At Summit, Americas Unanimously Back New Regional Crime Body

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The most concrete outcomes of the Sixth Summit of the Americas were the creation of a new regional anti-crime body, and the commissioning of a study on drug policy from the Organization of American States (OAS).

All 33 countries attending the Summit in Cartagena, Colombia, voted for the creation of an Inter-American System against Organized Crime, which may be set up before the end of the year.

Mexico President Felipe Calderon said Sunday that the system would involve a working group made up of security and law enforcement officials and experts from across the region. They will meet in Mexico in order to design and implement a “hemispheric action plan against transnational organized crime,” he said.

Mexico Attorney General Marisela Morales said that her office would coordinate the creation of the crime body, and would organize a regional meeting in May.

Calderon added that the creation of such a body did not imply that the current regional strategy against organized crime had failed.

The anti-crime body is supposed to coordinate its analysis with a parallel study to be carried out by the Organization of American States (OAS). During the summit, various heads of state met privately, including Calderon, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, and Guatemala President Otto Perez, and agreed to charge the OAS with carrying out a “technical study” of anti-drug policy in the region.

Perez Molina told Prensa Libre that revising drug policy was “the only topic” that the heads of state discussed during the private meeting. He said that the OAS study will use data collected from organizations like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Pan American Health Organization, in order to study the effectiveness of current drug policy, and then recommend alternatives.

InSight Crime Analysis

So far it seems as though the main role of the Inter-American System against Organized Crime will be to make policy recommendations. The question is whether these its recommendations will differ markedly from those generally used by governments in the region. The new regional crime body could potentially lay the framework for the better collection and sharing of intelligence in Latin America. Facilitating the sharing of cross-national intelligence among different law-enforcement agencies in the region could be one of the most practical steps that such an anti-crime body could take.

One of the biggest questions pre-summit concerned President Otto Perez’s proposal that regional leaders should discuss drug depenalization, as InSight Crime tracked in a four-part series. There was not much expectation that the regional meeting would result in any radical shifts in policy, but if the debate does pass into the hands of the OAS, it would appear that Perez achieved one of his key goals: putting the issue on the table.

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