APRIL 06, 2011
Despite getting hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. government to combat drug violence, Central America is quickly becoming an even bigger threat to the nation than Mexico.The subject of much media coverage, heavily armed Mexican drug cartels will remain forces to be reckoned with for years to come, but they’ve got viable competition to the south. Thanks to corrupt governments and fewer resources to battle criminal enterprises, the drug trade thrives in Central America and the crisis has spilled into the U.S.In fact, the escalating violence in Central America may soon create an even larger threat to the United States than Mexico, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). With a staff of about 900 lawyers, economists and scientists, the agency conducts research and analysis for Congress and often publishes its findings on its web site.In this particular case, the CRS published an alarming report (Central America Regional Security Initiative) outlining the region’s serious problem, often dismissed by Americans because it doesn’t share a border with the U.S. That hardly shields the country, according to the CRS’s findings.Well-financed drug trafficking organizations combined with “fragile political and judicial systems” threaten to overwhelm Central American governments, increase violence and the corruption of public officials. This will weaken citizens’ support for democratic governance and the rule of law, according to the CRS. The insecurity will, in turn, pose a threat to the United States.Central American countries already have among the world’s highest rates of homicide. In 2010 the homicide rate per 100,000 people in Honduras was 77, in El Salvador it was 66 and Guatemala 50. Mexico, well known for its rampant violence, had a rate of 18 homicides per 100,000 people last year.In the last few years the Obama Administration has allocated $260 million in “security assistance” to help Central America combat violence to no avail. Many Americans may wonder where the money has gone, especially since the administration will probably give the region more cash in the aftermath of the CRS report.
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