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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 firms throughout Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), specifically in Honduras.

Rising crime rates and ineffective law enforcement has led to a demand for both formal and informal private security. In fact, the formal private security industry is valued at $244 billion worldwide, with Latin America accounting for $30 billion of that figure, according to Blackwell. For Blackwell, the concern is not the burgeoning industry itself, but the unregulated environment in which the industry operates, particularly in the case of LAC, where many nations fail to provide the necessary legal framework to regulate the industry properly. Consequently, the industry suffers from underpaid and poorly trained individuals, in both conflict resolution and the safe handling of firearms. Additionally, guards often lack adequate pay benefits, which Blackwell argues, compels them to commit crimes themselves.

In his paper, Blackwell posits several recommendations, including the establishment of legal frameworks outlining the responsibilities of both governments and the industry specifically related to the licensing of private security companies, expansion of social protection for workers in the sector, and the introduction of entry requirements and training guidelines. Furthermore, Blackwell argues that citizens and businesses must be informed about the capabilities and limitations of security services, while the oversight capacity of the police and courts must improve to combat the impunity currently enjoyed by the industry itself.

About the Author

Adam Blackwell

Organization of American States
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Latin American Program

The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin American Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action.  Read more

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