WHAT ARE THE ROOT CAUSES OF POVERTY AND CRIME IN CENTRAL AMERICA?

U.S policy and practice has contributed to the violence in Central America. Poverty and drugs have been issues for Central America because they are hindering its domestic development. However, research done by the Wilson Center explains that drugs are not the sole cause of violence and poverty. In fact, U.S policy is a key contributing factor to the poverty and violence in Central America. For example, America serves as the primary root of the existence of gangs Central America. This is due to the fact the U.S deported many Central Americans who were in gangs in the U.S during the 90’s and 00’s (Olson, 2). These same deported individuals are now controlling countries like Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The United States took the issue of violence within America, and exported it to Central America. Now these gangs have been terrorizing Central Americans, and the gangs have been having their own wars against each other for power and economic control (Azam). The economic profits and incentives of gangs are fueled by drug trafficking, which is also a dilemma U.S policy has created. The U.S consumption of drugs is the highest in the world, causing U.S. citizens to be the largest contributors to the drug market. This position was previously held by Mexico and the Caribbean. However, laws (created by U.S and Mexico) made the drug market relocate out of Mexico and the Caribbean (Olson, 2). Instead, drug trafficking is now present in Central American countries. Instead of ceasing the drug trafficking and  incarcerating gang members, the U.S decided to simply push its problems elsewhere. Central America ended up serving as this “elsewhere” and now the U.S is attempting to resolve the mistakes it has committed.

In order to address these issues, the U.S has a system in place called CARSI. While its intentions are pure, its results have been lacking. The main issue with CARSI is that it has not identified if its focus is on drug trafficking or citizen safety. After conducting research, it has been identified that while CARSI consists of well intended programs, it does not truly have a strategy to stop the issue at hand.  As a result, it will not stop the poverty and crime in Central America. In spite of this, the United States has been actively making a far more positive effect in recent times, as Jorge G. Castañeda from the Jordan Times reports. Jorge’s article explains that with the recent removal of the corrupt President and Vice president of Guatemala, and the support of the newly transformed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), there seems to be hope for Guatemala and soon other Central American countries (Castañeda). The United States has been playing an active role in transforming and supporting the CICIG, and it appears that it is giving hope to the people of Guatemala and neighboring nations. While U.S policies have been hurting Central American countries for many years, they could finally amend the damage through their recent developments within Central America.

Sources:

Eguizàbal, Cristina, Karisa M. Curtis, Matthew C. Ingram, and Eric L. Olson. “Crime and Violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle: How U.S. Policy Response Are Helping, Hurting, and Can Be Improved.” Wilsoncenter.org. The Wilson Center, 19 Dec. 2014.

Link: https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/crime-and-violence-central-americas-northern-triangle-how-us-policy-responses-are

Articles:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/07/world/americas/honduras-el-salvador-guatemala-mexico-us-child-migrants.html?_r=0
http://www.jordantimes.com/opinion/jorge-g-castañeda/saving-central-america

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6 thoughts on “WHAT ARE THE ROOT CAUSES OF POVERTY AND CRIME IN CENTRAL AMERICA?

  1. Good job, Mr. Surti. Drugs are indeed not the only cause of poverty and crime in Central America. How sad that America has had such a huge role in causing such a huge problem.

  2. While I agree with most points, I do not think it is fair to say that the United States has taken their issues with violence and placed it into Central America. The U.S. has been historically strict with immigration and if gang members are being deported back to their home countries, they have either committed a crime without citizenship, or are in the United States illegally, both of which are well-known violations of the law.

  3. This is one of the most delicate cases to argue in my home country, and something I feel passionate to discuss. Yes, I would also argue that indeed drugs and drug trafficking create a violent environment that limit the economic development of Central America. I would also agree with Sameer Surti’s argument that this is in part due to the U.S. policy, which itself reflects the U.S.’ recent historical paternalistic behaviors on the region. There are two main relationships I see between the U.S. policy and its violent effects on the region.
    Both relationships are caused by the strengthening of equipment and training provided by U.S. military forces to local police and military forces. First, this leads to an increased utilization of force and military tactics that often times harass already poor and small communities, causing a mistrust towards the safety policies promoted by the states. The resulting oppression on the poor I would argue is the result of guerrilla-like warfare against drugs, exercised because of the characteristic geography and population distribution of the region. Secondly, the United States has insisted to militarily train countries in the region that have opted for the abolition of the military (Costa Rica, Panama), including high ranking police officials in the School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. This leads to a disconnect between the Central American government policies for peacekeeping and the people that enforce them, the officers.
    Not all of this is harmful, nonetheless. There is an ongoing shift from paternalism to partnership in U.S. foreign policy with Latin America. Some of the immediate results is the increased seizure of illicit drugs by Central American governments in conjunction with U.S. Navy and other forces, as shown in graphs on the Wilson Center report. And even so, I cannot but wonder what would occur to the levels of violence in Central America if the U.S. approached the fight on drugs internally, just like tobacco use: strengthening education and control on the young, U.S. population responsible for the high-demand traffic of cocaine, heroin, and marihuana through the isthmus.

  4. I agree with the notion that the U.S. plays a large role in the perpetuating violence and poverty in the Northern Triangle. However, the U.S. is not responsible for keeping the citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala in America in order to decrease the issues of their home countries. Citizens of another country must act in accordance to the rules of the country they are presently in. If a citizen of Honduras breaks the laws of the United States, the U.S. government has the right and responsibility to remove said individual from the country in order to protect American citizens. The U.S. is to blame for the high demand of drugs and extension of arms trafficking, but it is not America’s responsibility to keep gang members of a different citizenship in the country if they are harming U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights.

  5. I do agree that yes the United States is influencing the violence in Central America, it is also a very hard situation. It is against the law for immigrants to come here illegally. Although sending certain members of these gangs back to countries in Central America will cause problems, they have to because they are in the country illegally. I do not think that they are exporting the issue of violence. They are doing what they have a responsibility to do. Although yes it is causing issues in Central America, we are not to be held accountable for keeping these people in our country in order to keep them from causing issues in their home country. However, I do believe that they United States should help stop the violence and drugs occurring the Central America if they have the power the make a difference.

  6. I agree entirely with this piece and find it necessary that you address these points that are often swept under the rug by United States media in an attempt to cover up their wrongdoings. The issues that have arose in Latin American countries as a result of gang existence have stained multiple aspects of their society and culture. It is too crucial of a phenomena to ignore the fact that the United States indirectly introduced these gangs into their countries. I also appreciate how you targeted the complications within CARSI that account for its deficient progress.

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