Insecurity in Central America: Organized Criminal Gangs and the Maras
Diana Villiers Negroponte, Author and Nonresident Senior Fellow,
the Brookings Institution
Transcript | Photos | The Merida Initiative: Full Text

Washington, DC—On Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at the Law Offices of Arnold & Porter, LLP, Diana Negroponte, WFPG Board Member and nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, discussed her new book The Merida Initiative and Central America: The Challenges of Containing Public Insecurity and Criminal Violence. The book is about the Merida Initiative which was developed two years ago to address the issues of drug trafficking and criminal gangs plaguing Mexico and Central America. The Initiative, which provides these governments with US experience and expertise working with gangs, initially focused on equipment and technology. However, recently, the focus is shifting to prevention and intervention programs, an approach – which combined with improving law enforcement resources – had great success in Plan Colombia.

Dr. Negroponte’s book focuses on the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras where the rate of homicide is increasing by about 17% annually. In her assessment of the regional homicide statistics, she stressed that “each of those numbers matters” and should not be dismissed as mere data but considered in terms of mothers and fathers. Dr. Negroponte also focused on the inefficiency of the legal system and the lack of popular confidence in the justice system and police. She noted the significant challenge of reinstating the public’s trust in rule of law, given the years of preferential treatment of the wealthy and well-connected. However, she pointed out that Colombia was able to increase the trust of its citizenry by making a “major national commitment to strengthen their law system to a full egalitarian system.” Colombian Ambassador Carolina Barco added that the US can be helpful as a partner, as was the case in her country. The Ambassador also pointed out that, as these and other Latin American countries move from being solely drug-producers to drug-consumers as well, it is increasingly important that they work together with the US to combat these issues and share responsibility.


WFPG Pro Bono Counsel Sarah Kahn of Arnold & Porter, LLP, speaker Diana Villiers Negroponte and WFPG President Patricia Ellis

Diana Negroponte discusses her book, The Merida Initative & Central America: The Challenges of Containing Public Insecurity and Criminal Violence (May 2009)

 Sarah Kahn of Arnold & Porter, LLP, welcoming participants

Patricia Ellis introducing speaker

Ambassador Carolina Barco of Colombia with Diana Negroponte

Diana Negroponte with Ambassador Hector Morales of the Permanent Mission of the US to the OAS

Patricia Ellis, Diana Negroponte and Ambassador Hunaina al-Mughairy of Oman

WFPG Board Members Donna Constantinople and Gail Kitch

Patricia Ellis moderating the question and answer session with Diana Negroponte

WFPG Members and guests during the presentation

Sarah Kahn, Patricia Ellis, and Colombian Ambassador Carolina Barco with Arnold & Porter, LLP, Partners Mark Stumpf and Raul Herrera

WFPG Board Member Isabel Jasinowksi and Judith Barnett

Diana Negroponte during her presentation

Ambassador Carolina Barco of Colombia offers her reaction to the presentation

Ambassador Mara del Lujn Flores of the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the OAS and Patricia Ellis

Diana Negroponte signing her book for Esther Coopersmith

WFPG Members and guests at the reception