The Perry Center hosted “Evolving Threats in Central America: Forecasting an Uncertain Future,” a Hemispheric Forum that aimed to analyze regional trends and envision a strategy to combat current and future security challenges. Perry Center Visiting Professor Walter Earle led the discussion, which featured remarks from Dr. C. Thomas Bruneau, Distinguished Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School; Mr. Douglas Farah, Lessons Learned Specialist at the Center for Complex Operations at the National Defense University; and Ambassador Adam Blackwell, Diplomat-in-Residence at the Perry Center.
Observing the high levels of violence that currently plague much of Central America, Forum panelists highlighted the pressing need for a new approach to regional security. Fragile and corrupt state institutions lack the strength to combat violence and provide security for their citizens, leaving a vacuum for the burgeoning political power and influence of gangs. Social vulnerabilities, such as high levels of disengaged youth and pervasive unemployment, compound these issues and add to the challenges facing the region. Moreover, incongruence between the present needs of Central American governments and the US policy agenda makes finding effective solutions difficult.
Forum panelists agreed that the current approach to Central American security must be amended. A new strategy should emphasize the need to reinforce the rule of law, to build more credible and effective institutions, to better understand the type of threat posed by gangs, and to encourage a stronger political will among citizen and state actors. Additionally, a reevaluation of US policy toward the region is necessary in order to better align US actions with the needs of Central American governments and civilians. While developing a new strategy will be difficult, measures to reduce the current levels of violence and instability will undoubtedly move Central America toward a better future.