Drug War

America's Drug War is Indeed Responsible for the Unaccompanied Minor Crisis

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I wrote last week that the unaccompanied minors from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador showing up at our doorstep are refugees of America's drug war whom it would be immoral and inhumane to turn away. Many commenters in the conservative press and social media denounced this claim as the usual liberal claptrap which wants to blame America for everything.

Today, Mary O'Grady of the Wall Street Journal — that bastion of left-wing, America-hating nutbaggery — elaborates the connection, citing the work of Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, perhaps the most authoritative source on the region. She notes:

Central America is significantly more dangerous than it was before it became a magnet for rich and powerful drug capos. Back in the early 1990s, drugs from South America flowed through the

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Caribbean to the U.S.

But when a U.S. interdiction strategy in the Caribbean raised costs, trafficking shifted to land routes up the Central American isthmus and through Mexico. With Mexican President Felipe Calderón's war on the cartels, launched in 2007, the underworld gradually slithered toward the poorer, weaker neighboring countries. Venezuela, under Hugo Chávez, began facilitating the movement of cocaine from producing countries in the Andes to the U.S., also via Central America.

In a July 8 essay in the Military Times headlined "Central America Drug War a Dire Threat to U.S. National Security," Gen. Kelly explains that he has spent 19 months "observing the transnational organized crime networks" in the region. His conclusion: "Drug cartels and associated street gang activity in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which respectively have the world's number one, four and five highest homicide rates, have left near-broken societies in their wake." He notes that while he works on this problem throughout the region, these three countries, also known as the Northern Triangle, are "far and away the worst off."

With a homicide rate of 90 per 100,000 in Honduras, and 40 per 100,000 in Guatemala, life in the region is decidedly rougher than "declared combat zones" like Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the general says the rate is 28 per 100,000.

How did the region become a killing field? His diagnosis is that big profits from the illicit drug trade have been used to corrupt public institutions in these fragile democracies, thereby destroying the rule of law. In a "culture of impunity" the state loses its legitimacy and sovereignty is undermined. Criminals have the financial power to overwhelm the law "due to the insatiable U.S. demand for drugs, particularly cocaine, heroin and now methamphetamines, all produced in Latin America and smuggled into the U.S."

The whole column is well worth reading here.

Bonus material: Reason.tv's award-winning documentary by Paul Feine, America's Longest War: A Film About Drug Prohibition