Note: with the exception of Costa Rica, a convenient source of
military grade weapons and munitions.
Central America drug gang violence at 'alarming levels'
Central America has become increasingly the focus of drug gangs
Drug-related violence is at "alarming" levels in Central America and
poses a threat to the region's security, the UN drugs watchdog says.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) also said Honduras,
Costa Rica and Nicaragua had become major transit countries for
North America remained the biggest drugs market, the INCB's report said.
The board also warned that illegal internet pharmacies are
increasingly using social media to target consumers.
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 have the world's highest murder rates.
Central America is home to some 900 "maras", or streets gangs, which
have 70,000 members.
This combined with the widespread availability of guns has
contributed to high levels of crime, the INCB says.
In 2010, Honduras together with Costa Rica and Nicaragua, which both
have significantly lower levels of crime, 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
legalise the chewing of coca leaf. The practice went against
international drug conventions, the Vienna-based INCB said.
Bolivia wants to amend the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotics
Drugs to remove language that bans the chewing of coca leaf. The
Bolivian government argues that it is discriminatory, given that coca
use is so deeply rooted in the indigenous culture of the Andes.
Elsewhere in its report, the INCB notes that illegal internet
pharmacies are turning to social networking sites to publicise their
websites and so apparently targeting a young 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.
There were 12,000 seizures of internationally controlled substances
sent through the post in 2010.
India was the country of origin for more than half the seizures,
while significant amounts also came from the US, China and Poland.
Note: Mexican media reports credit el chapo with controlling the
drug trade in Peru. Once again we are reminded of the natural
alliance between leftist / terrorist / drug trafficking groups. Not
just in the Americas, but world wide.
Peru's Shining Path rebels: Old enemy, new threat
By Mattia Cabitza
BBC News, Lima
Jiron Tarata is a narrow street in the heart of Miraflores, the
business district of the Peruvian capital, Lima.
Restaurants and shops alternate with the shaded entrances of
Today, this is a pedestrian walkway. But on 16 July 1992, when it was
a road open to traffic, a car bomb caused massive devastation.
"It was a Thursday, at 9:05 in the evening," says Gregorio Ramiro,
who still works as a porter in one of the buildings. "The first
explosion was to attract attention," he says.
Mr Ramiro, like many others on the street, went to the windows to see
what had caused the loud noise. "The second blast was the horrible
one. That's what caused the carnage."
Twenty-five people died and dozens more were injured.
The blast was so powerful that it threw Mr Ramiro back several
metres. He still has visible scars on his face and arms from the
sharp glass that cut and pierced his skin.
Everything - windows, doors, furniture - was blown off. Only the
skeleton of the buildings was left standing.
One resident still gets teary when she remembers what happened.
"There were people crying and moaning," says Maria Teresa Passarelli.
"This was worse than an earthquake, because a quake is a natural
"This was something that came from the evil of human beings."
The bombing was the deadliest by the Shining Path guerrilla movement,
at the height of its attempt to overthrow the government.
Two months later, its founder and leader, Abimael Guzman, was
arrested. And with his capture, the strength and influence of the
Maoist organisation was severely weakened.
Drug-trafficking is much more difficult to combat than the Shining Path"
Former interior minister
Today, only a few pockets of resistance remain.
A leader of Shining Path remnants, known as Comrade Artemio, was
captured in mid-February.
Many Peruvians accept that the guerrilla group no longer poses a
serious threat to the government unlike before when its fighters
tried to install a Communist state.
But while the movement is still listed by the US and the European
Union as a terrorist organisation, experts suggest its goals have
changed over the years.
"[The capture of Artemio] was not a blow to terrorism," says Jaime
Antezana, an expert on the subject. "It wasn't the final thrust
against the terrorist subversion. This was a blow to drug-trafficking."
Fernando Rospigliosi, another leading analyst and a former interior
"After Abimael Guzman fell, the groups that remained converted more
and more to drug-trafficking. "They kept their political discourse,
but that's an excuse for what they really are.
"These are people who live off drug-trafficking."
The link between the Shining Path and illegal drugs is widely
Comrade Artemio, whose real name is Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala,
has been charged with terrorism but also drug-trafficking.
Cocaine production is increasing in Peru
The two areas where Shining Path rebels are still active, the Alto
Huallaga and Ene-Apurimac valleys, are also the regions where most of
Peru's cocaine comes from.
Mr Antezana believes that, to this day, no government has had the
serious political will to tackle Peru's drug problem, and that, more
than six months into his presidency, nothing is changing under
Ollanta Humala. "What we have heard [from the government since the
capture of Artemio] is that the priority in Peru is the fight against
terrorism," he says.
"That means that they will just try to dismantle the armed structure
[of the Shining Path].
"Meanwhile, drug-trafficking keeps on going up."
The Peruvian government has recently approved its counter-narcotics
strategy for the next five years.
Forceful eradication of coca - the raw material for making cocaine -
The government also promised it would seize more drugs, fight money-
laundering more efficiently, and control better the flow of chemicals
that can be used for making cocaine.
But Mr Rospigliosi is sceptical that this will work.
"All politicians do is talk, talk, talk, but they don't do anything.
Drug-trafficking is much more difficult to combat than the Shining
Path," he says.
"There are too many people involved who have a lot of money. And
there's a lot of corruption [in state institutions]."
"All they can do is contain the problem."
The days of bombings such as the one in Tarata are over.
The police in Miraflores now fight petty crime, not armed insurgents.
And cheap cocaine is the drug of choice among many revellers at the
Cocaine production is up in Peru, and the country is slowly
surpassing Colombia as the top exporter of the illicit drug.
The Shining Path is part of the problem, but no-one can predict which
form it will now take following the capture of Artemio.
But Mr Antezana and Mr Rospigliosi both say that until the government
shows serious leadership and puts more resources in the fight against
drug-trafficking, the armed group will not disappear.