Drug Trafficking Affects Young People

By Dialogo
March 01, 2011

This is my article. I will check my mail tomorrow because I am in Escuintla, respectfully, Wendy.
The increase in drug-trafficking activities in Latin America is giving rise to “a new class of violence” that is affecting children and adolescents and poses the greatest challenge facing the region’s governments, affirmed Bernt Aasen, UNICEF’s director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Aasen, a Norwegian, arrived in Lima for a working meeting with regional countries’ representatives to the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

“The growth in illicit economies (derived from drug trafficking) is bringing a new class of violence to Latin America and the Caribbean, one that is greatly affecting children and adolescents, and stopping it is the greatest task facing governments,” Aasen said, speaking to the Associated Press.

At a meeting in the municipality of Lima, the official introduced UNICEF’s recent worldwide report on the impact of violence on youth.

He said that the report indicates that 32% of Latin American adolescents are living with risk factors, including violence, drug addiction, and problems with the authorities.

It adds that violence linked to gangs and drugs “is on the rise,” and adolescents appear as those responsible, but they are much more frequently the victims. There are between 25,000 and 125,000 gang members in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, the document specifies.

“This phenomenon of gangs is an expression of the growth of illicit economies (drug trafficking), where young people find what seems to be an easy way out of their economic problems,” Aasen said.

The report also indicates that at-risk adolescents are exploited by organized crime, in forced labor, in armed conflicts, and as sex workers, including child pornography.

According to the report, violence in schools has intensified.

“In Brazil, 84% of students at 143 schools in the capitals of six states consider their school to be violent, and 70% admit having been a victim of violence at school,” it indicates.

At the same time, UNICEF specifies that in El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, adolescents between fifteen and eighteen years old are at greatest risk of being affected by armed violence.

The report indicates that 108 million adolescents between ten and nineteen years old live in Latin America and the Caribbean — 19% of the region’s total population — and 15 million of them live on less than a dollar a day.

“Latin America has very great opportunities in this decade; governments can improve competitiveness by investing more in secondary education,” Aasen concluded.