The Central America’s Northern Triangle has many common factors that explain their economic circumstances and violence. The root causes of poverty and crime in Central America are drug trafficking, gang activities, corruption, and ineffectiveness of U.S. policies.

Despite the continued assistance from the United States, high crime rates and homicides remain in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. As reported by the authors of the Woodrow Wilson Center Report, there have been higher demands of drugs such as cocaine by the United States. This immensely contributes to drug trafficking and violence in the Northern Triangle. In addition, gang activities, partly due to U.S. deportation policy during the 1990s and trafficking of firearms, in Central America have taken a better control of communities and neighborhoods. Thus, weak law enforcement also enables the levels of drug trafficking and gang activities to persist.

It should also be noted that an important cause of poverty and crime is corruption. The CARSI (Central America Regional Security Initiative) program, adopted by the Obama Administration, has been more concerned with the “generalized corruption and impunity within the justice system” (8, Wilson Center Report). Corruption in Central America has been more difficult to eliminate despite the U.S.’ assistance in institutional reforms. As described in “Former Honduran Cabinet member accused in U.S. of laundering drug money” article, corruption still exists. With the lack of commitment from the host government, corruption is another battle to be tackled in Central American countries.

The U.S. policy-makers should pay more detailed attention to corruption, law enforcement, to the youth gangs in communities, the host government’s commitment to attack these interconnected factors, and drug trafficking, especially with neighboring countries such as Mexico.

Works Cited:

“CRIME AND VIOLENCE IN CENTRAL AMERICA’S NORTHERN TRIANGLE: How U.S. Policy Responses are Helping, Hurting, and can be Improved.” https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/crime-and-violence-in-central-americas-northern-triangle-how-us-responses-are


“Former Honduran Cabinet member accused in US of laundering drug money.” http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-84666069/

What are the root causes of poverty and crime in Central America?

South and Central America’s rampant drug use and expansive drug trafficking network appears to be the obvious scapegoat for the escalation of both poverty and crime rates within the region. Although they do agree that this is a large factor, Olson and Zaino state that there are additional factors playing pivotal roles as well. They claim that certain institutions, such as the USAID, focus the majority of their attention on creating governmental changes. The authors suggest, however, this organizations must instead aim to combat root causes of violence, like corruption, in order to eradicate the issue as a whole (Olson and Zaino, 8). I agree with this statement and believe that governments intending to provide aid to regions such as Central America cannot simply assume that changes within the political system alone will directly result in the reduction of crime and poverty.

Ingram and Curtis argue that social disorganization is also a key contributor to this issue. They state that disorganization is formed in a community through, “population growth, population concentration, mobility or migration” (Ingram and Curtis, 262). In these societies of Central America, a large number of individuals make their living as a migrant workers who travel to the United States. Therefore, it is clear why disorganization is found within these areas. In addition, the authors state that societal disorder leads to poverty as well. They claim that within poverty-stricken regions, there are substantially higher rates in homicides as well (Ingram and Curtis, 262). This helps explain the findings of Jamie Stark. She claims that El Salvador has an, “average now at 25 violent killings a day”, and is on track to become, “the world’s most murderous country outside a war zone” (Stark). Therefore, there are various explanations for  poverty and crime in Central America. Olson and Zaino provide an example of why this crisis seizes to be resolved, while Ingram and Curtis provide just one of the root causes of this issue.


Works Cited:

Eguizàbal, Cristina, Karisa M. Curtis, Matthew C. Ingram, and Eric L. Olson. “Crime and Violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle: How U.S. Policy Response Are Helping, Hurting, and Can Be Improved.” Wilsoncenter.org. The Wilson Center, 19 Dec. 2014.

Wilson Center

Jamie Stark


U.S policy and practice has contributed to the violence in Central America. Poverty and drugs have been issues for Central America because they are hindering its domestic development. However, research done by the Wilson Center explains that drugs are not the sole cause of violence and poverty. In fact, U.S policy is a key contributing factor to the poverty and violence in Central America. For example, America serves as the primary root of the existence of gangs Central America. This is due to the fact the U.S deported many Central Americans who were in gangs in the U.S during the 90’s and 00’s (Olson, 2). These same deported individuals are now controlling countries like Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The United States took the issue of violence within America, and exported it to Central America. Now these gangs have been terrorizing Central Americans, and the gangs have been having their own wars against each other for power and economic control (Azam). The economic profits and incentives of gangs are fueled by drug trafficking, which is also a dilemma U.S policy has created. The U.S consumption of drugs is the highest in the world, causing U.S. citizens to be the largest contributors to the drug market. This position was previously held by Mexico and the Caribbean. However, laws (created by U.S and Mexico) made the drug market relocate out of Mexico and the Caribbean (Olson, 2). Instead, drug trafficking is now present in Central American countries. Instead of ceasing the drug trafficking and  incarcerating gang members, the U.S decided to simply push its problems elsewhere. Central America ended up serving as this “elsewhere” and now the U.S is attempting to resolve the mistakes it has committed.

In order to address these issues, the U.S has a system in place called CARSI. While its intentions are pure, its results have been lacking. The main issue with CARSI is that it has not identified if its focus is on drug trafficking or citizen safety. After conducting research, it has been identified that while CARSI consists of well intended programs, it does not truly have a strategy to stop the issue at hand.  As a result, it will not stop the poverty and crime in Central America. In spite of this, the United States has been actively making a far more positive effect in recent times, as Jorge G. Castañeda from the Jordan Times reports. Jorge’s article explains that with the recent removal of the corrupt President and Vice president of Guatemala, and the support of the newly transformed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), there seems to be hope for Guatemala and soon other Central American countries (Castañeda). The United States has been playing an active role in transforming and supporting the CICIG, and it appears that it is giving hope to the people of Guatemala and neighboring nations. While U.S policies have been hurting Central American countries for many years, they could finally amend the damage through their recent developments within Central America.


Eguizàbal, Cristina, Karisa M. Curtis, Matthew C. Ingram, and Eric L. Olson. “Crime and Violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle: How U.S. Policy Response Are Helping, Hurting, and Can Be Improved.” Wilsoncenter.org. The Wilson Center, 19 Dec. 2014.

Link: https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/crime-and-violence-central-americas-northern-triangle-how-us-policy-responses-are



What are the root causes of poverty and crime in Central America?

Among the root causes of poverty and crime, revolve Central America’s relationship to America and the effects of machismo.

This strife stems from the growing drug cartel presence in many Latin American nations. According to ForeignPolicy.com, “There was nearly a 40 percent increase in first-time heroin users over the past five years, and 95 percent of that heroin flows to the United States from the south.” (We Know How to End Drug Violence in Central America) In regions where little to no economic mobility is present, “cash crops” like cocaine and heroin give incentives for poor people to take part in drug trafficking. Natural competition arises and gang factions come into play with turf wars becoming prominent. To the gangs, neighborhood control is a way to survive and tactics such as physical and sexual violence are a means to an end. Due to corruption and fear of the law enforcement and citizens respectively, these gangs operate with impunity with “95 percent or more” (Eguizàbal, Cristina et al. 2014)of these crimes going unreported and examined.

Secondly, the twisted sense of masculinity that permeates these communities/gangs also brings out the worst of the drug trade. Many young men, feel inadequate, (usually due to little economic opportunity) these “young men, competing for jobs in a global market, have fewer opportunities…” (A Lethal Culture) This leaves them desiring to prove their manhood, prompting them to join gangs to not only make a living, but to assert themselves. This becomes like a “pressure-cooker” ( A Lethal Culture) with many young men exploding after years of pain and becoming the abusers they once feared. This is cyclic as many of these men are driven to a lifestyle due to paternal neglect and poverty, fulfill the same roles that later push their sons to do the same.

Factors of the growing drug trade, and secondly its effects on societal norms gives way to the growing number of crimes and poor people in Central America Without serious thought as to how to aid Central American governments in tackling these root causes, change seems nearly impossible.

Work Cited:

Eguizàbal, Cristina, Karisa M. Curtis, Matthew C. Ingram, and Eric L. Olson. “Crime and Violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle: How U.S. Policy Response Are Helping, Hurting, and Can Be Improved.” Wilsoncenter.org. The Wilson Center, 19 Dec. 2014.

Link: https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/crime-and-violence-central-americas-northern-triangle-how-us-policy-responses-are

Secondary Article Links:

  1. http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/18/we-know-how-to-end-drug-violence-in-central-america-colombia-drug-war/
  2. http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21636052-drugs-and-machismo-are-dangerous-mix-lethal-culture



Do You Agree With Modernization Theory?

The concept of the modernization theory has evolved overtime. Modernization can be regarded as the progress of change that stems from economic development and industrialization. Economic development will eventually lead to democratization, which then results in changes in culture, society, and politics. According to Inglehart and Welzel’s “How Development Leads to Democracy,” “modernization brings social and cultural changes that lead to the emergence and flourishing of democratic institutions” (6). The modernization theory highlights the process of change, and the cultural, political, societal responses to those changes. Inglehart and Welzel also suggested that modernization is where “economic and technological developments bring a coherent set of social and political changes” (6). These economic and technological developments are important factors in improving and developing a sustainable democratic system. I agree with the modernization theory in the sense that development in society can influence the stability of an economy. In the long run, modernization would develop to democracy due to significant social and cultural changes.

An example of how economic development influences a democratic institution is China’s new regulation on greenhouse gas emissions. China announced their cap-to-trade program to reduce emissions. China is one of the world’s largest polluter and is making efforts to reduce its use of fossil fuels. The Chinese government has placed a limit on the amount of carbon pollution in order to decrease the amount of industrial emissions. The cap-to-trade system will hopefully reduce China’s greenhouse gas emission, which can have an important impact on efficient production in the long run. New regulations towards cleaner energy will restrict Chinese citizens’ freedom to use certain resources, but will also motivate them to act more environmentally friendly. These cultural and societal responses will benefit China’s economy in the long run because by reducing carbon emission, the country can better use its resources. This can also affect other economies because the amount of resources available is finite. In order to maintain production, emissions therefore need to be reduced, which will benefit the environment as a whole.

Davis, Julie, and Coral Davenport. “China to Announce Cap-and-Trade Program to Limit Emissions.” The New York Times. Sept 24. 2015.

Inglehart, Ronald and Welzel, Christian. “How Development Leads to Democracy.” Foreign Affairs 88 (2).


Modernization Theory

As an American citizen who has lived through the Bush administration’s failed attempt to affectively intervene and establish democracy in the Middle East, it was initially hard to grasp Inglehart and Welzel’s argument, “modernization theory implies that the United States should welcome and encourage economic development around the world”(Inglehart and Welzel, 15). However, after fully reviewing their piece, Development and Democracy: What We Know about Modernization Today, I now understand that the reason the Bush administration failed to implement democracy in Iran was because they neglected to realize that “democracy is likely to emerge and survive only when certain social and cultural conditions are in place” and got involved  “without first establishing internal security and overlooked cultural conditions that endangered the effort” (Inglehart and Welzel, 1). I now understand that democratization isn’t as swift or strait forward as one who grew up in a democratic high-income nation would believe, since “the value systems of high-income countries differ dramatically”(Inglehart and Welzel, 7) than those of lower-income nations, such as Iran.

So one may ask, is it possible to implement democracy in a traditional low-income society with traditional gender roles and strong religious affiliation such as Iran? The answer: present day modernization theory, which implies that “economic and technological development brings a coherent set of social and political changes” (Inglehart and Welzel, 6). With the empirical example of Iran, in 2008, “the United States Congress appropriated $60 million for programs to promote democracy, the rule of law and governance in Iran” (Stephen J. Hadley). If the U.S. had understood that in such a deeply historic and religious nation such as Iran, simply putting money into their government will not fortify democracy. Rather, Inglehart and Welzel would argue that putting emphasis on social issues and rights such as the “value on individual freedom and self-expression” will set a stable foundation for the insurgence of democracy (Inglehart and Welzel, 7). Certainly, “democracy is unlikely to survive in a society torn by distrust and intolerance”(Inglehart and Welzel, 14), however, if modernization theory is fundamentally applied, then “in the long run”, democratization is more likely to arise. If applied, “once set in motion, it tends to penetrate all aspects of life, bringing occupational specialization, urbanization, rising educational levels, rising life expectancy, and rapid economic growth” (Inglehart and Welzel, 1).

Although modernization theory is a very complex set of ideas with long term benefits, if applied correctly I believe it would increase democratization significantly and resume the international hold that has be placed on democratic growth over the last decade.

Works Cited:

2009. Inglehart, Ronald and Welzel, Christian. “Development and Democracy: What We Know about Modernization Today”.Foreign Affairs.



Do You Agree with the Modernization Theory? Why or why not?

The definition of the Modernization Theory has been altered over time, but in Development and Democracy: What We Know About Modernization Today, Inglehart and Welzel argue that the Modernization Theory is the idea that industrialization increases the possibility for the formation of democratic institutions. More specifically, the authors argue that, “the core idea of modernization is that economic and technological development bring a coherent set of social and political changes,” (6). It seems obvious that growing nations would experience a shift in their cultural and political values, but a changing mindset does not explain how a nation becomes more susceptible to a democratic political climate. I decided I was in agreement with Inglehart and Welzel when I read their ideas on the importance of the emergence of a strong middle class to alter social and political thought. As the authors described, with developing economies and technologies comes an influx of new jobs that require education and training. Once people are educated, receive these jobs, and are paid appropriately, they gain agency to think for themselves and take a political interest in how they can maintain and protect their new occupations. This newfound “self-expression” from the middle-class gradually demands more democratic institutions.

Though brief, the article attached is a strong example of how a growing economy could generate social and political change. In summary, this article describes how the Chinese government aims to grow its economy and remain internationally competitive by expanding its robot market. Constructing a robot is a very difficult task, so to make the job more attractive; the government is offering subsidies to Chinese robot makers. Not only is this is creating a well-paying job market, which will strengthen the middle class, but it also gives political leverage to the Chinese workers because the government is relying on them to keep up the international economy.

Works Cited:

Inglehart, Ronald and Welzel, Christian. “How Development Leads to Democracy.” Foreign Affairs 88 (2).

“China Robot Sales to Almost Triple by 2018: Industry Group.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 Oct. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.


Do You Agree With Modernization Theory?

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Modernization Theory began to emerge. First with the battle between Marxist theory, which focused on private property and inequality, and then with the capitalists’ ideas that developing a country economically would eventually lead to democracy. This idea of modernization was argued for years. After many revisions, it was decided that “the core idea of modernization is that economic and technological development bring a coherent set of social and political changes” (Inglehart and Welzel 2009 p. 6). I agree with the Modernization Theory because countries do not have to become Westernized and give up their culture to renovate their government and become more industrial, which ultimately gives the country a more successful government at no cost to their societal values.

As stated before, modernization is not  necessarily the process of becoming more Westernized. In fact, modernization focuses more on industrialization and economic growth. There has been a major focus on this idea of modernization in countries in the East, such as Japan, and countries in Africa, such as Tanzania.

For example, in Tanzania modernization is emerging . The country is focusing on rebuilding its businesses and remodeling their work environment to gain more traction in the world of trade (Kowalczyk 2015). They are also focusing on the health and education of their workers which will create a more secure and reliable production process of goods (Kowalczyk 2015). Although their economy is stunted, Tanzania hopes that by following this theory of modernization their economy will grow and become more stable. Based on Inglehart and Welzel’s article on Modernization Theory, by “upgrading the workforce” Tanzania will be able to solidify their middle class, which in turn will lead to creating a liberal democracy (Inglehart and Welzel 2009 p.4).

Seeing struggling countries such as Tanzania becoming more modernized and industrial gives me faith in the theory of modernization. Because of this idea of progressing disabled countries without violence, I agree with the Modernization Theory. Tanzania disproved my doubts about Modernization Theory and its successes gives me hope for the other struggling countries that are eager to become a democracy. Countries are able to keep their traditions and culture through this theory because, as said before, “modernization is not Westernization”. These countries have no worry of losing their identities, which is just more of a reason for countries such as Tanzania to experiment with this theory.

Work Cited:

Inglehart, Ronald and Welzel, Christian. “How Development Leads to Democracy.” Foreign Affairs 88 (2).

Kowalczyk, Pete. “Tanzania: Land of Natural Wonder Modernizes – CNN.com.” CNN. October 14, 2015. Accessed October 20, 2015.

Link To Article on Tanzania

What is the State of Democracy around the World

The state of Democracy within the context of Samuel P. Huntington’s third wave has become stagnated as a result of a fading legitimacy. Huntington describes the ascendency of democratic states within three periods or waves. Currently the world is engaged within the third wave in which democracy slightly increased due to failing autocratic states, but has now declined. This decline, according to Marc Plattner can be attributed to the, “attractiveness of the world’s leading democracies,” such as the United States and Europe (Plattner, 14). Plattner associates this decline with the results of the economic crisis of 2008 in conjunction with poor public perceptions of political institutions (e.g. the European Union, NSA, GCHQ, etc.) and problematic foreign policies.

As a result, attempts to create democratic regimes within historically authoritarian states such as Egypt have failed to consolidate their power. The Arab Springs is one such example that illustrates the inability for democratic regimes to institute a stable government within authoritarian states. This inability stems from the growing power of authoritarian regimes such as Russia, China, and Iran who have been able to consolidate their party’s power. These states have thus become models for existing autocratic regimes to follow; as their power develops within the international community. Any emergence of democratic proponents within these states form only because, according to political scientist Ghia Nodia, democracy, “‘has become fashionable,’” for those who want to change the social condition (Plattner, 13). Another challenge presented to democracy is the combined resistance that authoritarian regimes created in order to secure their interest both domestically and internationally. Juxtaposed with the loss in credence, democracy is struggling against the combined ideals of autocracies on the international stage.

Yet the lack of knowledge in implementing such a democratic regime juxtaposed with its failing “attractiveness”, represents the core issues creating a stagnation of the spread of democracy. Stagnation, however, does not imply an end to Huntington’s third wave. The dominance that autocracies impose within their domains presents an element that may allow for transition to occur. Robert Dahl, notes this imposed state dominance in Dilemmas of Pluralist Democracy; referring to it as resource that is counteracted by the formation of organizations. Pro-democratic organizations (e.g. Arab Springs), however, lack the necessary knowledge to implement such a difficult system of governance within societies having no prior history with such ideals (Plattner, 15-16). Therefore, the transition must occur in conjunction with the ideals prioritized by the established organizations; which will format the cultural understanding and, thereby influence its policies.

As democracy stands today, its stagnation resulted from a gradual loss of international legitimacy due to the economic crisis of 2008 and poor management of institutions and foreign policies. In response, the growth of autocratic regimes has become relative to the loss of legitimacy of leading democratic nations that have failed to provide security within the international community. As a result, democracy as a political institution has been restricted to previously democratized states and has failed to insert democratic ideals within autocratic states due to a loss of perceived legitimacy.


  1. Plattner, Marc F. Project Muse. “The End of the Transitions Era?”. John Hopkins University Press. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_democracy/v025/25.3.plattner.pdf .
  2. Terhcek, Ronald and Thomas Conte. Theories of Democracy. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001.

What is the state of democracy around the world (and why?)

With the collapse of the Soviet Union back in 1991, countries previously included in the Union started forming their own independent states; many of them, forming into democracies. Moreover, many countries which were not geographically involved with the Soviet Union finally found the liberty to focus on their own problems, rather than trying to oppose the UUSR. These changes gave a huge boost to the democratization of the world, effectively creating a higher number of democratic states. This was thought to be “a natural trend, due to a general law of social progress” (Huntington, 17), considering that the natural development of a society eventually brings it to democracy. Current results show it does not.

Even though years passed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and previously-dominated countries had their opportunity to develop stable democracies, the world is not uniformly democratic. Rather, the state of the world currently entails a standoff between the highly democratic west, and the vastly authoritarian east. Two powerhouses currently dominate the world with their economic development and integral roles in world politics: Russia and China. Moreover, the Middle East is currently under a power-hungry war, which, at least for now, does not seem to be heading towards democracy. These countries, in turn, show aggression and are willing to use power to broaden their borders, best evident in Russia’s successful attempt at claiming Crimea as its own, receiving minimal backlash from the rest of the political scene. One of the current issues with upholding democracy is the lack of support from other democratic countries. Other than the case of Crimea, Russia has attempted to invade other countries such as Georgia, making their way to the capital, only held back by the presence of representatives from two other countries, who decided to support Georgia in this war. Even though they were unsuccessful one time, there is currently nothing keeping Russia from re-enacting their plot against other nearby countries, effectively widening their horizons.

Considering the current democratic state of the world, unless some drastic changes occur in the world’s political scene, democracy is quite likely to decline even in the countries where it’s already well-established. The natural development of society is most definitely not towards democracy; furthermore, history shows that for the most of our world’s history, the dominating regime has been authoritarian: even now, the two authoritarian powerhouses are ones with ancient history. Democracy is commonly perceived as the correct way of social power-distribution; however, results and evidence speak otherwise, and unless drastic changes are made against the development of authoritarian regimes in the world, democracy is likely to decline.

Works Used:

Samuel, Huntington. 1991. The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. University of Oklahoma Press.

“Freedom in the World 2015.” Freedom in the World 2015. Accessed October 13, 2015.

Biddle, Jo. “Study Finds Democracy In Decline Around The World.” Business Insider. January 16, 2013. Accessed October 13, 2015.

“Democracy.” – Global Issues. Accessed October 13, 2015.  http://www.globalissues.org/article/761/democracy