Organized crime costs central america billions
I found an article on this subject in Inside Costa Rica, one of the many Costa Rica e-magazines. The article has some interesting information, some misleading information, some confusing information and a source issue. I have decided to reproduce the entire article here claiming fair use for discussion purposes. My comments are within [square brackets].
By Sergio Ramos / ISH
[My first confusion. There is no indication what ISH is that I could find. A search turned up oh so many possibilities but most started with "Islamic". Additionally, searching for Sergio Ramos landed some matches for a Spanish sports star.]
Organized crime-related violence cost Central America US$6.506 billion, representing a 7.7% decrease to Central America’s US$263.39 billion gross domestic product (GDP), according to the latest World Bank study.
The cost of violence in El Salvador is equal to 10.8% (US$2.01 billion) of the GDP, followed by Nicaragua’s 10% (US$529 million) of the GDP, Honduras’ 9.6% (US$885 million), Guatemala’s 7.7% (US$2.291 billion) and Costa Rica’s 3.6% (US$791 million), according to the World Bank, which didn’t include Panama and Belize in its analysis.
[Using percentage of GDP is fairly misleading much like using per capita income is to show that Nicaraguans are poor. Without understanding the costs of living in each place and the population, it is hard to do anything meaningful with these numbers.]
Organized crime threatens security, human rights and democracy, while inhibiting the region’s economic development.
The rates of crime and corruption are the two major factors impeding business in the region, according to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) “Global Competitiveness Report 2013.”
In Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, crime is the main factor inhibiting investment. In Nicaragua and Mexico, it’s corruption.
[These two out of context sentences offer little insight into anything though I am guessing the report itself is not particularly useful. Maybe corruption is "the main factor" in Nicaragua but, like many countries, whether corruption is pro-business or anti-business seems a lot more important than the level of corruption. ]
Eight Latin American countries – Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela – are among the 50 nations worldwide that spend the most on combating violence, according to the 2013 Global Peace Index, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace.
Violence demands additional government spending due to the increase in police work and judicial proceedings. It also decreases productivity among companies, slows investment, and drives up public health expenditures and costs associated with the hiring of private security by individuals and companies, according to the World Bank.
[Obviously hiring of private security drives up direct costs but that is just one possible cost. More government spending to eliminate the need for private security may cost as much or more. The cause of the violence seems important but whether it is public or private money that deals with it seems totally unimportant.
As the article says corruption, not violence, is the major factor in Nicaragua, it seems a similar cost-benefit analysis can be done there. It would seem you need to figure out if you need to hire a loggiest or a thug.]
Central America has a rate of 41 homicides for every 100,000 residents, according to a 2012 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The countries with the highest rates are Honduras (88.5), El Salvador (69.2) and Belize (41.4). Nicaragua (12.6) and Costa Rica (10) have the lowest rates. In Mexico, the rate is 23.7 homicides per 100,000 residents.
[Nicaragua comes out pretty good on this list. Interesting the huge jump between Nicaragua and its northern neighbors. But, more interesting would be the kind of homicide. That is, whether it is domestic violence (my guess is that is very significant in Nicaragua) or targeted crime (such as the drug sector in Mexico).]
One of the region’s problems in fighting organized crime is that each country has its own set of laws, creating impunity and making international cooperation more difficult. As a result, Central America is used as a transit area for drugs, according to a report by the Central American Integration System (SICA).
[This doesn't fit what I have seen/what I read. And the "As a result" part is totally bogus. Central America is not used as a transit area for drugs as a result of this -- it is used as a transit area for drugs because it lies between drug producing and drug consuming countries.]
SICA leaders received the Legislative Framework for the Fight Against Organized Crime in Central America and the Dominican Republic on June 27 in San José, Costa Rica. The proposal will be analyzed by the block’s eight countries as they try to find common ground for legislation throughout the region.
[*** OK, end of my comments. Any  following are from the original article. ***]
“Harmonizing the laws would allow for cooperation between countries, overcoming long-standing concepts of national sovereignty that often only serve to protect the interests of the worst criminals,” SICA said in a prepared statement.
The idea is to create joint investigative teams, increase security for criminal transfers, witness protection programs and extraditions and improve evidence sharing.
“The creation of [harmonized penal codes] in the legal systems of the various countries would represent a turning point in the fight against organized crime, removing safe havens for criminals,” said Marvin Aguilar García, the vice president of the Supreme Court of Nicaragua.
Attacks against democracy
During the campaign for regional elections in Mexico on July 7, two mayoral candidates and a campaign coordinator were killed, two candidates vying to be representatives were attacked and two campaign headquarters were struck by gunshots.
“It has become clear that democracy is threatened,” said Andrea Castagnola, a doctor in political sciences from the University of Pittsburgh in the United States. “The municipal elections have become important for drug traffickers, given the elected mayor will decide whether the criminals can continue to pass through their territory and use their routes. In situations like these, democracy has no meaning whatsoever.”
Criminal groups also have corrupted officials so they can traffic humans and illicit goods freely through the region in addition to laundering money – all with impunity. Cartels and crime groups also rule some areas as though they are the police, greatly increasing residents’ fears.
This situation is described in detail in the “Organized crime, the State and Democracy” report by the Foundation for International Relations and Foreign Dialogue (FRIDE).
“This violence is clearly the work of organized crime,” said Catholic Bishop Raúl Vera López of the Diocese of Saltillo in northern Mexico. “The political parties and the Attorney General must stop it because it’s going to get worse, and at some point the [drug traffickers] are going to put [into elected positions] the people they want.”
Corrupting democracy is important for organized crime, according to “The Drug Problem in the Americas” report by the Organization of American States (OAS), released in Bogotá, Colombia, on May 17.
“The illegal drug economy requires bribery, collusion and a willingness of public servants to hide [the criminals’] operations. Organized crime cannot exist without corruption,” the report said.
About 140,000 people have been displaced since 2007 due to the violence of drug cartels in Mexico, according to a report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.
“Drug trafficking involves the bribery not just of officials but also of the civilian population,” said Nelson Arteaga, a researcher with the Latin American Social Sciences Institute (FLACSO) in Mexico City. “Drug traffickers form alliances and transform themselves into false social redeemers. As a result, the whole society is contaminated by the presence of organized crime.”
The region is home to 24% of the world’s marijuana users and 45% of cocaine users, according to the OAS report.
The OAS recommends public policies aimed at limiting the availability of drugs, promoting healthy lifestyles, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation initiatives, as well as a substantial reduction in drug sentences, except in cases where the individual’s conduct poses a risk to society.
“The governments of the region need to turn around and start treating drugs as a social problem and a public health problem, not just a criminal problem,” Arteaga said.