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Violence in Central America
Yale.edu ^ | Joaquín Villalobos

Posted on 07/12/2014 11:18:35 AM PDT by gusopol3

El Salvador is the Central American country that has suffered the greatest destruction to its social fabric as a result of emigration. Approximately one third of its population emigrated, primarily to the United States, and remittances became the mainstay of the Salvadoran economy. There is therefore a connection between the financial model and the violence experienced by the country.

(Excerpt) Read more at ycsg.yale.edu ...


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: emigration
Obama's selective deporting of criminals to these states further exacerbates the violence there, further destabilizing the societies, driving more people to leave.
1 posted on 07/12/2014 11:18:35 AM PDT by gusopol3
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To: gusopol3
I worked in both embassies (Honduras and El Salvador). I also have a good friend in the Honduran Attorney General's office.

Want to know the underlying problem? JUSTICE.

Both countries are not willing to dispense justice. They are failed states, close to Haiti-fail. Honduras more so. Poverty is a lesser issue. Business wants to invest there, but they can't because the governments are under the stranglehold of Amnesty Intl, the UN, and and OAS.

Think about it: The inability to dispense justice is the same thing that is the same thing that is crippling the United States.

2 posted on 07/12/2014 11:31:12 AM PDT by Salvavida (The restoration of the U.S.A. starts with filling the pews at every Bible-believing church.)
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To: gusopol3
This is the html version of the file http://www.ycsg.yale.edu/center/forms/violence-central-america64-72.pdf.

Violence in Central America
Joaquín Villalobos

Consultant on International Conflict Resolution
The most recent statistics place Central America as the world’s most violent re- gion. In the last decade there have been 145,000 homicides in 7 countries in the region, the vast majority of them in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. These countries appear each year among the top ten places for homicides in the world.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report, in 2010 the rate of homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants in the countries in the region were:

• Honduras: 82.1
• El Salvador: 66
• Belize: 41.7
• Guatemala: 41.4
• Panama: 21.6
• Nicaragua: 13.2
• Costa Rica: 11.3

The Honduras murder rate is the highest in the world, El Salvador occupies second place, Belize the sixth and Guatemala the seventh. Central America went from a rate of 27 homicides in 2000 to 43 in 2010.

The above data show the magnitude of the threat. The region is in a state of emergency, like that of the 1980s war. Two problems generate violence: gangs and organized crime, primarily related to drug trafficking. Gangs affect Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Organized crime affects all countries, but much more so Guatemala and Honduras.

It is common to view these two types of criminal activities as the same, when in reality we’re dealing with two different things.

We can identify organized crime when we see seven essential features:

Financial power: This power is generated from “illicit trade” that could encompass a wide variety of products such as drugs, weapons, gasoline, diamonds, gold, stolen vehicles, piracy and activities such as prostitution and human trafficking.

Social force: The existence of illicit businesses means “illegal employment” which, depending on the size of the illegal economy, can become quite numer- ous. These “jobs” are transformed in the long run into a major social force that survives on criminal activity.

Mastery of strategic territories and locations: Combining financial power and social force, leads to the domain of a particular territorial space and strategic locations. These spaces and places are tied to various kinds of illicit trade.

State co-optation or infiltration: This is the most decisive factor in establish- ing that we are dealing with organized crime. If the illicit activity is capable, be it through corruption or intimidation, to recruit local or national representatives for the purpose of facilitating and protecting their criminal activities, we are then dealing with State co-optation.

Intimidating armed power: Organized crime creates its own armed power to ensure dominance over other criminal groups and for self-defense in the event that the State attempts to regain authority in their area of domain.

Global interconnection: When we speak of organized crime, it pertains to criminal “companies” that are interconnected globally with other criminal groups in order to move drugs, people and illicit commodities between countries and continents.

Profitability comes precisely from its global nature. Cultural empowerment: As time goes on and social complicity increases, the relationship between criminals and residents multiplies and normalizes. With this comes a “crime ethic” or a criminal culture that reproduces the phenomenon in society. Criminals are the subject of social recognition and become role models for young people.

Some scholars such as Fabio Armao of the University of Turin in Italy, consider that a criminal enterprise has political power when it is able to challenge the state monopoly on violence in a section of the territory. Based on this, Armao speaks of the existence of pockets of sovereignty (“sovereignty clusters”) under criminal group control.

Differences Between Organized Crime and Gangs Family: With regard to organized crime, family is part of the criminal structure and it is common for criminal groups to be organized by family, such as: “the Arel- lano Félixes,” the “Beltrán Leivas” or “the Michoacán family” in Mexico, or “the Lorenzanas” and “Mendozas” in Guatemala. Generally, gangs are young people from dysfunctional families that, from the criminal structure create a family, such as the “Salvatruchas” and the “18” in Central America or “the Aztecs” of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.

Violence: Beyond the brutality with which both organized crime and gangs use violence, for the former, it is an instrument related to their “illegal business,” and for the latter, it is part of their identity and has value in and of itself. Gang initia- tion is therefore very violent.

Organization: Organized crime is essentially underground and only surfaces where there is efficient social and territorial control. By contrast, gangs are open organizations that include bodily tattoos and very notable identification systems.

Territory: For organized crime, the territory holds a value for the “business,” and is a part of the business, serving as a route, a square or a rear guard. In other words, one finds criminal structures where profitability exists for criminal activi ties, such as in Nuevo Laredo, which is on the border with the US.

With regard to gangs, territory is their residence location and is a part of their identity, i.e. the “18” is named after a street in Los Angeles.

Drugs: Organized crime is a “commodity” and offenders may or may not be drug users. Gang members are drug users. Drugs are a part of their way of life.

Money: For organized crime, money has a purpose; for gangs, it is more of a tool. Organized crime has the essential group goal of financial gain. The gang needs money to survive and therefore its criminal activity is minor, but with a very high social impact because it affects poor communities.

To take one example, extortion can be used by both, but it is the crime par excellence of gangs in their territorial environment and impacts very poor people. Organized crime extortion seeks greater profitability objectives. Gangs are the result of a great social decomposition and point to a criminal phe- nomenon with strong anthropological traits that have elements of an urban tribe, such as body language, music, graffiti, tattoos, spoken language and a system of rituals and symbols. Organized crime originates in greed and generates conflict with a financial agenda. Organized crime and gangs have relationships ranging from conflict to cooperation.

Gangs often relate to groups of organized crime in activities such as drug dealing or killings, but these relationships are rarely stable. Gangs can evolve into types of organized crime as a result of generational changes and territorial control that can be achieved over time. However, it is difficult for them to develop structures that are very sophisticated. Organized crime, upon breaking apart and being taken over by younger generations due to State actions, can be degraded into local criminal and violent forms that are similar to gangs.

Central America has been hit by both phenomena to a very serious degree, and all this occurred in the transition from authoritarian regimes to democracies. Under authoritarianism, the Judiciary was irrelevant; police forces were weak, corrupt and inefficient; torture was used as the main examination tool; safety was dominated by military notions and the military’s main task was the political repres- sion of opponents. Dominant classes in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador used paramilitary mechanisms to ensure social and territorial dominance, and this led to a culture of violence among the citizens who used their membership in paramilitary groups to resolve all types of conflict.

To achieve democracy and as a result of fears created under authoritarianism, the idea that the State was the fundamental threat took prominence. The Judiciary was then focused on providing guarantees to protect the citizens of the State. Offenders were considered to be the victims of social injustice, and law and or- der ceased to be a priority. This was like jumping from one extreme to another.

Torture had been removed, but scientific research was not carried out. As part of the structural adjustment that came with financial liberalization, the police and armies were weakened. Private security grew exponentially at the expense of undermining public safety. Gangs, organized crime and the growth of illicit businesses had not been foreseen as the new threats, and the outcome was the growth of criminal power in opposition to weak States.

The region can be broken down into two extremes. The first, in the North, i- cludes Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and has the worst-case scenario of violence and instability. The other, in the South, includes Panama, a country with consistent positive economic growth in recent years; Costa Rica, the most politically and socially stable country on the continent; and Nicaragua, which even with its mix of political instability and poverty has very good safety indicators.

A decade ago, Guatemala did not have a serious organized crime problem; now it has the worst scenario in the region due to the weakness of the State and the increased strength of organized crime, although it does not have the highest ho micide rate in Central America. The reduction of the Army, in part for pacification, but much more as a measure of structural adjustment, resulted in the abandon ment of military positions in Petén and other parts of the country.

The resulting power vacuum in those territories was filled by criminal groups who now control vast rural areas, while the capital and other cities are affected by gang violence. At the same time, the Police and the Military were never reformed, they were merely reduced, and the level of penetration of organized crime in these institu tions is, therefore, quite high.

Honduras and Guatemala have an organized crime and gang problem that are responsible for most of the violence. There are territories under the control of the criminal groups. During the war in the 1980s, Honduras had several armies within its territory: the Nicaraguan contras, the US military, various paramilitary groups and its own military. There is a culture of violence among its citizens and the judicial system is backward and inefficient. Neither the army nor the police have been reformed. Therefore there are high levels of penetration by groups of criminals in these institutions.

With regard to El Salvador, both the police and the army underwent deep re- forms, and to date there has been no serious penetration of organized crime into either institution. El Salvador’s main problems are gangs who now control large neighborhoods in the most important cities. The judicial system is inefficient, and coercive power is less than in the past. This reduction in coercive power, the cul ture of violence in the public, a system of prisons that has already collapsed, and emigration and mass deportations of convicted criminals from the United States are directly related to the explosion of violence affecting the country.

El Salvador is the Central American country that has suffered the greatest destruction to its social fabric as a result of emigration.

Approximately one third of its population emigrated, primarily to the United States, and remittances became the mainstay of the Salvadoran economy. There is therefore a connection between the financial model and the violence experienced by the country.

Migration to the United States

El Salvador: emigrated inhabitants – 2.9 million Guatemala: emigrated inhabitants – 1.5 million Honduras: emigrated inhabitants – 1.1 million Deportations from the United States

Percentage of criminals deported (c/d) from each year›s total. Source: “Gangs in Central America” Congressional Research Service, Decem ber 2009. Taken from “Organized Crime in Central America.” Woodrow Wilson International Center.

Nicaragua is a special case. Poverty conditions are like those in Honduras and the judicial system is inefficient and highly politicized. On the Atlantic coast there are areas of great weakness with regard to the presence of the State. The country is important as part of the cocaine route and police often capture drug shipments and dismantle attempts to create organized crime groups.

Emigra tion from Nicaragua was primarily to Costa Rica where more than half a million Nicaraguans reside. The US does not deport criminals to Nicaragua and gangs have not contaminated the culture. Despite the war in the 1980s, Nicaragua is not a culturally violent country; paramilitary groups did not exist even during the era of the Somoza dictatorship. The police and the army were deeply reformed. Initially both had strong ideological elements because they were the product of the revolution. When they became national institutions they retained all the experi ence with regard to the community as a pillar of security.

There is no penetration of organized crime in either institution and both have great social recognition due to their efficiency in controlling territory, maintaining security, and preventing the formation of organized crime groups.

[omitted graph]

Upon comparing the four countries of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, some common features are evident: poverty, institutional weakness, political instability, migration, destruction of the social fabric and easy access to weapons.

Against such a scenario, Guatemala concentrated efforts to strengthen its ju dicial system, creating an International Commission to combat impunity of the elites; but this did not stop the violence or the penetration of organized crime in the State in spite of former Presidents and former Ministers of State having been placed in prison. The difference seems to be, firstly the culture of violence there, and secondly, the quality of the coercive power over the institutions.

There is penetration of organized crime where institutions were not reformed – in the police, in the army, in the social services -- and there is more violence where inhabitants opt for this in a preferential manner over conflict resolution. Private security in Guatemala is four times bigger than the army and the police. And the country is now fragmented, like a failed regime.

Carrying over these comparisons to other countries, we can conclude that the quality and capacity of coercive power is vital in security. If the police force doesn’t function, there is no security. Many countries maintain the culture of authoritarian regimes based on the belief that the more violent the police are, the better. The criminals and the police look much the same. The monopoly of violence is left in the hands of violent people, and security institutions then function using codes of violence, such as mistreatment, abuse and torture.

There is a clear interconnection between coercive power capacity and the quality of a country’s citizens, and for the interaction between these to function positively requires a fundamental respect for human rights. Respect for human rights is an advantage, not an obstacle, to security institutions, as it helps to maintain social cohesion, allows the building of intelligence networks, supports the State’s moral advantage, and prevents the creation or multiplication of a culture of violence.

Respect for human rights does not involve forgetting the need to suppress, but rather keeps the use of force to the correct proportion. Neither is it about mistak ing victims for perpetrators.

Social recognition is vital for a healthy police force since no salary exists that can compensate for the risks to police in confronting criminals. But there is no social recognition without respect for human rights. When security institutions do not have the confidence of citizens, they end up recruiting the worst people, and this leads to corruption and penetration by criminal groups. How does one explain the differences in wages among the police forces in the region, or the success of Nicaragua with the worst paid police on the continent? Similarly it is impossible to separate the best levels of safety in Costa Rica from the culture of legality of its citizens.

Police Officer Monthly Salaries

The current security crisis in Central America and Mexico is directly related to the weakness of the security institutions and the proclivity of many of its citizens to break the law. The new threat to security is not only a matter of drugs or gang repression. We are facing a complex situation that is part of the democratic transition.

Felipe González, former President of Spain, during a Conference on the new National Civil Police which was founded in El Salvador in 1993, said: “Democracy needs a police force stronger than a dictatorship.” The challenge to improved safety can be summarized, then, as the urgency to build the state, community and citizenship. There is no easy way out.

3 posted on 07/12/2014 11:39:57 AM PDT by Mrs. Don-o ("If they refuse to listen even to the Church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.")
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To: gusopol3

two things jump out at me:

“the idea that the State was the fundamental threat took prominence....Offenders were considered to be the victims of social injustice, and law and order ceased to be a priority....”

[the current American left-think in process]

“Approximately one third of [El Salvador’s] population
emigrated, primarily to the United States, and remittances became the mainstay of the Salvadoran economy...
Migration to the United States
El Salvador: emigrated inhabitants – 2.9 million
Guatemala: emigrated inhabitants – 1.5 million
Honduras: emigrated inhabitants – 1.1 million

One third of El Salvador is here in the states. It would be fair to say that most of the “emigrants” are young, strong, and of reproductive and working age. Does a country even exist once a country loses it’s youth? Does one country have the right to covet a third of another country’s population, that country’s lifeforce, for their own labor force?

Does El Salvador’s policy of reliance on remittances effectively turn the “emigrants” into slaves of the state of El Salvador? Is it a form of social blackmail? i.e., we’re cutting Auntie Rosa’s pension so you have to send even more in remittances so Auntie Rosa can eat or pay protection? Does a remittance policy by El Salvador et al, reflect in increased crime rates in the USA and does it interfere with integration identity as an American? Does a remittance policy increase crime in El Salvador - is Auntie Rosa at even more risk from gangs because of a higher remittance amount?

Should the USA, instead of trying to force integration of a vast population ingrained to financial allegiance to another country, train those youth to return - basically to declare war on their homelands and and eradicate the culture of violence that led to their exodus?


4 posted on 07/12/2014 1:02:01 PM PDT by blueplum
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To: Mrs. Don-o
For the sake of comparison, the homicide rate in 2010 for the US as a whole was 4.8.

The lowest rate was 1.1 in Vermont. The highest rates were Louisiana at 11.2 and DC at 21.9. The second-highest state was Maryland at 7.4. The rate for Puerto Rico matched that of the US average, 4.8.

The South as a whole had the highest rate at 5.6.

Outside the South the highest rates were Missouri at 7.0, New Mexico at 6.9, and Arizona at 6.4.

5 posted on 07/12/2014 4:40:31 PM PDT by Verginius Rufus
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To: gusopol3

Liberalism on an international scale. So they messed up their own country so much, the cancer needs to move here and destroy OUR country. Radiation treatment is the only sure cure, from about one mile.


6 posted on 07/12/2014 6:42:46 PM PDT by SgtHooper (This is not my tag!)
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To: Mrs. Don-o

Thank you.


7 posted on 07/12/2014 8:21:21 PM PDT by gusopol3
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To: Mrs. Don-o

Thank you.


8 posted on 07/12/2014 8:21:27 PM PDT by gusopol3
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