays out concrete steps toward collaborative approaches to shared problems in the hemisphere.
During an event at Harvard University, WOLA’s Program Director Geoff Thale discussed the challenges facing the Obama administration and the new Congress. See his analysis from the forum held on March 7.
Crime and Violence
Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy Adam Isacson and Executive Director Joy Olson traveled to Brazil in December. See Adam’s analysis of Brazil’s pacification program in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.
Senior Associate for Citizen Security Adriana Beltrán and Program Director Geoff Thale are leading experts on crime and violence prevention, especially in Central America – a region with one of the highest murder rates in the world. Beltrán was also actively involved in the creation of a UN-sponsored commission in Guatemala to investigate and prosecute criminal networks deeply entrenched in the state. Known as the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), its model is being considered for replication in El Salvador.
Senior Fellow George Withers, Adam Isacson and WOLA’s regional security team analyzed the distinctions between military and police functions, calling on the Obama Administration to stop encouraging military forces to take on policing roles in Latin America. See Preach What You Practice: The Separation of Military and Police Roles in the Americas .
Senior Associate for Drug Policy John Walsh and Senior Fellow Coletta Youngers recently released a comparative study on drug laws and incarceration in eight Latin American countries, including Brazil. The report, published in collaboration with the Transnational Institute, includes recommendations to reform drug laws that would alleviate prison overcrowding and protect public safety. See the Executive Summary of Systems Overload: Drug Laws and Prisons in Latin America.
Migration and Development
Maureen Meyer, Senior Associate on Mexico and Central America, is a leading expert on security and human rights issues and has done important work highlighting the crisis of migrants, mostly from Central America, who transit through Mexico on their way to the United States. See her latest publication on the issue.
Vicki Gass, Senior Associate for Rights and Development, is an expert on development issues, and has recently focused on the role of development in migration. See her recent article in the Huffington Post.