HomeNewsBriefState Department Paints Grim Picture of Central America's Drug Trade
BRIEF

State Department Paints Grim Picture of Central America's Drug Trade

8 MAR 2012 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

The US State Department 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report praises Colombia's fight against drugs, but has a darker assessment of the Caribbean and of Central America's "Northern Triangle."

The report, released Wednesday, has some of the strongest commendation yet for anti-drug efforts in Colombia, calling the country “a partner in exporting security and stability throughout the Western Hemisphere.”

The report does temper the praise, adding that Colombia is still one of the world’s largest cocaine producers, and that “The progress is not irreversible and continued US support in Colombia is needed.” This is despite the fact that US aid to Colombia has been steadily declining over the past several years. It said that the area under coca cultivation dropped 14 percent from 2009 to 2010, from 116,000 to 100,000 hectares.·In its February report, the INCB estimated that 62,000 hectares of coca were grown in Colombia in 2010.

The State Department report does note some new trends. It warns that the security situation will likely continue to deteriorate in Belize, which the White House added to its list of major drug producing and transit countries in 2011. It notes that the country had “no successful prosecutions related to large seizures of illicit drugs” last year. The outlook is similarly grim for countries in the Northern Triangle. Seventy-nine percent of all cocaine smuggling flights from South America now pass through Honduras, the report says. Meanwhile, 15 percent of the cocaine which enters the US passes through Guatemala.

El Salvador, which along with Belize was named a major drug transit country for the first time last year, is also described as facing serious security challenges. However, the report does assert that El Salvador’s street gangs are only involved in the domestic market, and are not linked to either Mexican or Colombian drug trafficking organizations.

The report also notes rising drug-related violence in the Caribbean. In Jamaica, this is because drugs are frequently traded for guns; in the Dominican Republic, it is because because drug traffickers pay their local distributors in drugs, rather than cash. The report does say, however, that only 5 percent of cocaine which enters the US is now thought to pass through the Caribbean.

On Mexico, the report says that drug-related murders rose 20 percent between 2010 and 2011, and that much of the fight over drug trafficking routes involves “multiple fractured organizations.” The domestic market for drugs in Mexico is growing, especially in the northern border states, where drugs are used as payment for smugglers. Other trafficking trends include the increased presence of Mexican traffickers in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe. Rather than maritime or air routes, land corridors through Mexico and Central America are now the most important smuggling routes for cocaine headed to the US, the report says.

In its effort to slow the rising violence, the Mexican government has a $12 billion security budget for 2012, about 10.7 percent higher than the amount allocated previous year. Mexico’s major drug trafficking organizations may be fracturing, but “significant challenges” still remain, the report concludes.

A version of this article appeared on the Pan-American Post.

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