Washington -- U.S. efforts to support
the modernization of Latin American judicial systems require
the reform of the overall security sector and, although advances
have been made in countries such as Colombia, El Salvador,
Jamaica and Guatemala, the region still has a long way to
go, according to Adolfo Franco, assistant administrator for
Latin America and the Caribbean at the U.S. Agency for International
USAID's Adolfo Franco advocates community policing at a recent conference by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
In March 29 remarks at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies in Washington, Franco outlined
USAID's efforts to support democratic reforms in Latin America
and the Caribbean, including initiatives with regional governments
to modernize their judicial systems.
Franco noted that USAID sponsors programs
that offer dispute-resolution services to citizens who live
in remote and traditionally under-served areas. For example,
USAID has helped establish Justice Centers in Guatemala
and Peace Houses in Colombia, thereby providing new access
to justice for over 2 million people in Colombia alone.
In the course of working with regional governments
to adopt new codes of criminal procedures, USAID has come
to appreciate the necessity of working with civilian police
institutions, Franco said.
"Through our efforts to modernize judicial
systems in Latin America, it became clear that promoting
effective democratic governance indeed requires reform of
the overall security sector," he explained. "What
is needed is a broad, holistic approach that includes every
link in the security-sector chain -- the military, the police,
the judicial and legal systems, and the range of other state
and community actors involved in oversight."
Franco pointed out that Latin America today
is one of the most violent regions in the world, and the
region's police are among the least-trusted public institutions.
The high crime level and lack of personal security in the
region, he said, leads to instability and reduces productivity.
Franco cited an Inter-American Development Bank study that
estimated Latin America's per-capita gross domestic product
would be 25 percent higher if the region's crime rates paralleled
the rates of other regions.
As crime has risen to the top of the list
of citizen concerns in Latin America and the Caribbean,
tackling crime has subsequently become a central theme in
political-party platforms in the region, said Franco. He
observed that the current presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala
and Colombia are among those leaders who recently campaigned
with strong anti-crime messages.
USAID has come to see community-based policing
as an important part of the region's efforts to confront
crime, Franco added. Implemented properly, these efforts
"have proven to be among the most innovative, successful
efforts in addressing crime," he said.
The U.S. official cited U.S.-sponsored efforts
in El Salvador, Jamaica, Colombia and Guatemala as notable
examples of this practice.
Among the elements deemed essential for
successful community-policing programs is practical intervention
that works at the local level, according to Franco. He explained
that engagement of civil society and the private sector,
as well as local capacity-building and institution-strengthening
and political leadership, are also invaluable ingredients
for the success of these programs.
Franco said that despite these advances,
the region still has a long way to go.
"The region is still struggling with
a legacy that associates police with corruption more than
competence, and views them as crime-committers more than
crime-solvers," he said.
Incipient efforts to include police in regional
security-sector reforms, Franco concluded, provide an opportunity
to confront this unfortunate legacy. He said that civilian
police and other security-sector actors can champion and
drive democratic development in the region.
Following is the text of Franco's remarks,
as prepared for delivery:
Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean,
U.S. Agency for International Development
Center for Strategic and International Studies
“Police Reform in the Americas” Conference
March 29, 2005
There is irony in the fact that USAID has
been invited to speak to you today about police reform in
Latin America. As many of you know, USAID once managed a
large global police assistance program - the public safety
program. As you also may know, that ended in the 1970s with
a Congressional ban on future USAID assistance to law enforcement
forces - section 660 of the Foreign Assistance Act.
This irony, however, reflects the dramatically
different world we live in today, and a new global and national
environment for foreign aid. The tragedy of 9/11 and its
consequences have transformed our country, government, our
agency, and our mission.
When Administrator Natsios took the helm
at USAID in 2001, he commissioned a report called "Foreign
Aid in the National Interest." The key message of that
report was the importance of mainstreaming development into
the national foreign policy process. Its findings were prescient.
The National Security Strategy of the United
States published in September 2002 clearly identifies development
as the third key tool, along with defense and diplomacy,
for achieving national security. That document was also
the Bush Administration's vehicle for announcing its determination
to help build strong democracies throughout the world, a
core task of USAID since its inception at the time of the
USAID has made notable progress in helping
promote democratic reforms in the Latin American and Caribbean
region. Over the last two decades, we have witnessed a remarkable
transition from authoritarian regimes to democratic forms
of government. Civilian governments have replaced military
rule in nearly every country in the hemisphere and many
of these now have experienced several generations of free
and fair elections. The region has also experienced a wave
of decentralization which has opened new spaces of political
participation for historically excluded populations and
improved local governments' capacity to deliver on the promises
of democracy. As democracy has taken root, human rights
violations have been drastically reduced, and governments
are taking actions to promote peace and reconciliation.
As part of this effort, USAID began to work
with many Latin American governments to modernize their
judicial systems. In 1992, Guatemala became the first country
to enact a comprehensive reform to its Criminal Procedures
Code. Among other things, this provided the foundation for
the adoption of an oral, adversarial trial system; procedural
due process guarantees; a right to confront witnesses; and
a right to counsel.
The Guatemala effort sparked similar reforms
in eleven other countries in the Latin American and Caribbean
region. As a result, average trial lengths and costs of
trials have been substantially reduced and citizen confidence
in the integrity of criminal processes has improved.
USAID has also supported the creation of
Justice Centers in Guatemala and Justice and Peace Houses
in Colombia, that offer services ranging from arbitration
and police protection to neighborhood dispute resolution
and family violence response services. These activities
have given new access to justice for 2.4 million people
in Colombia alone. In addition, in Guatemala and El Salvador,
USAID-assisted mediation centers are offering alternative
dispute resolution models that are making justice for the
poor more swift and more effective.
Over the years, and particularly with the
adoption of the new Codes of Criminal Procedures throughout
the region, USAID gradually came to appreciate the need
to work with civilian police institutions, and I underscore
the words need to. Through our efforts to modernize judicial
systems in Latin America, it became clear that promoting
effective democratic governance indeed requires reform of
the overall security sector. What is needed is a broad,
holistic approach that includes every link in the security-sector
chain -- the military, the police, the judicial and legal
systems, and the range of other state and community actors
involved in oversight.
In strong partnership with, and indeed with
leadership from our colleagues at the State Department,
and particularly the INL Bureau, this was done initially
to meet the challenge of these new criminal procedure codes,
the implementation of which required close coordination
between prosecutors and police. Later, it was used more
broadly for crime prevention and other issues of justice-sector
planning. This Latin America initiative is now a major thrust
of U.S. assistance worldwide, in countries such as Iraq
While there have been real advances toward
democratic consolidation in Latin America and the Caribbean,
we are seeing some worrisome trends that could very well
unravel many of these democratic gains.
Today, Latin America is one of the most
violent regions in the world, with crime rates more than
double the world average and comparable to levels in parts
of war-torn Africa. This is taking a tremendous toll on
development in the region. Despite significant strides toward
democracy over the last two decades, economic growth is
largely stagnant and democratic consolidation tentative.
Public faith in democracy itself is under threat as governments
are perceived as unable to deliver basic services such as
public security. A UNDP report released last year revealed
some troubling statistics -- only 43 percent of Latin Americans
fully support democracy. An equally daunting challenge for
those seeking to improve criminal justice systems and strengthen
democracy in Latin America is the poor reputation of police
in the region. They are among the least trusted public institutions
in the region.
Rising crime and lack of personal security
not only lead to instability but also reduce productivity
and discourage private investment flows. The Inter-American
Development Bank estimates that Latin America's per capita
GDP would be twenty-five percent higher if the region's
crime rates paralleled other parts of the world. Latin America
has found itself caught in a vicious circle, where economic
growth is thwarted by high crime rates, and where a lack
of economic opportunity, in turn, is contributing to a rise
in crime. A demographic bulge has created a whole cohort
of youth without jobs or realistic expectations of employment.
This situation has fueled a growing problem of gang violence,
primarily in Central America, but also in other countries
such as Mexico, Jamaica, and Colombia. The arrest last week
of over 100 members of the notorious Salvadoran MS-13 gang
underscored this problem and led Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice to spotlight gangs as a threat to the U.S. national
Crime, along with corruption, is significantly
eroding confidence in democracy throughout the region and
undermining political legitimacy. Crime has rapidly risen
to the top of the list of citizen concerns in Latin America
and the Caribbean. Tackling crime has become a central theme
in party platforms across the region. El Salvador's Tony
Saca, Guatemala's Oscar Berger, Colombia's Álvaro
Uribe, and other regional leaders have all campaigned with
a strong anti-crime message.
The reactions to the problem have not all
been healthy. Certain areas have seen a rise in vigilante
justice, such as mob lynching. Frustrated and frightened
voters are turning to populists who promise to use a heavy
hand to deal with the issue, even at the expense of democratic
values. It is far from surprising that USAID-funded public
opinion surveys in Latin America revealed that victims of
crime have less confidence in democratic institutions and
that, in many countries, high levels of crime provide the
strongest impetus for a military coup.
Upon resuming programming in this area,
USAID has come to see the virtues of community-based policing.
When implemented properly, they have proven to be among
the most innovative, successful efforts in addressing crime.
Some notable examples follow.
In El Salvador, initial support from the
U.S. government came from the Department of Justice's International
Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, also
known as ICITAP, and focused on the strengthening of the
National Civilian Police, or PNC; the creation of a National
Police Academy and curriculum reform; investigative training;
and the establishment of a police laboratory.
As crime continued to escalate, the US brought
educational reform and helped train the PNC in efforts to
help modernize its approach to combating crime. In 1999,
the PNC, with support from ICITAP, initiated a proactive,
flexible community-oriented police patrol strategy in Mejicanos,
an area of 240,000 people within the greater San Salvador
The focus in El Salvador was on removing
three major obstacles that faced the police -- a lack of
transportation for basic police patrolling, an inadequate
system of communications, and poor access to crime-related
information. The El Salvador program implemented a community-policing
program which, among other things, developed a 911 emergency
police-response system, central records and case-management
systems, and training for police and prosecutors. As a result
of its success, the PNC expanded the program, which now
covers approximately 90% of the Salvadoran population and
spans 200 municipalities. The community-policing model has
been integrated into the curriculum of the Police Academy
which we hope will help sustain the program.
El Salvador is demonstrating that the police
can be more than just a force that maintains political control.
It can also be a key ally of citizens in protecting them
from the crimes that plague them.
Now I'd like to turn to Jamaica, a country
that has earned the dubious distinction of having one of
the world's highest murder rates and the highest murder
rate in the region. Jamaica's inner city communities, marked
by poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and poor education
and health care, have made it particularly vulnerable to
crime. In 2001, the USAID Mission in Jamaica, working with
the government of Jamaica, the Jamaican Constabulary Force,
the Jamaican private sector, civil society, and the American
Chamber of Commerce launched a community-policing program.
The community-policing initiative is managed through an
agreement with an American NGO, the Police Executive Research
Forum. The initiative, now in its third year, is being implemented
in Grants Pen, a community in the heart of Kingston's inner
city. Key initiatives include training for police officers
and community residents, creation of a police bicycle patrol,
and the establishment of a Community Police Facility.
These offer a range of services -- from
basic health care to an ATM machine -- which aims not only
to improve police responsiveness and effectiveness, but
to build mutual relationships of trust between Grants Pen
residents and the police that serve them.
In Colombia, a new country-wide initiative
called "Safe Departments and Municipalities,"
or DMS, was launched by the Colombian National Police, and
the Ministries of Defense and the Interior, supported by
USAID through Georgetown University's Colombia Program.
The DMS program was developed in response to the government
of Colombia's groundbreaking "Democratic Security Policy,"
a 2003 initiative that seeks to address security issues
at every level of society, in every part of the country.
The DMS program has established municipal crime and violence
information systems or "observatories" that are
helping mayors and local officials monitor and maintain
civil peace. The program views citizens as active participants
and partners in governance and has local leaders working
closely with public security forces and citizens to devise
innovative approaches to citizen security. So far, the DMS
program has involved more than 5,000 governors, mayors,
city council presidents, and departmental police commanders
In Guatemala, President Berger has made
law enforcement and anti-corruption his top priority, and
combating crime and improving citizen security tops the
list of Guatemalan citizen demands and expectations. The
USAID Mission is launching a new community crime-prevention
plan designed to assist communities and local police. A
key component has at-risk youth as its target and programs
that provide alternatives to involvement with gangs. USAID
will also work to increase the ability of local police to
respond to emergency calls. At the national level, USAID
will provide assistance to the government of Guatemala designed
to build capacity in local police forces and educate leadership
in the principles of community policing, respect for human
rights, and the management of scarce resources. The El Salvador,
Jamaica, and Colombia experiences have demonstrated the
importance of a few key elements that have gone hand in
hand with successful community policing programs.
The first is investments in practical interventions
that work at the local level. An important lesson that we
have learned in Latin America is that more is not always
better and complexity is not superior to simplicity. For
example, in El Salvador, simply replacing random police
patrolling with a targeted approach was enough to change
the tide. All three programs acknowledge the mutual suspicion
and general distrust that has existed historically between
police and citizens and are working directly with communities
to enhance the credibility of the police as a critical step
to transforming a historically negative relationship.
Second, activities in all three countries
sought to engage civil society, local governments, and the
private sector. As we saw in Jamaica, a little money can
go a long way. By pooling resources from host country governments,
civil society, the private sector, and donor community,
we were able to broaden the community of stakeholders, leverage
resources, and achieve economies of scale.
Third, these programs emphasized local capacity-building
and institution strengthening. Programs must be responsive
to needs articulated by the community, and emphasize transparency
and accountability. In El Salvador, town meetings that bring
together citizens and local police have both improved the
quality of public security and enhanced the credibility
of police in the eyes of the community.
Finally, political leadership has been another
invaluable ingredient that has contributed to the success
of these programs. Unlike most other national security policies,
the Colombian policy directly called on citizens to play
an active role in the promotion of local security by sharing
information, participating in neighborhood watch programs,
and collaborating with local officials.
I should say at this point that USAID's
current and future work in the area of police reform should
be seen in the context of a larger U.S. government effort.
The struggle to preserve the historical and developmental
gains of the past decades in the face of rising crime is
well beyond USAID's capacity and resources alone. Our partners
at the State Department, particularly the Bureaus for Western
Hemisphere Affairs and International Narcotics and Law Enforcement,
have been leaders in this field for some time, and we look
forward to working with them, and learning from them.
I would also like to point out that USAID's
authority to work on "community-based police assistance"
globally received a boost in the 2005 Foreign Appropriations
Act. The Agency is now authorized to use development assistance
funds to enhance the effectiveness and accountability of
civilian police and to foster civilian police roles that
support democratic governance.
This new authority will improve USAID's
capacity to develop and implement holistic approaches that
include a broad range of security-sector actors, working
in conjunction with our overarching goals of poverty reduction,
economic growth, and democratic development. The agency
will apply this new authority with prudence and discretion,
evaluating each case carefully and working closely with
our U.S. government colleagues at the State Department and
other agencies to best determine how this new authority
can help us achieve our objectives.
We have come a long way in Latin America
and the Caribbean. Twenty years ago, the idea of police
and citizens working together in Colombia to make their
cities more secure would have been unthinkable. Similarly,
cops on bikes in Jamaica might have been considered comical.
And 911 calls centers in El Salvador would have been impossible.
However, while we have made advances, we still have a long
way to go. The region is still struggling with a legacy
that associates police with corruption more than competence,
and views them as crime-committers more than crime-solvers.
This is changing with the growth of movements across the
region to include the police in security-sector reforms.
Such movements are still incipient, which presents an opportunity
for those of us whose vision of a development rests on the
belief that real development cannot occur in an insecure
environment and that civilian police, along with other security
sector actors, can be both champions and drivers of democratic
development in their countries.
Thank you very much. I look forward to continuing
to be engaged on these important issues.