Citizen Security

Citizen insecurity poses a rising challenge to democratic governance and the exercise of citizenship throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Transnational organized crime, gang violence, drug production and trafficking, and other sources of insecurity continue to threaten the quality of democracy and rule of law in the region.

Issues in this Series

The Unregulated and Threatening Growth of Private Security in Latin America and the Caribbean

Adam Blackwell
In “The Unregulated and Threatening Growth of Private Security in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Adam Blackwell, current Secretary for Multidimensional Security at the OAS, discusses the problems associated with private security throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

10 Years of Multidimensional Security

Adam Blackwell
Adam Blackwell, highlights the contributions made by the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security (SMS) at the OAS. According to Blackwell, the Secretariat has achieved significant accomplishments in the areas of narcotics, gangs and gang violence, de-mining and firearms reduction, cyber security, and nurturing the growth of AMERIPOL.


Carlos Basombrío and Lucía Dammert
Sintesis prescriptiva de elementos y desafios para el éxito de una política pública en seguridad local (In Spanish. English summary also available)

Seminario Internacional de Seguridad Ciudadana: Los desafios para politicas efectivas

Lucía Dammert
Report from the 2014 conference in Salta, Argentina on citizen security at the local level. (In Spanish)

RELATORÍA: Taller sobre Seguridad Ciudadana en México

Carlos Basombrío
Report from the 2014 Wilson Center - CAF event in Monterrey, Mexico on citizen security at the local level in Mexico. (In Spanish, Executive Summary also available)

The Realities of Returning Home: Youth Repatriation in Guatemala

Warren Newton, Nathan Hesse, Alejandra Argueta , and Michael Johnson
Graduate student researchers at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs partnered with the Latin American Program developed report on youth repatriation in Guatemala after fieldwork and research was carried out to answer the question: What happens to repatriated Guatemalan migrant youth after they are returned?

Situational Approaches to Crime and Violence: A Case Study of Latin America

Adam Blackwell
The essay “Situational Approaches to Crime and Violence: A Case Study of Latin America,” is one in a series of essays written for the Wilson Center by Ambassador Adam Blackwell, Secretary for Multidimensional Security at the Organization of American States (OAS). This essay is available in English and Spanish.

The Police that we Deserve: A Discussion for the Future

Adam Blackwell
The essay “The Police that we Deserve: A Discussion for the Future,” is one in a series of essays written for the Wilson Center by Ambassador Adam Blackwell, Secretary for Multidimensional Security at the Organization of American States (OAS). This essay is available in English and Spanish.


Juan Carlos Garzón
Report on the Side Event to the 56th Regular Session of CICAD, Nov 18, 2014, in Guatemala City, Guatemala. English and Spanish versions available.

Tinker Funded Work on Citizen Security, 2012-2014

Publications funded by the Tinker Foundation, produced for a series of six events on citizen security, 2012-2014.

Examining the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI)

Executive Summary for the Wilson Center “Working Papers” on CARSI in Guatemala and Honduras

CRIME AND VIOLENCE IN CENTRAL AMERICA’S NORTHERN TRIANGLE: How U.S. Policy Responses are Helping, Hurting, and Can be Improved

Cristina Eguizábal, Karise M. Curtis, Matthew C. Ingram, Aaron Korthuis , Eric L. Olson, and Nicholas Phillips
Wilson Center Report on the Americas #34

Citizen Security in Mexico - Paper Series

Papers from the Oct. 28, 2014 event on citizen security in Monterrey, Mexico.

The Central America Regional Security Initiative in Honduras

Aaron Korthuis
This publication identifies some of the successes and major challenges for CARSI implementation in Honduras.

CARSI in Guatemala: Progress, Failure, and Uncertainty

Nicholas Phillips
Nicholas Phillips, author of “CARSI in Guatemala: Progress, Failure, and Uncertainty,” looks at the country which has received by far the most CARSI funds to date.

La Iniciativa Regional de Seguridad para América Central: El Salvador

Cristina Eguizábal
"La Iniciativa Regional de Seguridad para América Central: Pieza clave de la asistencia de Estados Unidos a El Salvador en materia de seguridad, pero no la única" -- Spanish language working paper on the CARSI in El Salvador

Homicide in El Salvador’s Municipalities: Spatial Clusters and the Causal Role of Neighborhood Effects, Population Pressures, Poverty, and Education

Matthew C. Ingram and Karise M. Curtis
Matthew C. Ingram and Karise M. Curtis have joined together to use some innovative analytical tools to study homicides in El Salvador.

One Goal, Two Struggles: Confronting Crime and Violence in Mexico and Colombia

María Victoria Llorente, Jeremy McDermott, Raul Benitez-Manaut, Marta Lucía Ramírez de Rincón, John Bailey, Cynthia J. Arnson, Eric L. Olson, and Christine Zaino
In this publication international experts address the utility of comparing Colombia and Mexico’s experiences and strategy for combatting organized crime and violence more generally.

¿A Dónde Vamos? Análisis de políticas públicas de seguridad ciudadana en América Latina

Carlos Basombrio Iglesias, Raul Benitez-Manaut, Marco Castillo, Gino Costa, Elvira Cuadra Lira, Renato Sergio de Lima, Liana de Paula, María Victoria Llorente, Sergio Guarin Leon, Luis Pásara, Cesar Rivera, Marcelo Fabian Sain, and Ana Maria Sanjuán
Edited by Carlos Basombrío, this publication brings together experts from across Latin America to analyze the state of citizen security policy in the region. (In Spanish)

The Criminal Diaspora: The Spread of Transnational Organized Crime and How to Contain its Expansion

Juan Carlos Garzón, Marianna Pacheco Olinger, Daniel Rico, and Gema Santamaría
This publication examines the multiple causes leading to the expansion and diffusion of organized crime across Latin America and globally.

U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Guatemala and Mexico

Colby Goodman
Goodman's paper discusses U.S. firearms trafficking to Mexico as well as the lesser known phenomenon of the illicit movement of U.S.-origin firearms to Guatemala.
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Changing the Approach to Crime and Violence in Latin America

Carlos Basombrio Iglesias
This summary was written by Christine Zaino, Program Associate, Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson Center and Program Director Cynthia Arnson. It is based on the report, "Seguridad y Populismo Punitivo en América Latina: Lecciones Corroboradas, Constataciones Novedosas y Temas Emergentes," by Latin American Program consultants Carlos Basombrío and Lucía Dammert.


Carlos Basombrio Iglesias
The report (in Spanish) summarizes the principal findings of a series of regional seminars held in Latin America and Washington, D.C., with the support of the Andean Development Corporation (Corporación Andina de Fomento, CAF).


Carlos Basombrio Iglesias, Verónica Colón-Rosario, Christine Zaino, and Cynthia J. Arnson
Experts from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, the Organization of American States, and the City of Los Angeles, California, discussed strategies for reducing youth violence.


As part of a series of activities supported by the Andean Development Corporation (Corporación Andina de Fomento, CAF) the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Latin American Program and the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) of Argentina sponsored a conference in Buenos Aires on citizen security in the Southern Cone.


Carlos Basombrio
En el marco de un proyecto sobre la seguridad ciudadana apoyado por la Corporación Andina de Fomento, el Programa Latinoamericano del Woodrow Wilson Center, junto con el Instituto de Defensa Legal en Lima, puso en discusión estos temas ante un grupo de expertos y autoridades del Perú, Colombia, Bolivia y Ecuador.

¿QUE HEMOS HECHO?: Reflexiones sobre respuestas y políticas públicas frente al incremento de la violencia delincuencial en America Latina

Carlos Basombrio Iglesias
This report examines what has been done to address crime and social violence in Latin America -- one of the most serious and intractable problems in the region.

Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime in the Americas: Major Trends in the Twenty-First Century

Bruce Bagley
In this new publication, Bruce Bagley examines adaptations and trends in the illicit drug economy over the last several decades.

The Rebellion of Criminal Networks: Organized Crime in Latin America and the Dynamics of Change

Juan Carlos Garzón
This essay introduces the concept of the “rebellion” of criminal networks” to explain the current dynamic of and context within which organized crime operates. The author also outlines the changes that have fostered the emergence of local markets for illegal drugs. The essay concludes with ten recommendations.

Chronic Violence and its Reproduction: Perverse Trends in Social Relations, Citizenship, and Democracy in Latin America

Tani Adams
This report reviews a broad literature on the causes and social effects of chronic violence in Latin America and details the consistent and diverse ways that chronic violence undermines social relations and support for democracy.
La violencia crónica y su reproducción

La violencia crónica y su reproducción: Tendencias perversas en las relaciones sociales, la ciudadanía y la democracia en América Latina

Tani Adams
En este ensayo se presenta una reseña de la amplia literatura sobre las causas y efectos sociales de la violencia crónica en América Latina y se detallan las maneras diversas en que la violencia mina las relaciones sociales y el apoyo a la democracia.

Organized Crime in Central America: The Northern Triangle

Cynthia J. Arnson, Eric L. Olson, Steven S. Dudley, James Bosworth, Douglas Farah, and Julie López
This publication attempts to create a better understanding of the nature, origins, and evolution of organized crime in Central America by examining the dynamics of organized crime in the three countries of the so-called Northern Triangle as well as the broader regional context that links these case studies.

Seguridad y Defensa en America del Norte: Nuevos dilemas geopolíticos

Raul Benitez-Manaut
The book's authors collaborate to put forth an analysis of North American national defense policies and their implications on transnational and border security. Issues of migration and organized crime are touched upon, providing readers with an greater, in-depth understanding of security problems faced by the region as a whole.

Caught in a Global Hurricane: Debating the Caribbean's Development Challenges in an Uncertain World

José Raúl Perales, Benjamin T. Osborne, Kevin Casas-Zamora, Maryse Robert, and David E. Lewis
A report from a March 2009 conference that discussed four topics: Trade and Financial Development, Climate Change and Natural Disasters, Security Issues for the Caribbean, and U.S.-Cuba-CARICOM Relations.

Conflicto armado e iniciativas de paz en Colombia

Cynthia J. Arnson and María Victoria Llorente
Este documento es el resultado de la conferencia que ocurrió en el 3 de abril de 2008, patrocinado con la Fundación Ideas para la Paz, para hacer un balance del estado de las iniciativas de paz en curso tanto con las FARC y el ELN, como con los grupos paramilitares en Colombia.

La Seguridad en el Caribe: Reformas y Cooperación Regional

Lilian Bobea, Hal P. Klepak, Johanna Mendelson Forman, Dirk Kruijt, and Jessica Byron
This publication purports to add to the recent years of dialogue regarding defense and security issues in the Caribbean. Bobea et al. present their analysis in the context of this diverse, complex, and dynamic region, shedding new light on the reforms of security and defense institutions and their future implications for the region.

Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug

Paul Gootenberg
Paul Gootenberg traces the rise of one of Latin America's notable exports: cocaine. Gootenberg guides the reader through the history of cocaine and details the involvement of prominent and shadow actors who transformed the formerly medicinal plant into an industrial trade commodity. Andean Cocaine provides a means to understanding not only the rise of cocaine, but also the effect its industry has had on the United States.

Límites y desafíos de la agenda de seguridad hemisférica

Loreta Tellería and Rut Diamint
The goal of this publication is to contribute to the consolidation of democratic defense and promote regional integration towards a unified world. Topics include security and foreign policy in the Andes and the Americas, security setbacks and challenges, drug trafficking and hemispheric security, and new perspectives on drug trafficking in Bolivia.

Reforma de las fuerzas armadas en América Latina y el impacto de las amenazas irregulares

Lilian Bobea, Carlos Basombrio, Raul Benitez-Manaut, Oscar Bonilla, Rut Diamint, Oswaldo Jarrin, Eliezer Rizzo de Oliveira, and Gabriel Aguilera Peralta
Regional experts address security sector reforms in light of the increasingly unconventional and transnational nature of the threats affecting Latin America.

Mafia & Co.

Juan Carlos Garzón
Mafia & Co. provides an analytical perspective of the inner workings and expansion of organized crime in three Latin American countries. The author provides a comparative investigation looking specifically at criminal networks in Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil.

Crime, Violence, and Security in the Caribbean

José Raúl Perales
Summary of an event held on October 30, 2007. A group of specialists and practitioners gathered to reflect on how crime and violence in the Caribbean have typically been addressed, and to discuss ways in which to devise and implement new approaches to problems of social cohesion, urban crime, and insecurity.

Seguridad ciudadana en las Américas: Proyecto de investigación activa

Jessica Varat
The latest publication in the Reports on the Americas series, this book is a compilation of field reports from a team of citizen security experts working in the region. Their most recent research, presented in this report, evaluates specific instances of citizen participation in local security initiatives in five countries and presents a comparative analysis of the results.

Toward a Society Under Law

Joseph S. Tulchin and Meg Ruthenburg
The first part of the book covers general themes related to crime, including the impact of community policing, the role of advocacy networks, urban social policies and crime, and the cost of crime. The second part includes case studies of police reform, community policing, Argentina's plan for crime prevention, and crime in Mexico City.

Participación ciudadana y percepción de inseguridad en América Latina

Jessica Varat and Allison Garland
Este trabajo presenta un conjunto de proyectos de investigación e intervención en el terreno orientados al análisis de la influencia de la participación ciudadana en las políticas de seguridad pública.

La Construcción de la Seguridad Democrática en el Caribe

Lilian Bobea
This bulletin presents a summary of a workshop held in the Dominican Republic on August 2, 2005 to discuss institutional reforms of security forces in the Caribbean.

Homeland Security and the Bilateral Relationship Between Argentina and the United States

This bulletin summarizes a meeting in September 2005 that discussed Argentina’s response to the United States’ new foreign policy agenda as well as the current state of bilateral counterterrorism cooperation.

Defining Brazil's Security Agenda: From Favelas to the United Nations

Luis Bitencourt
This publication presents a summary of two meetings in Brazil in May 2005 that were held to discuss public safety and the links between national and international security threats and to examine Brazil’s perspective on regional and global security issues.

Participación ciudadana y percepción de inseguridad en América Latina

Jessica Varat and Allison Garland
This report is part of a series of research projects aimed at analyzing the influence of citizen participation and public security.

La Seguridad Hemisférica: Perspectivos y Realidades

This bulletin presents a summary of a workshop held in Havana, Cuba on April 27-28, 2005 that discussed hemispheric security.

TALLER DE REFLEXIÓN: Diplomacia Subregional: Cooperación y Seguridad en América del Sur

Melina Ginszparg
This publication summarizes a workshop held in Buenos Aires on June 6, 2005 to discuss creating a security community through the cooperation of public and private sectors. (in Spanish)

Gobernabilidad de la Seguridad en el Caribe

Lilian Bobea
This bulletin presents a summary of a conference held in the Dominican Republic on August 1, 2005, with President Leonel Fernández Reyna and Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdés. (in Spanish)

Diplomacia Subregional: Cooperación y Seguridad en América del Sur

Melina Ginszparg
This bulletin presents a summary of a session held in Buenos Aires in June 2005 in which Minister of Defense José B. Pampuro and other diplomats and officials discussed security sector reform in the Southern Cone and Mercosur. (in Spanish)

Percepciones Hemisfericas sobre la Crisis Colombiana

Rut Diamint and Arlene B. Tickner
En este trabajo se presenta una reseña de una conferencia de octubre de 2004 que analizó cómo los países de la región interpretan la crisis colombiana en términos de su propia seguridad y de la seguridad hemisférica.

The Social and Economic Dimensions of Conflict and Peace in Colombia

Cynthia J. Arnson
Three experts share their views on reports from the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program and discuss the humanitarian toll of the conflict in Colombia.

Mexico and the New Challenges of Hemispheric Security

Raul Benitez-Manaut
The essays in this book center on the debate over competing approaches to hemispheric security and how different countries, specifically Mexico, formulate their security policies in the broader context of multilateral hemispheric initiatives and of bilateral relations with the United States.

La seguridad hemisférica: Una mirada desde el sur de las Américas

Giselle Cohen and Rut Diamint
En este trabajo se presenta una reseña de una reunión en octubre de 2003 que buscó exponer las posiciones sobre la seguridad hemisférica de Argentina, Brasil y Chile, comparar los argumentos con expertos de Estados Unidos, México y Canadá, y plantear las prioridades de cada país hacia el futuro.

Illegal Drugs, Economy, and Society in the Andes

Francisco E. Thoumi
Some countries develop illegal drug industries, and others do not. Discerning the distinguishing characteristics -- social, economic, and political -- of countries with these industries forms the subject of this sophisticated and humane study. Order this book from Johns Hopkins University Press.

Prevention and Response to Urban Crime and Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean

Tamara Taraciuk
This report summarizes an April 2003 conference that sought to identify international trends related to the prevention of violence and the promotion of public safety.

La Prevención y Respuesta al Crimen Urbano y a la Violencia en Latinoamérica y el Caribe

Tamara Taraciuk
Este trabajo presenta una reseña de una conferencia de 2003 con el fin de establecer cuál es la tendencia internacional en materia de prevención de la violencia y promoción de la seguridad ciudadana.

Crime and Violence in Latin America: Citizen Security, Democracy and the State

Hugo Frühling, Joseph S. Tulchin, and Heather Golding
This volume offers timely discussion of the responses of the major actors in Latin America and the world to the threats violence and crime pose. The book focuses on citizen security from a variety of perspectives, examining case studies and offering policy recommendations based on the foregoing analyses.

Seguridad Hemisférica: Debates a Inicios del Siglo XXI

Raul Benitez-Manaut
Este trabajo provee un resumen del debate en una conferencia sobre el “concepto” de seguridad hemisférica en el seno de la Organización de Estados Americanos en octubre de 2003.

Peace and Security in Colombia

Gary Bland
This report is a result of a conference held at the Wilson Center on June 20, 2002 to explore the economic, security, and political dimensions of conflict resolution in Colombia.

Entre el crimen y el castigo: Seguridad ciudadana y control democrático en América Latina y el Caribe

Lilian Bobea
Esta compilación busca aportar una visión comparada de las experiencias en materia de criminalidad y delincuencia y su impacto en la seguridad ciudadna, así como de los mecanismos vigentes en el ámbito hemisférico para hacer frente a esos asuntos.

Mexican Security and Defense Doctrines: From the 19th to the 21st Centuries

Raul Benitez-Manaut
This paper explores the role of the armed forces in Mexico from the 19th century through the 21st century and looks at issues of national security as obstacles to democratization.

Hemispheric Collective Security in the Post Cold War Era

Joseph Tulchin, Jesús M. Rodés, and Salvador Martí Puig
The papers in this work result from the seminar "New Security Issues in Latin America" in October 2001. They explore the challenges facing Latin America in the post-Cold War era and address the need for the U.S. to overcome the temptation of unilateralism.

Crime and Social Policies in Latin America: Problems and Solutions

Claudio Beato
This paper explores the relationships between crime and health problems and between crime and economic problems. It also gives recommendations for formulating crime prevention policies.

Community Policing in the Southern Cone: Results, Problems, Policies

Catalina Smulovitz
This paper examines community policing programs, the problems such programs face, and the policy measures that could strengthen them.

Police Reform in Latin America: Observations & Recommendations

Heather Ward
This paper examines reforms in police organizations in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.

Seguridad Ciudadana, Gobernabilidad y Control Civil Democrático en América Latina

Lilian Bobea
This report is a result of a seminar, “Entre el Crimen y el Castigo: Seguridad Ciudadana, Gobernabilidad y Control Civil,” that was held on October 4-5, 2001. The seminar focused on how to confront crime and social violence.

Police Reform in Peru

Heather Golding
This publication summarizes a conference held in 2002 called "Peruvian Police Reform in Light of International Experiences." Approximately 400 members of the Peruvian National Police attended to hear perspectives of citizen security from other social, cultural, and geographic vantage points.

Arms Control and Limitation in Latin America: An Elusive Goal

Francisco Rojas Aravena
This paper analyzes the main variables that affect the control of arms in Latin America.

Terrorism and the Triple Frontier

Heather Golding
This report summarizes a conference held in January 2002 to discuss the allegations that the "Triple Frontier" area supports criminal activities such as drug and arms trafficking and harbored the terrorists responsible for the Jewish Community Center bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994.

Paths Toward Police and Judicial Reform in Latin America

Paulo de Mesquita Neto
This bulletin discusses three different paths to police and judicial reform in Latin America.

Environment and Security in the Amazon Basin

Joseph Tulchin and Heather Golding
A series of three conferences were held during the Spring of 2000 to discuss issues such as: environmental and sustainable initiatives in the Amazon Basin; the roles of local, national, and international actors; Brazil's national security agenda in relation to the Amazon Basin; and the rising threat of international drug trafficking. This volume is a compilation of papers presented.

Experiencias de Prevención del Delito en América Latina

Ximena Tocornal Montt
This bulletin presents a summary, in Spanish, of a 2001 seminar to discuss citizen security and strategies for coordinated action between various sectors of society.

U.S. Drug Certification and the Search for a Multilateral Alternative

Heather Golding
This bulletin summarizes a conference held on April 5, 2001 that discussed the utility of certification as a tool in the effort to reduce the flow of illegal narcotics and to evaluate the effect that drug certification has had on relations with other nations.

Armies in Times of Peace: The Division of Labor Between Armed Forces and Police

Cristina Eguizábal
This publication examines the lack of a common definition of security and addresses the division of labor between the armed forces and the national police corps in small- and medium-sized countries.

Experts & Staff