Washington needs to reshuffle its approach to security in Central America. The renewed commitment of President Obama to the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) is a unique opportunity to focus in what really matters, namely, the creation of democratic accountable institutions and a far-reaching effort to uproot corruption and crime from local public organizations. Plans that favor military budgets and Special Forces units need to be seriously reconsidered.
Doing anything less than addressing the root, institutional causes of crime and violence in Central America will amount to the U.S. simply lining the pockets of criminals and training the new paramilitary criminals (like the Zetas) in the region. That will require a balanced effort that links traditional security-related assistance with forceful accountability campaigns in the public sector. And more directly it demands an unflinching commitment to removing crooked officials and remodeling Central American democratic institutions to better fight against corruption, abuse, and impunity.I agree that strengthening the region's political institutions and tackling corruption should be more of a priority than it is. However, it's not as if the international community hasn't been doing anything to promote democracy and institution building in Central America.
There's a lot of that already going on through CARSI as well as the US Partnership for Growth with El Salvador and Millennium Challenge Corporation initiatives with Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras. There's also the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala and there have been some discussions about the viability of a regional commission.
Maybe the programs are not working because of poor implementation, a lack of vision, or under-funding. Much is already being done. I just don't think that those of us writing on developments in Central America pay enough attention to these developments. This gives the impression that the US and the governments of Central America are promoting strictly militarized approaches to improving public security when I'm not sure that's quite accurate.