By Jim Kouri
Drug-gang violence poses a security threat to Central American nations with violence increasing at an alarming rate, according to the United Nations narcotics group’s report released this week.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) also said Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua had become major transit countries for traffickers.
According to the INCB report: “The region of Central America and the Caribbean, because of its strategic geographical location, continues to be used as a major transit area for smuggling drugs from South America into North America. Some Mexican drug cartels, under pressure from Mexican law enforcement authorities, have moved their drug trafficking operations to Central America, which has resulted in increased levels of violence, kidnapping, bribery, torture and homicide in that sub-region. Drug trafficking organizations have increased their operations in Central America and the Caribbean, posing a serious threat to human security, affecting everyday life, in the region.”
North America remains the largest marketplace for illegal drugs, the INCB’s report states. The analysts also warned that illegal internet pharmacies are increasingly using social media to target consumers.
In addition, a Law Enforcement Examiner source, New York City Police Academy adjunct instructor Dominick Perrota, who specializes in cyber crime, believes that what’s more sinister than prescription painkillers and tranquillizers being sold on the Internet is the counterfeit pharmaceuticals sold to cancer, heart, kidney and other diseases being suffered by American patients.
“Law enforcement has traced some of these Internet drug mills to Latin American countries as well as European, Asian and African nations,” Perotta told the Law Enforcement Examiner.
DRUGS AND VIOLENCE
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 report notes that El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, together with Jamaica, now boast the world’s highest murder rates. Central America is home to some 900 “maras”, or streets gangs, which have 70,000 members, such as Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 of El Salvador.
In 2010, Honduras together with Costa Rica and Nicaragua, had significantly lower levels of crime, until they became major transit countries for drug smuggling gangs, the INCB said. The US, Canada and Mexico remain the biggest market for drugs, with all three countries continuing to have “high levels of illicit drug production, manufacture, trade and consumption”.
The INCB also expressed concern at steps taken by Bolivia to seek to legalize the chewing of coca leaf. The practice went against international drug conventions, the report states.
Bolivia wishes to have the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs to amend the prohibition of chewing coca chewing which officials claim is part of Bolivian culture among the indigenous population.
The INCB also notes that illegal internet pharmacies are turning to social networking sites to publicize web sites and thereby targeting the youth audience.
This is particularly dangerous as the World Health Organization has found that more than half of medicines from such sites are counterfeit, the INCB says.