The Fourth Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security of the Organization of American States (OAS), which is taking place today and tomorrow in Medellin, Colombia, today heard several presentations from member countries and held a discussion on "Regional cooperation strategies to prevent and address threats to public security of states."
The Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, said that changes in the criminal tendencies of his country during the last four decades have made clear the need to adopt new strategies. " It’s become self-evident that 20th-century solutions are simply not adequate to address the 21st-century challenges we face," he said.
The head of the Justice Department in Washington indicated that one in every one hundred U.S. citizens is in prison, and recognized that while his country has five percent of the world population, its prison population represents 25 percent of all prisoners in the world, which he considered an excessive cost in monetary, human and moral terms. In this regard, he said that at the beginning of this year the Department of Justice began to consider a number of measures intended to improve the criminal justice system as a whole.
As an example, Holder said he ordered federal prosecutors to draw up guidelines for determining when a person should be charged and when not. "This will enable us to focus our efforts on the most serious cases – those that implicate clear and substantial public security threats, including national security, protecting Americans from violent crime and financial fraud, and safeguarding our most vulnerable citizens." These guidelines, at the same time, imply avoiding minimum sentences for people who have committed minor drug related offenses, for example.
The Deputy Minister of Security of Ecuador, Stalin Basantes, gave a presentation on "threats to integral security and national best practices as strategies of prevention and control." Deputy Minister Basantes said the aim of the Security Plan for Good Living 2013-2017, developed by the government of President Rafael Correa, is "to consolidate the transformation of justice and strengthen integral security with strict respect for human rights."
Deputy Minister Basantes said that previously in his country there was an isolated security vision, solely from the perspective of national security, whereas now there is "a vision focused on the guarantee of the rights of the people, a participatory vision, with an integral focus and one that contributes to living well." Basantes added that earlier in Ecuador both security and police relied largely on a reactive approach, whereas now the focus is based on participation and puts the emphasis on prevention.
The Deputy Minister from Ecuador proposed a Network of Security Observatories in the Americas, coordinated through the Security Observatory of the OAS, which is also responsible for consolidating information on the subject.
For his part, the Deputy Minister of Public Security of Panama, Manuel Moreno, on behalf of the Central American Integration System (SICA), presented the Central American Security Strategy (ESCA), which was adopted by the countries of the region in 2011.
The Panamanian Deputy Minister indicated that a consensus was reached on a regional policy to "establish common objectives, areas of intervention and action steps to achieve the required levels of security that the citizens of Central America require." Moreno said the ESCA is based on four components: fighting crime; prevention; rehabilitation, reintegration and prison security; and institutional strengthening, coordination and monitoring of the regional strategy.
Deputy Minister Moreno said that between January 2012 and June 2013, with funds donated by the international community, the SICA trained more than a thousand officials, of which 590 are police officers, 252 judges and 232 are attorneys general, among other training programs.
Deputy Minister Moreno added that there had been two regional operations against organized crime in coordination between the police forces of the countries of SICA, Mexico, Colombia and the Caribbean. The operation "Orca II" led to the arrest of more than 5,000 individuals and the seizure of 7,000 weapons and more than 15,000 munitions, while the operation "Frontier" led to the seizure of 1,282 vehicles, the arrest of 1,112 individuals and the seizure of prohibited substances and cash. "By way of evaluation, ESCA has allowed the strengthening of justice and security institutions and an improvement in financing instruments and evaluation," said Moreno.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.