Drug Trafficking in Latin America
BOGOTA, Colombia (AFP) - Drug trafficking gained ground last year in Latin America, as criminal organizations diversified production and stepped up violence in an effort to expand markets, a UN report said Wednesday.
The International Narcotics Control Board, an independent organ that implements UN drug conventions, said the drug trade is affecting the entire region from Mexico to parts of South America that had so far been largely spared from drug crimes.
In Mexico, the INCB deplored in its report the brutal war between dueling drug trafficking organizations that has left tens of thousands dead since 2006.
About 90 percent of the cocaine consumed by some 4.8 million Americans each year transits through the country, according to the report. A large chunk of the cannabis, but also methamphetamine (meth) and most opiates consumed in the United States also comes from its southern neighbor.
Despite President Felipe Calderon's armed clampdown on drug traffickers, "corruption remains a serious problem,'' even at high levels of the Mexican government, the report said.
It pointed to "strong ties'' that remain between drug cartels and some law enforcement officials.
"Corruption has severely hindered the effectiveness of law enforcement in Mexico, a fact confirmed by the government when it announced that it needed to reduce the capacity of drug cartels to infiltrate the authorities and to corrupt officials,'' the report continued.
In Central America, traffickers have expanded their networks, striking alliances with the "maras'' criminal gangs now operating in five or six countries.
A transit area for the "large-scale'' smuggling of illegal drugs, Central America is also hit by "endemic corruption.''
And some estimates find that "the street value of all drugs transiting through the Caribbean alone exceeds that of the legal economy,'' according to the INCB.
The North Triangle region grouping Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is also riveted by "the world's highest murder rate. …