Marco Rubio is delivering a “major” foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institution today at noon Eastern (there may be a live feed available here later). I will try to listen to the speech, and I plan to write about it later today. On a related topic, I noticed that Rubio had written an op-ed for The L.A. Times on U.S. policies in Latin America. Most of it is unremarkable for a Republican hawk (he is in favor of democracy, and opposed to Iranian influence), but one section stood out:
From a security standpoint, violent organized crime, which has devastated the region and brought tragic insecurity, must be addressed as a necessary precursor to economic prosperity and stable democratic institutions. Despite the exhortations of some, this can’t happen through the legalization or decriminalization of the drug trade. Instead, we should revise outdated Cold War-era restrictions that impede more robust security cooperation with governments in the region [bold mine-DL].
It’s not surprising that Rubio wants to ignore the proposals of several Latin American governments (including Colombia) whose countries are being devastated by cartel-related violence. These governments see decriminalization as one obvious and important part of undermining drug cartels. Rubio seems to be suggesting an even more militarized approach to combating cartels with greater U.S. involvement and support. Indeed, Rubio would like to follow the Colombian model in other countries wracked by violence:
Countries like Colombia can then use their expertise to be security exporters to the emerging trouble spots of Honduras and Guatemala.
As Ted Galen Carpenter explained in an article for The National Interest last year, the Colombian model comes with a significant price in the form of government abuses of power, and it may not have been as successful as Rubio assumes:
To cast further doubt on the desirability of trying to apply the Colombia model to Mexico, the level of violence in Colombia is beginning to rebound. According to a February 2011 UN report, there was a 40 percent rise in massacres in 2010, mostly attributed to new drug gangs that have arisen in recent years. Thus, Colombian authorities may have sullied their country’s democratic institutions and values without even achieving lasting gains in the drug war. Mexico’s military seems well on its way to doing the same thing.
Something along these lines appears to be what Rubio is proposing be done in Honduras and Guatemala. If this is what counts as U.S. attentiveness towards Latin America, our neighbors might prefer to be neglected.
Update: The speech is being carried live on C-SPAN 3. The text of the speech can be found here. As you’ll find from reading it, the Latin America op-ed is basically copied from that section of the speech.