By Andres By Oppenheimer
The country that will receive the most attention during President Barack Obama’s ongoing visit to
Fifteen years after the end of Central America’s civil wars, this region is once again becoming the world’s most violent place, and a major source of drug trafficking, organized crime and illegal immigration to the United States.
According to United Nations estimates, more than 15,000 people a year are dying in drug and human trafficking-related violence in
During a five-day visit to
According to U.N. figures, there are at least five times more private security guards than police forces in
What is going on, I asked Honduran President Porfirio Lobo in an interview. Lobo, who was democratically elected after a constitutional crisis triggered by a 2009 civilian-military coup, told me that growing numbers of Mexican drug lords are moving south to Central America because of the Mexican government’s military crackdown on the cartels.
“The cartels are coming our way,” Lobo said. “The growing crime rates are affecting us a lot, in many ways. Among other things, they scare away investments.”
Lobo reminded me that in over the past two years, members of the Los Zetas armed gang — originally part of
“They are much bloodier than anything we’ve seen before,” Lobo said. “By comparison, the traditional cocaine barons look like schoolboys.’’
Juan Orlando Hernandez, the president of the Honduran Congress, told me that Central American countries cannot fight against these criminal organizations single-handedly, because they lack the resources and know-how to beat them.
“We need a coordinated multinational effort that includes the
Obama, who is scheduled to arrive in
My Opinion: Obama’s expected announcement of new aid to help
What should he do? Just as previous U.S. presidents admitted — after many years of U.S. denial — that massive U.S. drug consumption is a big part of the drug-trafficking problem, and just as the Obama administration recently conceded that U.S. arms smuggling to Mexico is a big part of the drug violence problem there, Obama should take the bold step of admitting that it’s time to revise the U.S. war on drugs.
It’s clearly not working.
Obama should heed the advice of former Mexican presidents Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria and many others who are saying that it’s time to consider decriminalizing marijuana, and use the savings to fund education and prevention campaigns to diminish overall U.S. drug consumption.