Monday, October 6, 2008

Caribbean Basin Facing Tough War Against Drug Smuggling


Trapped between the powerful narcotics cartels and drug-consuming nations, the Caribbean and Central American countries that serve as transit routes are outgunned and underfunded in their efforts to fight the drug scourge and rising violence, regional leaders said Friday.

''Violent crimes, from kidnappings to executions, have become front-page news . . . in the region,'' Panamanian Vice President Samuel Lewis Navarro told participants on the closing day of the 12th Annual Americas Conference, which examined the state of democracy and challenges in the region.

''In Panama, every poll shows that security is among the first causes of concern of the population,'' Lewis Navarro said.

Representatives from Belize, Panama and Mexico described the bleak circumstances governments face by trying to tackle organized crime, violent gangs and drug cartels.

Many countries have rewritten their criminal laws and are trying to boost the effectiveness of their police forces.

But drug gangs have managed to extend their tentacles into all levels of government and law enforcement by buying protection and driving fear into all levels of society with torture, executions and displays of brutality.

''With that very kind of atmosphere it is difficult to deal with criminals,'' said Wilfred Elrington, foreign minister of Belize.

''The people who are really involved in drug trafficking are never arrested,'' Elrington said, noting these include ``people in the government, people who are in the boardrooms and in banks who facilitate the trafficking.''

Elrington said that countries like Belize, which produce no illegal drugs, have scant resources to battle the traffickers and are saddled with debts, higher prices for energy and the rising numbers of citizens being expelled from Europe and the United States.

Many of the poor see little chance of advancement except through dealing with narcotics.

''The security of the First World is very dependent on people from the Third World,'' he said.

Panama's Lewis Navarro also pointed to the need to offer the poor jobs as alternatives to crime.

''Security and development are two sides of the same coin,'' Navarro said.

Mexico's executive secretary of the National Public Security System, Monte Alejandro Rubido García, blamed the rising violence in Mexico on the reaction of drug traffickers to the government's military offensive against organized crime cartels.

''No country is immune'' to the global problems of the trafficking of drugs, weapons and humans, said Rubido García.

He added that the Mexican government was attempting to reorganize its dispersed security forces, citing difficulties in coordinating the efforts of 1,600 different police forces in the country. But Rubido García warned of the hypothetical scenario for ''a post-modern war,'' if religious, political or other fanatics ever joined forces with the violent drug gangs.

Source: MiamiHerald.Com

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