Plan Colombia and the Mérida Initiative are the two most significant US security assistance efforts in Latin America in the twenty-first century. At a time when US objectives in the Middle East and Central Asia were flagging, Colombia was a rare US foreign policy victory—a showcase for stabilization and security sector reform. Conversely, Mexico struggled to turn the tide on the country's scourge of crime and violence, even with an influx of resources aimed at professionalizing the country's security, defense, and judicial institutions.

As Washington reconsiders its approach to stabilizing crisis countries after a challenging withdrawal from Afghanistan, From Peril to Partnership's comparative analysis of Colombia and Mexico offers lessons for scholars and policymakers alike, providing insights into the efficacy of US security assistance and the necessary conditions and stakeholders in partner nations that facilitate success. Crucially, private sector support, interparty consensus on security policies, and the centralization of the security bureaucracy underpinned Colombia's success. The absence of these features in Mexico contributed to the country's descent into chaos, culminating in the country's highest-ever homicide rate by the end of the 2010s.

Drawing on extensive fieldwork, From Peril to Partnership evaluates to what extent security assistance programs helped improve the operational effectiveness and democratic accountability of Washington's partners—Colombian and Mexican security forces. It answers why Plan Colombia achieved its objectives and why the Mérida Initiative underdelivered in Mexico. Most importantly, it goes beyond drug war theatrics and the “one-size-fits-all” approach to US-led stabilization—at once, restoring agency to institutions on the receiving end of US security assistance and helping chart a course toward more nuanced and effective US policy.

Angelo, Paul. From Peril to Partnership: US Security Assistance and the Bid to Stabilize Colombia and Mexico. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2024.

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Latin America and the Caribbean are home to just 9 percent of the global population but account for a third of the world's homicides. A lethal mix of drugs, readily available firearms, and unemployed youth is fueling a wave of violence that has taken on epidemic proportions. Ecuador is now ground zero for the region's gang brutality. Whether Quito succeeds in containing the violence will depend as much on how it manages corruption and political instability as it does on the brute force called upon to suppress organized crime. The region's downward spiral need not be a chronicle of a death foretold. In Ecuador, newfound national resolve and emerging offers of international cooperation can be an effective antidote to expanding gang violence. Indeed, the success of one of South America's smallest countries in dismantling gangs and the corrupt institutions that protect them could be a promising start in turning the tide on Latin America's new crime wave.
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Food insecurity is an urgent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), and the LAC region’s susceptibility to food insecurity is poised to worsen with the accelerating effects of climate change. Food insecurity is not in itself a phenomenon that necessitates a military response. Indeed, food insecurity is “not” a traditional security threat to territorial borders and national sovereignty. Rather, it should be seen as an amplifier of political, economic, social, and ecological strain and vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malign actors and, thus, contributing to heightened security concerns. In this view, investments in food security should be considered as necessary, proactive, and preventative security measures, in support of civilian government agencies and the private and nonprofit sectors. Through a limited role focused on humanitarian assistance, disaster response, and interagency and international collaboration, the United States can leverage the capacities and resources of the DOD to support its regional partners in combating food insecurity. Anything less would risk losing a strategic, humanitarian, and moral imperative.

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With more than 1.7 million encounters reported by US Customs and Border Protection—the highest tally in two decades—2021 was an exceptional year for irregular migration to the US southern border. Although that number includes citizens from at least 121 countries, some 43 percent of those apprehended by US authorities hailed from Central America.

Barring massive shifts in policy and human behavior around the world, environmental degradation due to climate change will fuel volatility in Central America for decades to come, with disruptive spillover effects for neighboring Mexico and the United States. Halting the flow of people northward from Central America is neither feasible nor desirable, especially given growing labor demands in the United States and Mexico. But ensuring migration remains an option, not a necessity, requires long-range planning and international cooperation to alleviate the impending climate fallout.

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The Latin American Studies Program at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies host the third annual Latin American Security Forum titled, "Latin America in the World Order: Stepping Up." During the full-day event, subject matter experts from the US and Latin America will analyze current events and address the following issues: Regional and health security, great power competition within the region, and energy development.
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The Latin American Studies Program at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies host the third annual Latin American Security Forum titled, "Latin America in the World Order: Stepping Up." During the full-day event, subject matter experts from the US and Latin America will analyze current events and address the following issues: Regional and health security, great power competition within the region, and energy development.
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The Latin American Studies Program at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies host the third annual Latin American Security Forum titled, "Latin America in the World Order: Stepping Up." During the full-day event, subject matter experts from the US and Latin America will analyze current events and address the following issues: Regional and health security, great power competition within the region, and energy development.
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The Latin American Studies Program at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies host the third annual Latin American Security Forum titled, "Latin America in the World Order: Stepping Up." During the full-day event, subject matter experts from the US and Latin America will analyze current events and address the following issues: Regional and health security, great power competition within the region, and energy development.
Read more
The Latin American Studies Program at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies host the third annual Latin American Security Forum titled, "Latin America in the World Order: Stepping Up." During the full-day event, subject matter experts from the US and Latin America will analyze current events and address the following issues: Regional and health security, great power competition within the region, and energy development.
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The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies hosted its second annual half-day forum on the security challenges in Latin America. This year?s forum aims to address the thematic question, "Are Institutions Ready to Respond?"
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