Understanding CARSI: The Impact of U.S. Foreign Aid on Crime Trends in Central America

Open Access
Almeida, Jeanne E
Area of Honors:
International Politics
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Gretchen Casper, Thesis Supervisor
  • Michael Barth Berkman, Honors Advisor
  • international politics; Central America; CARSI; foreign aid
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, there has been a proliferation of crime and violence in Central America. The region has become a transshipment point for over ninety percent of the illicit drugs that inter the United States and the escalation of crime in the region has made it one of the United States’ most tangible national security threats. In response, in 2008, the United States constructed the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), a financial aid package developed with the dual-purpose of mitigating crime in the region’s seven countries and reducing drug flow into the U.S. This study evaluates CARSI’s impact on the level of crime in Central America through both quantitative and qualitative analysis. Through the use of multivariate regressions, it finds that, contrary to policy goals, the policy has had a limited impact on the level of crime and is, in fact, related to increased homicide and crime victimization levels in the region. It substantiates the claim that iron-fist policies that prioritize the use of military force to reduce crime are ineffective and counter-productive. Drawing from both statistical and case-study analysis, it supports policy recommendations that prioritize community efforts and youth programs in the effort mitigate crime in the region.