I just sat and recorded an episode of the solo podcast that I created when I started this website six years ago. Apparently, this is the first episode I’ve recorded since July 2017.
There’s no good reason for that: it doesn’t take very long to do. (Perhaps it should—this recording is very unpolished.) But this is a good way to get thoughts together without having to crank out something essay-length.
This episode is a response to recent calls to add Mexican organized crime groups to the U.S. terrorist list, and to start carrying out U.S. military operations against these groups on Mexican soil.
As I say in the recording, both are dumb ideas that won’t make much difference and could be counter-productive. Confronting organized crime with the tools of counter-terrorism or counter-insurgency won’t eradicate organized crime. It may ensnare a lot of American drug dealers and bankers as “material supporters of terrorism,” and it may cause criminal groups to fragment and change names. But the territories were organized crime currently operates will remain territories where organized crime still operates.
Neither proposal gets at the problem of impunity for state collusion with organized crime. Unlike “terrorist” groups or insurgencies, Latin America’s organized crime groups thrive because of their corrupt links to people inside government, and inside security forces. As long as these links persist, “get-tough” efforts like the terrorist list or military strikes will have only marginal impact.
You can download the podcast episode here. The podcast’s page is here and the whole feed is here.
This isn’t quite all of U.S. aid. The budget request mentions some global aid programs (probably including some refugee aid) that also channel resources to the Western Hemisphere, without specifying how much individual regions and countries are getting. So that would be additional. In addition, probably 200 or 300 million dollars in assistance goes to the region’s security forces through the Defense budget, and that’s neither reported well nor reflected here.
So the real 2024 total for Latin America could be closer to $4 billion. At first glance I don’t see any dramatic changes in the proposed assistance, which has followed the same general outlines since Barack Obama’s second term.