US Party Platforms Address Hemispheric Drug Trade

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Both of the major political parties in the United States have incorporated language addressing drug trafficking and transnational crime in their platforms, but there seems to be very little new proposals from either side.

On September 4, the US Democratic Party kicked off its convention ahead of the November elections, meeting to shore up support for President Barack Obama and officially ratify the party platform for the next four years. While drug trafficking and organized crime in the Americas is far from the main issue on the table at the convention, the 2012 Democratic National Platform includes some surprising references to transnational crime in the hemisphere.

In fact, the issue made up the vast majority of the platform’s section on foreign policy towards the Americas. The section begins by praising the Obama’s accomplishments in strengthening ties with Mexico, Colombia, and Central American countries to combat drug trafficking, and then promises to deepen this work, claiming:

As we collectively confront these challenges, we will continue to support the region’s security forces, border security, and police with the equipment, training, and technologies they need to keep their communities safe. We will improve coordination and share more information so that those who traffic in drugs and in human beings have fewer places to hide. And we will continue to put unprecedented pressure on cartel finances, including in the United States.

The Republican party’s platform, approved a week earlier in Tampa, Florida, also mentions the regional drug trade. In it, the party claims that the “The war on drugs and the war on terror have become a single enterprise,” and acknowledges the efforts of the governments of Mexico and Canada to fight this threat. The platform also calls for

“[A] unified effort on crime and terrorism to coordinate intelligence and enforcement among our regional allies, as well as military-to-military training and intelligence sharing with Mexico, whose people are bearing the brunt of the drug cartels’ savage assault.”

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite the two parties’ differences in ideology, their platforms on combating drug trafficking abroad appears to be more or less the same. This is likely good news for countries in the region which depend on the US government for funding of much of their counternarcotics programs, as it guarantees that much-needed security aid will continue more or less unchanged regardless of the outcome in November.

However, it should be noted that both platforms clash with changing attitudes towards the US-led “war on drugs” in the hemisphere. As InSight Crime noted at the time, drug policy was one of the top issues at April’s Summit of the Americas. Several Latin American governments, led by Colombia and Guatemala, two countries which have been hard hit by the drug trade’s violence, used the summit to express openness to legalizing or decriminalizing certain drugs deemed less harmful.

Ultimately this is a sign that if the US continues to advocate for military-heavy approaches to drug trafficking in the region, it may find itself facing stronger opposition from its partners in the region.

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