Thursday, September 27, 2012

On Mexico's southern border is the most violent zone on the planet, says United Nations crime monitoring agency

Mexican drug war now being replayed in Central America

Guadalajara -
In Vienna today the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that Mexico's three closest neighbors to the south - Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador - comprise a deadly "northern triangle" of Central American nations which is one of the most violent and dangerous regions in the world.

UNODC blamed the problem on three factors: the prolific rise in narcotics trafficking, the presence of criminal organizations affiliated with established Mexican drug cartels, and weak internal institutions which leave each of the countries highly susceptible to domestic corruption and exploitation.

In previous reports UNODC has suggested that Mexico's military-dependent cartel offensive, known as the National Security Strategy, has been successful in pushing many drug traffickers and cartel operatives southward into Central America. But now Mexico's immediately adjacent neighbors must deal with the problem, and they're ill-equipped to do so (More evidence Mexican drug war strategy is working, as violence shifts south).

Today's U.N. report, entitled "Organized Transnational Crime in Central American and the Caribbean," says that Honduras is the most dangerous nation on earth, with 92 homicides per 100,000 persons in 2011 (Most violent city on earth is in Honduras). El Salvador had 69 murders per 100,000 inhabitants last year, and Guatemala recorded 39.

UNODC says that Central America has become a natural bridge for drugs produced in South America and sold in the U.S., particularly cocaine. About 90% of all cocaine passing through or warehoused in Mexico ends up in the United States, analysts claim. In today's filing, UNODC noted that "Between 2000 and 2005, the amount of cocaine seized in Central America was approximately the same as the amount confiscated in Mexico. By 2011, cocaine seized in Central America was 13 times greater." That statistic alone graphically illustrates a partial success of the Calderón administration's drug war, launched in December 2006, albeit it to the clear disadvantage of Mexico's three closest neighbors.

The agency reported that a huge population of unemployed youth, annual per capita income of only $2,700 USD and "generalized corruption" in government institutions provide fertile soil for social unrest and criminal violence in the region. Firearms are abundant and easily acquired, said UNODC.

Drug trafficking in the region is so severe that cocaine markets now account for 14% of the gross domestic product of Nicaragua, 13% of Honduras and 10% of Guatemala, ONODC reported.

Th organization also noted that a 2009 military coup d'état against former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya had increased political instability in that country, opening a window of opportunity for cocaine traffickers.

The U.N. report emphasized that organized crime groups have branched out into other activities, such as extortion, kidnapping, and firearms and human trafficking - the same challenges which Mexico has faced in recent years. Even if drug shipments are disrupted, said UNODC, such offenses probably will continue to plague the region. Local gang wars are ubiquitous, the agency reported, suggesting what some experts say will be the next stage of Mexico's drug war (Mexican drug cartels will likely morph into "super gangs").

UNODC said that the high crime rate in Central America has greatly damaged local investment and business development. Today's report projects that a reduction of just 10% in the homicide rate of the three countries forming the northern triangle would stimulate about one percent growth in the gross domestic product of each. It also said that the region needs to spend 2.6% of its aggregate GDP on institutional improvements, particularly devoted to local police forces and judicial structures.

The U.N. report was published 24 hours after several prominent Latin American leaders addressed the General Assembly in New York, warning that drug consumption in developed nations, coupled with international trafficking, has converted their region into the most dangerous on earth ("Drug users are killing thousands of young people in the developing nations," Felipe Calderón tells United Nations).

May 15 - Guatemalan toddler kidnapping illustrates ancient maxim, "hard cases make bad law"

"Almost bankrupt" Guatemala calls for U.S. help in fighting drug cartels, forced labor, sex trafficking
Guatemalan army joins drug war - "We have to neutralize organized crime," says new president
Honduras "invaded by drug traffickers" - tons of cocaine shipped to U.S., "where the customers are"

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