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  1. Guttz
    GUATEMALA CITY — Fueled by a cocaine trade that runs the length of Central America, the region is in danger of being overwhelmed not only by street gangsters but also sophisticated criminals with ties to elite members of society, U.N. officials warned Thursday.

    As Central American leaders concluded two days of high-level meetings to negotiate a regional security plan and to seek money from donor nations, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released a report documenting the high cost of drug trafficking in Central America, an impoverished backwater it described as ignored.

    In the annual World Drug Report, U.N. authorities described Central America, especially the so-called Northern Triangle of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, as racked by competition over drug trafficking routes to the United States and a legacy of warfare and inequality.

    “The region suffers from having one of the most unequal distributions of income in the world, comparable only to southern Africa or the Andean countries,” the report concluded, stating that wealthy, landed families here wield outsize influence.

    The report listed a number of national politicians, police commanders and military generals arrested in the past two years for ties to drug traffickers. Several have been freed by judges.

    “There is almost greater chance of being struck by lightning than facing justice for crimes committed in Guatemala,” said Eric Farnsworth of the Council of Americas, a business organization promoting free markets.

    The economic costs of crime and violence in Central America exceeds $6.5 billion a year, according to the Inter-American Development Bank, about 8 percent of the regional gross domestic product. Companies and individuals in the region are spending $1.3 billion a year in private security.

    Pamela Cox, vice president for Latin America at the World Bank, said that in addition to help from international donors, the governments in Central America “also need to mobilize resources themselves.” “They have got to collect more taxes,” Cox said.

    Guatemala collects some of the lowest tax revenue in the world, about 11 percent of GDP.

    On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also stressed that the wealthy in Central America need to do much more.

    The Central American security plan envisions such humble goals as gathering basic crime data, which is not yet entered on computers.

    “There are people here at this meeting who are working for the drug traffickers and relating in real time what is happening here,” said Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, who advocated setting up a center to investigate money laundering and another to do polygraph screening of police.

    After his visit to Guatemala, Mexican President Felipe Calderon returned home Thursday to face an emotional meeting with his harshest critics — family members of the victims of the drug violence that has left more than 35,000 dead. Only 2 or 3 percent of homicide cases end up in court.

    The crusading poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was found dead in March, wrapped in duct tape and dumped dead in a car with his friends, told Calderon that he should apologize to the victims. He also said that the military, which Calderon deployed to fight the drug cartels, should be returned to its barracks.

    “The problem is that you, Mr. President, think the bad guys are outside and good guys are inside. The problem is that you went to war with rotten institutions,” Sicilia told Calderon in the televised meeting.

    “Yes, I wish to ask forgiveness for the victims who have died,” Calderon said. “But I do not regret having ordered the army into the streets.”

    Calderon said he wished he had sent more troops sooner.

    Julian LeBaron, a leader of a breakaway Mormon sect in the state of Chihuahua, whose brother was killed after he denounced criminals and the failure of the state to protect citizens, told Calderon, “No one has been convicted of the murder of my brother, or for the kidnapping of my neighbors, so please do not offend their memories by saying justice has been done.”

    Calderon said the killers of LeBaron’s brother are in jail, although they were detained for other crimes, not his death.

    Researcher Gabriela Martinez in Mexico City contributed to this report.
    By William Booth, Friday, June 24, 12:50 AM



  1. Balzafire
    Colombia's Economic Problems and Prospects

    [imgl=white]https://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=20941&stc=1&d=1308966494[/imgl]Recently, a global transition to a more diffuse distribution of economic power is broadly recognized, pointing to a shift in the balance of global growth from rich to low- and middle- income economies. Colombia may be a prime example as its recent rapid per capita income growth of 8.8% per year points to the potential for Colombia's convergence to the ranks of rich countries. However, Colombia's economic growth has been constrained by 40 years of a costly and ineffective drug war policy that has failed. The illicit activity of the drug cartel grosses approximately $10-$20 billion a year; it does not enter into the GDP accounting. In addition, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) has stifled Colombia's drive towards economic prosperity. Baring the impasse which is largely social and political the economy would flourish.

    Colombia's drug production conforms to the theory of a French classical economist -- Jean Baptiste Say (1803), who coined Say's law -- that supply creates its own demand. It follows that production of illicit drugs creates demand which is injurious for the user. And the drug users' (consumers) demand along with supply has created a black market internationally. Drug war has not suppressed production on the supply side. And on the demand side policies such as criminalization, incarceration and stigmatization has not suppressed the use of illicit drugs. It is time to modify both supply and demand policies and shift to providing farmers' subsidy on the supply side for not producing illicit drugs and employing medical treatment of drug users instead of criminal sanctions. Such shift in policies would disarm drug cartel as a way to deny profit of drug dealers.

    Colombia is nestled in the northern part of South America, with 46 million people and a GDP of $235 billion, is the fourth largest economy in the continent. Although Colombia's per capita GDP is well below the United States', a rapid increase can be seen starting around the year 1999, which was the same year Plan Colombia was formulated, an agreement that provides Colombia with military and monetary aid by the United States to combat drug trafficking.

    Considering recent increases in Colombia's GDP per capita at 8.8% per annum there is great potential for economic convergence, and in fact, the estimates of the convergence theory point to a possible Colombia's per capita income convergence in roughly 42 years, i.e., by the year 2051. However, this forecast is highly optimistic at this time considering Colombia's political impasse. Drug trafficking undoubtedly plays a large role in the Colombian black market economy; cocaine is produced at $1,500/kilo and is sold in the U.S. for as much as $50,000/kilo. There is so much profit to be made with the trafficking of drugs that even many Colombian government officials fall victim to temptation.

    Moreover, the aid funds from Plan Colombia are being used to fight the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) (CRS). This Marxist-Leninist guerrilla organization has been playing Robin Hood (taking from the rich and giving it to the poor) and has been at war with the Colombian government since 1966. This time period has been known as La Violence. The FARC raises its funds through ransom, kidnappings and taxing drug trade out of its South Colombian region. Plenty of Colombia's resources have been used to fight this brutal civil war that has lasted about half a century, with no end in sight. In fact, as mentioned earlier, Plan Colombia has further instigated the FARC because of the pesticides being spread all over the countryside to kill the coca plants that cocaine comes from. However, the pesticides are also killing the legal crops of the small Colombian farmers. Moreover, the pesticides are also damaging the farmers' health making it even harder for them to provide for their families.

    The key to forging ahead is for the Colombian government, with the help of international assistance, makes it economically unappealing for the FARC's guerrilla fighters to continue fighting in support of the FARC's leaders and their ideology. Economic incentives must be offered to these fighters exceeding the benefits that they receive for fighting. With a lack of support and a strong central government the 14 leaders of the FARC will have no way of continuing their fight.

    No doubt FARC's mission will become superfluous when Colombia's per capita income rise to a high level. Indeed, the end of the FARC conflict would also free many of Colombia's resources that would be put to better uses instead of being wasted on the exhausting civil war. Also, currently FARC provides great armed protection to the Colombian drug cartels that operate out of the land that the FARC controls. Without this strong source of protection, the drug cartel would be automatically weakened. Once the area is rid of the coca plants, the land can be used for the production of legal crops. In fact, Colombia is rich in natural resources such as minerals and fuel oils, so there is no reason why Colombia cannot prosper once these issues are resolved.

    Nake M. Kamrany
    Danielle Nicole Ramirez
    Huffington Post/World
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