Skip to Georgetown Americas Institute Full Site Menu Skip to main content
November 14, 2022

Dan Erikson Reflects on Security Priorities and Cooperation in Latin America

On October 6, Dan Erikson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Western Hemisphere, shared perspectives on U.S. security priorities and opportunities for cooperation in Latin America during a conversation moderated by Georgetown Americas Institute Managing Director Denisse Yanovich.

Dan Erikson speaks on security priorities in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Dan Erikson speaks on security priorities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A Dynamic Region

While Latin America is not often prioritized over other global security issues, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has become increasingly engaged in the hemisphere as the region goes through a strategic inflexion point around new trends and dynamics.

Highlighting the pressure that the COVID-19 pandemic has put on military and police forces as well as the increased presence of China in the region, Erikson assured the audience that the DOD is considering all these factors in their broader strategic outlook. Ultimately, he emphasized that Latin America is an extremely dynamic region within and across countries, and U.S. security policy towards the region reflects this dynamism through defense diplomacy and cooperation.

Priorities and Cooperation in Latin America

Erikson also discussed U.S. security priorities and objectives in Latin America. He underscored that “President Biden has always had a very deep commitment to the region,” and that his main objective is to have a democratic, prosperous, and safe Latin America.

The DOD’s role in the region is to primarily support civilian-led efforts for security. It is not the position of the [U.S] administration to strengthen internal militaries.

Erikson referred to the region’s election super cycle and the political change that comes with it, with countries such as Chile, Colombia, and Brazil going through presidential elections in the last year. Regarding new Colombian President Gustavo Petro, he stated that the country is a major non-NATO ally for the United States and affirmed that the partnership will continue under Petro. Erikson commented on some of Petro’s policies, such as shifting the role of the military from traditional security forces to supporting developmental services in rural areas. He cautioned that while this could be beneficial, Colombian armed groups still pose a significant threat.

Erikson also referred to Mexico and its security challenges, which are mainly derived from organized crime and drug trafficking. He underscored that these challenges are not new, that the United States is actively collaborating with Mexico through high-level security dialogues, and that “at the end of the day, it is going to come down to Mexico’s capacity of maintaining their security force.”

Dan Erikson and Denisse Yanovich at GAI's event on hemispheric security.
Dan Erikson and Denisse Yanovich at GAI's event on hemispheric security.

Looking Forward

Finally, Erikson stressed upon the deepening defense and security relationship between the United States and Latin America through defense diplomacy. He highlighted the increased role of the DOD on defense policy in the global context. Regarding Latin America, Erikson shared that “we see allies and partners as force multipliers that are really important for us, and we want to be important for them.”

About his own role, he concluded that he “feel[s] very lucky to be very busy in a region that despite challenges is still a region at peace. My job is to keep it that way.”