US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano made a tour through Mexico and Central America this week to talk about joint efforts on crime and drugs:
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner David Aguilar and Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for International Affairs Alan Bersin today traveled to San Salvador, El Salvador and San Jose, Costa Rica to meet with their international counterparts, hear about their priorities and discuss the U.S. Government's work to facilitate legitimate trade and travel, enhance information sharing efforts and ensure a safe, secure and resilient global supply chain.One of the subjects which Napolitano addressed was the proposal by Guatemalan president Otto Pérez that Central American countries consider de-criminalizing drugs to take the profits out of the drug trade. The idea was rejected by Napolitano:
“International security and the security of our homeland are inextricably linked. Today, threats transcend national borders and affect the security and economic prosperity of the entire international community," said Secretary Napolitano. “We are committed to working together with our Central American partners to strengthen security while facilitating legitimate travel and trade.”
In San Salvador, Secretary Napolitano, Acting Commissioner Aguilar and Assistant Secretary Bersin met with Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez and Public Safety Minister David Munguia Payes. During their meeting, Secretary Napolitano and Secretary Munguia Payes signed an agreement affirming their shared commitment to enhancing information sharing and aviation security. Secretary Napolitano then met with Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes to discuss collaboration on international law enforcement efforts between the United States and El Salvador.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano defended Washington's drug war strategy on Monday despite calls by some Latin American leaders to consider decriminalizing narcotics....When Napolitano met with Mauricio Funes, the Salvadoran leader stated that his government was also opposed to the legalization of drugs.
"I would not agree with the premise that the drug war is a failure," Napolitano said. "It is a continuing effort to keep our peoples from becoming addicted to dangerous drugs."
These meeting about security cooperation come at a time when new published reports from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) highlight the alarming murder statistics in Central America:
Drug-related violence in Central America involving trafficking organisations, local and transnational gangs, and other criminal groups "has reached alarming and unprecedented levels", the INCB's annual report says.The situation is dire enough that former FMLN commander Joaquin Villalobos wrote on February 20 in El Pais that Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are at risk of becoming a Latin American Somalia:
The report notes that El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, together with Jamaica, now have the world's highest murder rates.
Central America is home to some 900 "maras", or streets gangs, which have 70,000 members.
This combined with the widespread availability of guns has contributed to high levels of crime, the INCB says.
Central America is a compound of geological fault lines, drug trafficking routes, hurricane paths, historical grievances, insensitive oligarchies that resist paying taxes, irrational political polarization, states without natural resources, extreme poverty, high corruption rates, savage gangs, mighty drug kingpins, and a political class that is incapable of maintaining social cohesion.I don't think things are as bad as Villalobos is suggesting, but I also did not see much to cheer about in the official US description of Secretary Napolitano's visit which is quoted at the top of this post. When the US says its goal on these public security issues are "facilitate legitimate trade and travel" and to "ensure a safe, secure, and resilient global supply chain," I hear a policy focused on making the world safe for US business interests and not a policy focused on helping to alleviate the human suffering which those very high murder rates represent.