Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

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Reads of the Week: Violence in Venezuela and New Approaches to the Drug War

by Shannon K. O'Neil
August 25, 2011

A  woman walks on a street drawn with chalk silhouettes during a protest against violent crimes in Caracas (Courtesy Reuters).

A woman walks on a street drawn with chalk silhouettes during a protest against violent crimes in Caracas (Courtesy Reuters).

A recent International Crisis Group report on the rise of violence in Venezuela breaks it down over the last two decades and provides some sense of the reasons for its uptick, and the slim prospects for a decline anytime soon. Bloggings by Boz has an interesting comparison of violence in Venezuela and Mexico, concluding that Chávez must follow Calderón’s lead and prioritize security over other policy issues if he is to give Venezuela a fighting chance in the war on organized crime.

Mark Kleiman’s  article in the newest issue of Foreign Affairs argues interestingly that the United States and Mexico should change their approach to the drug war, and focus resources on combating the most violent drug traffickers and retail dealers. Emphasizing violence reduction, Kleiman says, will make the most out of law enforcement’s (already weak) capacity to limit the damage caused by Mexican cartels.

Since Obama took office, there has been a lot of talk about expanding the Mérida Initiative to the local level, but efforts so far have been halting due to sensitivities on both sides of the border. This seems as if its about to change. Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield recently confirmed that Mérida will pursue an active policy of creating municipal training centers and involving local sheriffs on both sides of the border. The program will begin with Ciudad Juarez (and potentially Monterrey).

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