Crime in Latin America

September 2010 • Volume 4, Issue 9
Can violent drug cartels be controlled?
By Eliza Barclay


An alleged member of the Beltrán-Leyva Organization (AFP/Getty Images/Dario Leon)
An alleged member of the Beltrán-Leyva Organization, one of seven major drug cartels in Mexico, is brought before the press last March 19 at Mexican Navy headquarters in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon State. In a major victory against the cartels for President Felipe Calderón's government, the gang's notorious leader was killed at his luxury hideout last December during a shootout with 200 Mexican marines. (AFP/Getty Images/Dario Leon)

Fed by the drug trade with the United States, crime and corruption threaten Latin America as never before, reaching from the highest levels of government to the most-impoverished slums. Once largely focused on illegal drugs, crime cartels have now expanded into a complex range of activities from money laundering to human trafficking. The crisis is prompting both U.S. and Latino experts and policy makers to ask how governments and citizens can fight criminal groups, reduce social inequality and create new opportunities for unemployed young people tempted by a life of crime. At the same time, the United States, which has long been involved with Colombia's fight against crime and drug trafficking, is increasingly concerned about the lawlessness and horrific violence in Mexico, now threatening to spill over into the U.S. While experts say the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, there are some bright spots, including criminal justice reforms that have reduced crime and corruption in several Latin American countries.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
May 27, 2022  Crime in America
Feb. 10, 2017  Forensic Science Controversies
Feb. 05, 2016  Restorative Justice
Jan. 30, 2015  Central American Gangs
Aug. 29, 2014  Transnational Crime
Aug. 09, 2013  Sexual Assault in the Military
Oct. 26, 2012  Mexico's Future
Apr. 20, 2012  Criminal Records and Employment
Apr. 19, 2011  Honor Killings
Sep. 2010  Crime in Latin America
Jul. 16, 2010  Gangs in the U.S.
Jul. 17, 2009  Examining Forensics
Apr. 17, 2009  Wrongful Convictions Updated
Feb. 08, 2008  Fighting Crime
Oct. 11, 2002  Corporate Crime
Apr. 04, 1997  Declining Crime Rates
Dec. 10, 1982  Arson: America's Most Costly Crime
May 07, 1982  Helping Victims of Crime
Mar. 13, 1981  Violent Crime's Return to Prominence
Jul. 15, 1977  Crime Reduction: Reality or Illusion
Jan. 19, 1972  Crime of Rape
Jan. 22, 1969  Street Crime in America
Jan. 17, 1968  Burglary Prevention
Sep. 22, 1965  Compensation for Victims of Crime
Feb. 17, 1965  Criminal Justice and Crime Control
Oct. 18, 1961  Control of City Crime
Jun. 20, 1929  Crime and the Courts
Regional Political Affairs: Latin America and the Caribbean