Democracy Dialogues: Battling Organized Crime in Haiti, Guatemala, and Beyond

Ambassador Todd Robinson spoke with AS/COA’s Eric Farnsworth about security and humanitarian concerns.


  • Todd D. Robinson, Assistant Secretary Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State 
  • Eric Farnsworth, Vice President, Americas Society/Council of the Americas

"We have transnational organized criminals working throughout our hemisphere, undermining institutions, terrorizing communities, ordinary citizens—from the U.S. to all the way down to Argentina and Chile," said the State Department's Todd D. Robinson in an interview with AS/COA Vice President Eric Farnsworth. "The U.S. government and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement have been focusing on long-term solutions." 

When it comes to lessons learned, Ambassador Robinson emphasized that the gold standard is Colombia, where local institutions and the people can make a real change and improve security issues, with the support of the international community. "There is no silver bullet, and it doesn’t have to be the United States. Other countries have a key role to play, such as Norway, France, Spain, the U.K., etc., for an effort such as Plan Colombia," Ambassador Robinson noted.

Regarding Central America, Ambassador Robinson said that "corruption touches on everything in these countries," specifically mentioning the case of Guatemala. "They swap resources, undermining institutions, and hurt ordinary people every day," he said. Support from the international community to institutions and actors, including ordinary Guatemalans who want to fight against corruption is key.

The conversation then shifted to the security situation in Haiti. Ambassador Robinson explained that the international community has been engaged in Haiti for decades, but following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse (2017–2021), it's going for a new approach. Those efforts center on bolstering the Haitian police, instead of bringing in outside personnel. 

Ambassador Robinson also discussed how the U.S. government is combating external influences, including China and Russia, in the region. He says Washington is pursuing transparency, good governance, and a secure business environment. “Compared to what China and Russia are offering to what the Western Hemisphere is offering, it's clear what works. Authoritarianism and closer cooperation with criminal organizations doesn’t work." 

Democracy Dialogues is a series of conversations we need to be having now on the state of democracy in the Americas. Hosted by Eric Farnsworth, these one-on-one interviews with leading democracy practitioners explore the most difficult issues of regional democratic governance with an eye toward pragmatic, well-calibrated solutions.

Past featured guests have included Colombia's then-President Iván Duque, NBA Basketball Star Enes Kanter Freedom, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, CubaDecide founder Rosa María Payá, Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly Brian Winter, and founder and Editor of Nicaragua's Confidential Carlos Fernando Chamorro.

Follow the conversation: #DemocracyDialogues | @ASCOA

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