Exploring the Political Economy of Violence in the Border Regions of Latin America
This project will propose concrete recommendations, based on applied research that will help Latin America's border regions tackle illicit drug activity. The project team will establish a network of researchers across Latin America who will document the political economy of illicit activity in eight Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. The cost of Latin America's drug problem Across the region, the scale of cross-border illicit drug activity is just beginning to be understood. Rough estimates from the United Nations indicate that the commercial value of the cross-border illegal drug trade in Latin America is US$450 billion annually. Add another US$12 billion for the illegal trafficking of small arms and yet another US$40 billion for the illegal tobacco trade. Then, there is the violence. Latin America's border towns are now home to some of the extreme levels of violence in the region. The problem with security strategies A number of countries and international organizations have championed cross-border security strategies. These promise an integrated and cooperative approach to tackling illicit networks and cross-border trade. But the approaches are often mired by institutional weakness, eroded by competing interests or corruption, and thwarted by powerful illicit networks. The resources and level of influence these networks have at their disposal far outstrip those available to most border services and local governments. How a regional research network will help The research network will develop a broad understanding of the illegal markets operating in all eight countries, along with the techniques and strategies illicit networks use to exploit weaknesses in border controls as they expand their activities to new markets. The project objective is to investigate the geography, nature, scale, and impact of transnational organized crime. Researchers will map illegal markets by characterizing the location, nature, and scale of illegal activity (drug trafficking, small arms, chemical precursors, human trafficking, contraband smuggling, and money laundering). They will identify actors and institutions who can enhance the accountability and legitimacy of public and private authorities. The network will also assess the effectiveness of government strategies and policies to stop illicit activity across borders across the region. They will make evidence-based recommendations to policymakers, business leaders, and community-based actors in order to reduce illicit activity and the violence that comes with it. Ultimately, the goal is to transform these border regions into more secure and prosperous areas.