The Economist had a hard-hitting piece about how the drug war in Mexico has spilled into the smaller countries of Central America like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Whatever the weaknesses of the Mexican state, it is a Leviathan compared with the likes of Guatemala or Honduras. Large areas of Guatemalaâ€”including some of its prisonsâ€”are out of the governmentâ€™s control; and, despite the efforts of its president, the government is infiltrated by the mafia. The countries of Central Americaâ€™s northern triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) are now among the most violent places on earth, deadlier even than most conventional war zones. So weak are their judicial systems that in Guatemala, for example, only one murder in 20 is punished.
And, of course, it is the U.S. drug war that is making it harder for these countries to function as they should (or to prioritize their efforts on helping their people). The Economist makes the conclusion quite clear:
But the Central American governments are not solely responsible for the countriesâ€™ problems. The drugs policies of the United States are also to blame. And, to cap it all, climate changeâ€”to which the unfortunate Central Americans have contributed virtually nothingâ€”seems to be increasing the ferocity of nature in the isthmus. Catastrophic flooding is killing people with increasing frequency, and raising the cost of maintaining infrastructure.
When the guerrilla wars of the 1970s and 1980s ended, Americans forgot about Central America. It is time they remembered it again, and offered some help. They could, for example, lead an aid programme that would tie money for roads, ports and security hardware to increases in the tax take to pay for better security and social conditions.
Such schemes will not, however, solve the fundamental problem: that as long as drugs that people want to consume are prohibited, and therefore provided by criminals, driving the trade out of one bloodstained area will only push it into some other godforsaken place. But unless and until drugs are legalised, that is the best Central America can hope to do.