Understanding the Drug War impact
There are two articles in the Guardian about how the War on Drugs effects the nations of Central America. Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina is going to be presenting his arguments at the Davos forum in Switzerland this week.
From the first article we find
"I believe western countries fail to understand the reality that countries such as Guatemala and those of Central America have to live in," said Pérez Molina. "There has been plenty of talk, but no effective response. I believe, ultimately, that this is due to a lack of understanding on the part of western countries."
The article goes on to present an argument about why drug using countries need to look beyond their domestic agenda. In the second article you get to see statements of other regional leaders and, most important, how the war on drugs has created the cartels that plague the countries of the region.
But by 2009, with sea and air routes increasingly unreliable, the trade was shifting to land. And with that, the concept of the "transit" nations was born – countries in Central America through which drugs were passed en route to the world's largest drugs market, America. Increasingly it is the transit nations that are being caught up in the horrific fallout from the war on drugs (see Ed Vulliamy's report, right). In Guatemala's case, US officials now estimate that 300-400 tonnes of cocaine are transported through the country each year – up from seven tonnes in 2008.
In other words, the war on drugs has resulted in a 50-fold increase in the quantity of cocaine which flows through Guatemala. It has moved the problem from one of patrolling sea and air routes which bypassed Central America into an on the ground problem for these nations. Just to put that in perspective, if all that cocaine goes to the US, that's about one gram a year for every man, woman and child in the US.
Molina has threatened to legalize drugs in Guatemala and other Central American presidents are listening. This is, however, the first time I really saw how significant the impact has been on these countries.