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Stopping Drug Trafficking in Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean Considered a UN Priority

By Dialogo
June 08, 2009

Madrid, 05 June (EFE). - Today in Madrid, representatives from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) presented the a general overview of their plan to prevent the expansion of drug trafficking in the areas of Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, a project they are developing together with regional organizations and the governments of countries in these areas. Today, Francis Maertens, director of UNODC operations in Vienna, stated the objectives of this plan, entitled “Pact of Santo Domingo.” He was accompanied by José Manuel Martínez, a regional representative of the organization, and by Amado Philip de Andrés, a member of the Division of Operations of the same organization. The plan is based mainly on the creation of a network of experts who, taking the specifics of each affected country into consideration, will pool all information obtained in order to improve the strategy for stopping drug trafficking. The UN specialists also emphasized the relationship and the incidence of other factors concerning drug trafficking, such as weapons trafficking, corruption, and organized crime. Over the past few years, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean have become the main drug trafficking transit areas from South America to the United States and Europe. It is estimated that countries from the Andean Region such as Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia produce a thousand tons of cocaine each year, destined for a market of 10 million consumers in the US and European markets, according to reports prepared by the UNODC. According to data from the organization, in 2006 alone 530 to 710 tons of that drug may have been sent from South America to the United States, and of that amount, it is estimated that almost 90 percent of it passed through the Mexico-Central America corridor. Hence the importance for the UNODC to create specific programs such as the “Pact of Santo Domingo,” which was started a year ago in the capital of the Dominican Republic, and is scheduled to be implemented by the end of September or October. The international organization has informed the governments of the countries affected that they must “change their strategy” in their fight against drug trafficking, a problem that, in Maertens opinion, is “currently extremely closely related with organized crime.” For this, and knowing that “a major political push” is needed rather than what is currently in place, the UN has backed the creation of the international network of experts, which analyzes each country’s situation. According to Maertens, the development of the “Pact of Santo Domingo” would assume an “interchange of information and technical support” among the countries in the region in order to fight drug trafficking and organized crime. The plan is based on development in 2004 by the UNODC in Afghanistan, which contemplated, among other things, legal assistance and prevention programs. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the System of South American Integration (SICA) and the Organization of American States (OEA) participate together with the United Nations to create the final agreements that will be discussed within two weeks at the meeting to be held in Managua. At the conference, representatives from the states involved will also participate, and will be in charge of starting the project in their own respective countries, since the idea is that international support exists “only in the beginning,” and then to “incorporate the strategy into national policies,” according to Maertens. The director of UNODC operations in Vienna emphasized that in the countries previously listed, “centers of excellence” have been created in each one of the countries in the region. He also indicated that the center in El Salvador serves as a model for others to follow, as it will deal with urban crime; in Guatemala, they will focus on organized crime and forensic analysis; in Panama, the focus will be on Maritime Security. He also indicated that all countries involved would be in constant communication with one another to ensure the smooth flow of information received. Maertens also alluded to the importance of transnational relations to end a problem which “affects us all” due to globalization. He also emphasized the importance of support from Europe in this type of strategy and he urged Spain not to forget to include the drug trafficking problem in its European agenda, after taking on the EU presidency in the year 2010.