Central America: Drug Traffickers Rise to Power

The unprecedented increase in violence in Costa Rica, once an oasis of peace in the region, is another sign of the failure of the traditional methods of fighting drugs.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


More powerful than the Central American states, drug trafficking is on the rise not only in terms of an increased supply of drugs in the countries in the region, but through its permeation of institutions using the power of money and generating a growing culture of violence that is making Central America´s lack of a death penalty seem risible. Yes it does exist, but the worst part about it is that it is not institutionalized justice systems that implement it, but the mob bosses, pointing out -to ever younger executioners- the people who should be executed.

The problem is already endemic in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and it is in the country once known as the "Switzerland of Central America", where, despite statements by the authorities stating they have control of the situation, street executions keep increasing. It is expected that at the end of 2015 there will have been about 530 murders.

Drug trafficking and its associated violence are changing the culture and traditional ways of living. On the one hand those born in poverty are finding a way to get a sense of belonging and some economic welfare by joining criminal gangs, even it they face the huge risk of dying in the attempt. And on the other, young people in better socioeconomic conditions have to "adapt to a life of seclusion, without diversions and with few opportunities to escape the violence that is showing no sign of a reversal ...How to dress, what shoes to wear, the most appropriate haircut, the safest places to visit and what streets to walk down are vital decisions. "

And the advance on institutions is unstoppable. In Costa Rica, the president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal showed "... concern, already expressed, about the municipal elections in February: the treatment of money from organized crime and its filtration in campaign financing." In Guatemala the financing of political candidacies by drug cartels is the vox populi.

While attempts are made to combat drug trafficking using the same methods as in the past, there will be a continuation of the peace in Central America, which is an essential route for drugs on their way to their largest consumer market, the United States and the moment will come that will threaten its status as place of democratic societies.

More on this topic

Business, Marketing and Drug Trafficking

March 2016

The complexity of drug cartels' internal structures, their strategies of "marketing and customer service" and the way they operate increasingly resemble those of large global corporations.

How are the Coca-Cola and McDonald's corporations similar to drugs cartels? Of course the products they sell are completely different, but the way the three try to position their products and brands, increase their market share and increase profits to generate more dividends to their shareholders, is almost the same.

Einstein and Drug Trafficking

November 2015

Central America's fall into the hands of drug traffickers makes the following quote seem true: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."


Although their rulers deny it, Central American countries are losing the war against drug traffickers.

Escalation of Drug Trafficking in Central America

March 2011

The lack of government capacity and economic power disadvantage compared to the drug industry, has lead to an increase in violence and corruption.

"Using systematic violence and corruption, intimidation and extortion of public officials, the wealthy and powerful criminal groups have been able to weaken police and judicial systems.

The Power of Central America's Drug Traffickers

August 2010

Do these countries have a real chance of stopping drug trafficking, in the context of economies like Guatemala's where the value of the drug economy is double the country's GDP?

In 2007, just 1% of all South American cocaine sold in the USA passed through the region. Now the figure is between 60% and 90%.

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