Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Latin America/El Salvador politics: Battling cartels and gangs

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on March 10, 2011

by The Economist Intelligence Unit, March 10th, 2011.

Weak institutions and porous borders have long made Central America attractive as a transit route for illegal drugs from Mexico and Colombia. Now, Central American governments also are struggling to contain growing ties between domestic criminal organisations and regional drug cartels. These cartels have expanded into Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, linking with local drug traffickers and youth gangs, or maras, which have long presented challenges to security forces. The cartels are also corrupting government institutions from within. El Salvador’s president, Mauricio Funes, will discuss getting more help during US President Barack Obama’s visit this month, but there appear to be no quick fixes to the problem.

One initiative recently announced by Mr Funes is a plan to build closer co-operation between El Salvador and major regional partners. Specifically, the Salvadoran government has agreed to step up efforts to share information and experiences with Mexico and Colombia, both of which have many years of experience dealing with drug-related crime and violence. Following an official visit by Mr Funes to Bogotá in February to discuss trade and security matters, Colombia’s government agreed to a first exchange of public security officials, to take place in March.

Colombia has also pledged to work with the Funes administration to establish a regional training centre to counter drug-related crimes. Both El Salvador and Colombia hope to put the issue on the agenda of the upcoming meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS), scheduled for June 2011 in the Salvadoran capital, San Salvador.

In addition, the attorneys-general of Mexico and El Salvador met in February to improve the exchange of data about criminal organisations operating across both countries. Mexico also has expressed interest in the Salvadoran experience in dealing with the mara street gangs, which are widely blamed for the majority of violent crime across Central America. (continue reading… )

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