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The legacy of 9/11 for Latin America

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The tragedy of September 11, 2001, made terrorism the US's security priority for the following decade, and, in Latin America, this new focus on terror came at the expense of fighting organized criminal groups.

In some ways, 9/11 turned Latin America into a forgotten region for the US. Between 2000 and 2010, Central American nations received, on average, between $1 billion and $12 billion in military and police aid every year, with a few exceptions. Compare that with the $20 billion injection into Iraq at the peak of reconstruction efforts in the 2004 fiscal year.

Manpower – the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – also turned away from the region. Getting money from Congress became a case of rejigging each department's stated priorities, so as to emphasize the "war on terror." In the 1990s, the best and brightest agency officers looked to make their careers fighting the so-called "war on drugs." After 9/11, counter-terrorism became far more career-enhancing than work on organized crime. Priorities shifted, and as a result during the 2000s Latin America essentially saw a "brain drain," as attention was refocused on Afghanistan and Iraq.

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