Marking President Obama’s visit to El Salvador, the Los Angeles Times reports that the country has increasingly developed into a key site for drug trafficking in the region, with all the ingredients in place to become a haven for organized crime. After suffering more than a decade of civil war, the nation is struggling to rebuild its institutions at a time when Mexican drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) are extending their influence in the region. More and more cocaine is being smuggled through Central America, as the U.S. State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy report points out, making its way north via El Salvador, which has come to be known in the underworld as ‘El Caminito’ (the little pathway). Guatemala, Honduras and now El Salvador have all seen activity from groups like the Zetas, so much so that the government of Guatemala declared a state of siege at the end of last year in an attempt to crack down some of the cartel’s strongholds in the north of the country.
- At the same time, in Vienna, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) opened the 54th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, according to its website. Opening the session Executive Director Yury Fedotov stated that the gross income of drug traffickers worldwide has reached approximately $320 billion. Mexican DTOs, according to the 2010 International Narcotics Control Board report released this month, make up $9.5 billion of this figure, with almost 90% of the cocaine produced in the Andean region passing through their hands on their way to the U.S. market.
- Meanwhile violence in Mexico’s drug war seems to be on the rise, according to various newspapers. Proceso reports on the findings of Mexican NGOs on cases of missing persons related to organized crime. The National Commission on Human Rights (Comision Nacional de Derechos Humanos – CNDH) said that of the 283 cases reported between 2006 and February 2011, 124 took place in 2010 alone. Noroeste has a report on rising displacement in the state of Sinaloa, where more than 60 families have flooded into the municipality of Mazatlan seeking safety. Finally, Excelsior reports that entrepreneurs are coming in waves to Mexico City fleeing death and kidnapping threats. More than 60% of Mexican private security companies operate in the capital city.