Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Writing Drugs & Terrorism in Latin America

I am just finishing revisions of the drugs and terrorism chapter for the 2nd edition of U.S. and Latin American Relations. The tone of the chapter has changed quite a bit, more so than any other chapter, I think, though immigration also shifted. This goes along with not only how my thinking of the topic has changed since the book went into print back in 2007, but also how the Bush and Obama eras are different.

The idea of "terrorism" itself has evolved, as the U.S. is far less obsessed with talking about it in the Latin American context. Bush GWOT included Latin America, and Obama retired the term. Bush played up terrorism quite a lot, and now the Obama administration consistently pushes back on the idea that, for example, Middle Eastern terrorists are setting up shop in the region.

The military obsession has also waned. Yes, there is plenty of military presence in the fight against drug trafficking now and there are serious issues attached to it, but the U.S. push doesn't play the same role it did 7+ years ago (on the current situation in this regard, see Adam Isacson et al's report from September 2013). Instead, I am noting the increased discussion of decriminalization, which was absent (or at least very muted) back then. Latin America pushes back.

There is so much more written on Mexico now than back then, while Colombia has receded. I was all about Colombia when I first wrote the chapter and now had to cut big chunks that are just too dated, while adding more on Mexico and Central America.

In all, U.S.-Latin American relations in this regard (and pretty much every regard) are much improved since the Bush era (certainly not perfect, such as the case of Bolivia). This does not mean we're necessarily any closer to resolving the problems associated with drugs and violence, but it's something.


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