As tide of violence born of transnational organized crime and drug trafficking continues to rise in Central America, the region has become a has become the region with the highest homicide rates in the world.
Reports say there are 39 murders per 100,000 citizens in Guatemala, 72 per 100,000 in El Salvador, and 86 per 100,000 in Honduras.
In addition, the countries of the region, as many as one out of every fifty 20-year-old males will be murdered before they reach the age of 32 which is 400 times higher than in countries with low homicide rates.
Today, a Senior United Nations officials today drew the world’s attention to threats posed by transnational organized crime and drug trafficking in Central America.
The President of the General Assembly Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser called for concerted global efforts to combat the scourge, which they said is spreading to other continents.
At the opening of the Assembly’s thematic debate on Security in Central America as a Regional and Global Challenge – How to Improve and Implement the Central American Security Strategy, Mr. Abdulaziz Al-Nasser says human trafficking, migrant smuggling, and kidnapping have also attached themselves to the underbellies of Central American societies.
He adds that hHighly sophisticated criminal threats in the region are eroding economic development, corrupting legal and political processes, and undermining public confidence.
“In a word, these threats risk unravelling gains made in development in the region, and leading to social and political upheaval.” -Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
The overall objective behind the debate is to highlight the Central American Governments’ individual and collective fight against transitional organised crime, its focus in the framework of UN policies and actions, as well as the importance of cooperation with and support of the donor community. In June last year, the region’s Heads of State adopted a so-called Central American Regional Security Strategy.
According to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon crimes in the region is more than a spate of killings, it is a crisis – bringing with it great fear and instability to societies.
He also noted that the narcotics problem was not confined to Central America, pointing out that the region is a “bridge” to North America, and that the Americas are, in general, a “staging post” to Europe, through trafficking routes in West and Central Africa.
In 2011, Mr. Ban established the [UN] Task Force on Transnational Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking. Our approach is rooted in the rule of law and respect for human rights.”
The Task Force was set up in March 2011 to integrate responses to transnational organized crime into the United Nations’ peacekeeping, peacebuilding, security and development activities, with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the UN Department of Political Affairs as co-chairs.
In his remarks, Mr. Al Nasser urged Member States and the UN to continue to work towards greater unity and political commitment to tackle the security challenges in Central America.
“Our duty is to help tear down the complex web of crime in Central America, and to achieve security – one of the keystones of democracy – for the region, and for the world.” -Mr. Al Nasser
Mr. Al-Nasser announced that he will, on 26 June, convene a thematic debate on Drugs and Crime as a Threat to Development on the occasion of the UN International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
On October 2011, UN reported that young men in Central and South America and southern and central Africa are most at risk of being killed in cases of intentional homicide, while women face increased likelihood of being murdered in domestic violence.
Evidence points to rising homicide rates in Central America and the Caribbean, which are “near crisis point.
Men face a much higher risk of violent death (11.9 per 100,000) than women (2.6 per 100,000), although there are variations between countries and regions.
In countries with high murder rates, especially involving firearms, such as in Central America, one in 50 males aged 20 will be killed before they reach the age of 31 – several hundred times higher than in some parts of Asia.
Organized crime – especially drug trafficking – accounted for a quarter of deaths caused by firearms in the Americas, compared to only 5 per cent of homicides in Asia and Europe. That does not mean, however, that organized crime groups are not active in those two regions, but rather that they may be operating in ways that do not employ lethal violence to the same extent.
To combat the plague of organized crime in the region, the Merida Initiative was launched where the United States, Mexico and several Central American countries are confronting the shared threat of transnational organized crime, says a top U.S. diplomat.
Announced by President Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon in October 2007, Merida grew out of President Bush’s March 2007 visit to Latin America, where regional security figured prominently in his conversations with leaders in Guatemala and Mexico. Shannon’s testimony came as Congress considered the White House’s $500 million request to support the initiative by delivering military and police equipment and training, as well as aid to help area countries more effectively prosecute organized crime.
Drug trafficking and criminal organizations in Central America have grown in size and strength over the last decade, fueled by a northward flow of illegal drugs and human trafficking and a southward flow of unregistered weapons, Shannon said. Increasingly powerful, many of these criminal organizations outgun police and intimidate judges, while drug money further corrupts institutions and reduces public trust in the authorities.
A 2007 U.N. report estimates gang membership at 10,500 in El Salvador, 36,000 in Honduras and 14,000 in Guatemala, while criminal organizations are becoming increasingly active in neighboring Belize, Costa Rica and Panama.
Reports say Central American gangs are increasingly transnational aprticularly Salvadoran-based Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is believed to have 8,000-10,000 active members operating in 38 U.S. states. More than 1,800 of its members have been arrested in the United States since 2005. In a recent case, the gang’s leaders were indicted for ordering the murders of two witnesses in the United States from their prison cell in El Salvador.
Public safety already is benefiting from Merida’s efforts to build police cooperation, pool intelligence on gang activities and build more effective justice systems. As a result of the partnership, agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have teamed up with their counterparts from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico to develop a shared computer database of fingerprint samples from known gang members. El Salvador has more than doubled the number of police officers dedicated to the Transnational Anti-Gang Unit it operates in partnership with the FBI.