Low El Salvador Drug Seizures Point to Ongoing Impunity, Corruption

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Authorities in El Salvador have seized just 2.3 tons of cocaine over the past five years, a figure far lower than its Central American neighbors, reflecting a failure to effectively stem the flow of drugs through the country.

Marco Tulio Lima, chief of the country’s antinarcotics police (DAN), suggested the figures demonstrated “a significant hit” to the drug trade, as, he claimed, El Salvador is not a primary route for traffickers, reported La Prensa Grafica. Lima insisted the Caribbean and Pacific sea routes dominate the trade.

The seizures, however, are staggeringly low compared to neighboring countries, such as Honduras, which has seized 2.1 tons of cocaine in 2014 alone, while Guatemala has confiscated 1.4 tons of the drug. Panama and Costa Rica confiscated a total of 40 and 24.5 tons of cocaine in 2013, respectively.

Despite the figures, 13,155 people have been detained in El Salvador over the last five years in relation to drug-trafficking — 6,198 of which have been captured in the past two years, a substantially higher number than Costa Rica’s 2,937 trafficking-related arrests in the same time period.

InSight Crime Analysis

The statements by Lima contrast with recent US State Department statistics that suggest overland routes through Central America continue to dominate the drug trade, with over 200 tons trafficked through the region every year, according to United Nations estimates.

While it is true that much larger quantities pass through El Salvador’s neighbors, with shipments often beginning their journey through the isthmus in Panama, Costa Rica or Honduras then moving through Guatemala, El Salvador is still a known transit route and it seems fanciful such low seizures could represent a significant proportion of the drugs passing through the country.

With transport groups like the Texis Cartel and the Perrones known to shift significant quantities of drugs through El Salvador, the figures more likely reflect the degree of impunity and police corruption that facilitates organized crime there.

SEE ALSO: Corruption in El Salvador: Politicians, Police and Transportistas

While El Salvador’s government has made recent moves against the Texis Cartel, it remains to be seen whether they will result in convictions and lengthy sentences. In the past, legal proceedings have fallen apart and, as the seizure figures highlight, the drugs have continued to flow.

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