The OAS and Transnational
Organized Crime in the Americas
This chapter addresses the main challenges presented by transnational crime in the Americas, and assesses how countries in the region are facing these challenges within the framework of the Organization of American States (OAS). It focuses on two types of crime—drug abuse and trafficking; the smuggling of arms and light weapons—to highlight the increasing relevance of multilateral rather than unilateral approaches when dealing with transnational crime. Given the magnitude of the latter, and its devastating effects on the political institutions of OAS members, it is not surprising that these problems have come to the forefront of member states' concerns.
The OAS is the world's oldest regional multilateral political organization. Its origins can be traced to the First International Conference of American States, held in Washington, D. C., in 1889–1890. Currently, the OAS has thirty-four active member states (the government of Cuba has been suspended since the early 1960s). The OAS was designed as a forum of political dialogue and cooperation. Its basic purposes—as articulated in its Constitutive Charter—are to strengthen the peace and security of the continent; to promote and consolidate representative democracy; to provide for common action in the event of aggression; to seek the solution of political, juridical, and economic problems among member states; and to promote, through cooperative action, the development of its members.
Over the last fifteen years, changes and transformations in the world's political and strategic landscape have had a direct and profound impact on the OAS, and on the way its members interact with one another. The end of the Cold War and the ensuing wave of democratic transition and consolidation heralded an era of dialogue, cooperation, and integration in the region. This new spirit is best exemplified by the so-called Summits of the