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2012-02-29

Central American drug violence surges as cartels move south

MEXICO CITY – Drug-related violence has surged to “alarming and unprecedented” levels in Central America as Mexican drug cartels have shifted their operations, a United Nations report said on Feb. 28.

The move “has resulted in increased levels of violence, kidnapping, bribery, torture and homicide” in Central America, the annual report by the International Narcotics Control Board said.

“In Central America, the escalating drug-related violence involving drug trafficking organizations, transnational and local gangs and other criminal groups has reached alarming and unprecedented levels, significantly worsening security and making the subregion one of the most violent areas in the world,” the report said.

“The countries of the so-called ‘Northern Triangle’ (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras), together with Jamaica, now have the world’s highest homicide rates.” Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were identified in 2010 for the first time as major trans-shipment points of illegal drugs flowing into the United States. Guatemala was singled out in the report as a transit area for cocaine smuggled into Mexico.

Adding to the high level of violence is the ready availability of firearms and a proliferation of street gangs or “maras,” with more than 900 gangs and 70,000 members in Central America, according to the report.

“The drug problem has also led to drug-related corruption, which has increasingly weakened the criminal justice systems in Central America and the Caribbean,” the report said. “Drug funds and corruption in the security services have become entrenched in Central America, paving the way for other forms of organized crime, including trafficking in firearms.”

[AFP (Mexico), 28/02/2012; Incb.org, 28/02/2012]

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