first_img Regional leaders meeting at a high-level international security forum in Mexico City said they’re dismayed with the findings of a recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, but are clearly unsurprised. The UNODC study said the murder rate in Central America is reaching crisis levels, with Latin America now more deadly than Afghanistan when it comes to homicide. Only Africa exceeds Latin America in the number of killings, concluded the report. Mexican President Felipe Calderón, speaking to forum delegates, said the turf war involving organized crime and drug cartels over territory and trafficking routes have turned Latin America into “the most violent region in the world.” He urged his regional counterparts to redouble their resolve to defeat the cartels. “It’s not an option, [but] an ethical obligation that the good fights against the evil,” said Calderón. Since 1995, said the UNODC study, the number of homicides has fallen in Asia, Europe and North America while increasing dramatically in Central America and the Caribbean. The report, noting that the bloodshed is “nearing the crisis point,” blamed organized crime for much of the violence, though it said other factors also account for increases in certain regions. Poorer countries are four times more likely to suffer violent crime than richer ones, it said. Income disparities and accessibility to weapons also come into play; guns were used in 75 percent of all homicides in Central America and the Caribbean. In addition, it said, the 2008 recession led to a rise in homicides. To help fight violence, said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov, “crime prevention policies should be combined with economic and social development, and democratic governance based on the rule of law.” Honduras, which had 6,200 killings in 2010 out of a population of 7.7 million people, and El Salvador, with 4,000 murders among its 6.1 million people, have the world’s highest homicide rates, said UNODC, followed by Panama, Mexico and Belize. Ramón Custodio, the Honduran human rights commissioner, said he feared that worse was to come and that next year’s homicide rates will be higher. “We Hondurans have lost the right to live without fear,” he said in a news statement. The 2011 Global Study on Homicide calculated a rate of 82.1 homicides per 100,000 people for Honduras and 66 per 100,000 people for El Salvador. One country that has received wide praise for its efforts to curb drugs is Colombia. On his first visit to the country, UNODC’s Fedotov said Colombia had demonstrated strong political will in its fight against organized crime. He pointed out that a decade ago Colombia was by far the world’s leading producer of cocaine; now its share in production had shrunk. “Colombia’s progress in drastically reducing drug production has had a positive global impact in terms of security and public health,” said Fedotov. The UNODC chief highlighted developments in Colombia’s department of Antioquía, where alternative development programs are helping wean farms off coca cultivation. More than 150,000 campesinos have switched from coca to other products such as coffee, cacao, honey and hearts of palm. UN and Colombian officials agree that the country has made four million hectares — an area the size of the Netherlands — drug-free. “Consumer countries must do their part too, and reduce the demand that drives the drug trade, trafficking and violent crime,” Fedotov said in a press statement. “This is a matter for all of us. I urge the international community to keep up support for Colombia, which has shouldered so much of the burden of drug-related crime and terrorism in the past.” As long as the countries that most use drugs don’t come up with a TRUE policy to cut down on drug use, the producers will not stop producing. If drug use is stopped there will be no demand. By the way, I ask the drug users: Aren’t you ashamed to smoke or “snort” the lives of so many people with each “toke”? Don’t you have a conscience? You are criminals just like the paid assassins of the drug trade. Wake up! By Dialogo October 24, 2011last_img read more