Focus on drugs, crimes and gangs

The Organization of American States is meeting in San Salvador from June 5 to June 7.   The theme of the meeting is Citizen Security in the Americas.    In the lead up to the meeting, there are a number of stories about drug-trafficking, violent crimes and gangs in Central America in the media.

National Public Radio broadcast a three-part series on the spread of the violence from Mexican drug cartels to Central America.   Two of the three episodes focus on El Salvador, and the risk the country faces:
Earlier this month, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, in a plea for regional unity against the Mexican cartels, said the nations of Central America face a "very powerful enemy." He said the profits garnered by the drug smugglers exceed the resources "available to the security forces of our countries."

The party line from Funes' administration is that, yes, drug trafficking is on the rise in El Salvador, but so far it hasn't gotten out of hand. The Salvadoran government, they argue, hasn't lost control of any of its territory to the smugglers, as has happened in Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

Outside of Funes' administration, however, not everyone shares this opinion.
A prime example of the existing operations of the drug cartels in El Salvador is the Texis Cartel, described by El Faro a few weeks ago. But Salvadoran blogger Neto Rivas also points us back to news stories from 14 years ago about dozens of clandestine air strips in El Salvador used by drug-traffickers. Some of the drugs passing from South America to the US have always passed by or through El Salvador.

Some say what has changed now is the level of violence and the participation of the Central American maras or street gangs. The massive amounts of money involved allow the purchase of significant arsenals. The Associated Press reported that Salvadoran officials are concerned that the drug cartels are trying to obtain high-powered weapons from corrupt police or military officials.

The OAS meeting will produce a good-sounding joint declaration. It's just not clear that the countries have the resources or the will to accomplish more than putting words on paper.

Last week president Funes proposed a type of boot camp training for at-risk youths as a gang prevention measure:
Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes proposed Wednesday creating a "weapons-free" military program to keep at-risk youths from joining gangs in the crime-ridden Central American nation.

The project is aimed at helping some 5,000 young Salvadorans, who for six months "would receive guidance for their rehabilitation through unarmed military training," Funes told the Legislative Assembly.

Those who complete the service will receive vocational training that could bring about a "change in their behaviour to become a productive member of society in the country," he said.
Funes is going to do better than this proposal if he wants to address the violent crime afflicting his country.


"Neto Rivas also points us back to news stories from 14 years ago about dozens of clandestine air strips in El Salvador used by drug-traffickers."

Does anyone remember the Lorena Saravia case anyone? The smear campaign directed against Violeta Rivera?