Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Unfinished Democracy

The Unfinished Democracy

Central America is one of the most insecure regions. The combination of gangs, drug dealers and captive State generates crime and violence. In some countries, large criminal organizations are embedded in institutions. Guatemala is experiencing a strange electoral process: choose a new president, while outgoing resignation, accused of corruption by the street, Congress and the judiciary. It is one of the paradoxes of a turbulent miniregión yet crucial harbinger of change in Latin America.

A tour of four Central American countries shows the consequences of international neglect and the legacy of the wars of the last century. Endearing societies torn by poverty, violence and corruption, fueled by migration, installed in an unfinished but strong democracy: these are characteristic of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Central America is one of the most insecure regions. Disaggregated gangs in Guatemala, organized gangs in El Salvador and the combination of both in Honduras Make desolate cities and neighborhoods, they bleed their youth and scare away investors. In Honduras, the gangs are interspersed with organized crime, which has been dedicated to bringing drugs from Venezuela from 2005 and forward them to Mexico and the United States.

In El Salvador, the drug has less presence and armed bands contain another source: the deportations of Salvadorans in Los Angeles 15 years ago. The previous Government provided a truce with their leaders who, at first, allowed to reduce violence, but already exhausted when the current Government closed. The Barrio 18 and MS-13 responded with fire and violence reached unprecedented levels: 677 dead in June, 250 in the first week of August.

In Guatemala the major criminal organizations are embedded in the state for some time, and gangs are a vehicle for social mobility than anything else. Roads coast of Guatemala and Mexico aimed at crucial arteries of drug trafficking. The narcos and the advantage the dispute. The perverse effects in Central America's bloody and futile war of Mexican president Felipe Calderon and multiply by a factor summary: despite its weaknesses, Mexico is better able to manage and limit organized crime that its partners in the Northern Triangle. The consequences of this tragedy are different in every country. In all three cases the specific mix of bands, drug traffickers and captive state varies, the result: crime, insecurity and violence.

Emigration and remittances mark the social and economic configuration Northern Triangle
This result leads in turn to a second regional feature: the weight of migration and remittances on societies and economies. In Nicaragua the national depart to the south to Costa Rica and the construction industry of Panama; remittances account for 11% of GDP. From Guatemala to the US fleeing because of insecurity; expatriates shipments reach 10% of national income. For Honduras, where people fleeing the violence, the figure is 15%; to El Salvador, where away from the economic prostration, it is 16%. As described by Joaquin Villalobos, the region runs the risk of becoming the equivalent of an assisted society, living off remittances and consumption that generate, but condemned to poverty afflicting banished from the universe of shipments dollars.

For decades, Washington did not exert such influence in Central America and focuses its efforts in drug trafficking and in matters affecting them directly, migration, violence, governance and corruption. Its counterinsurgency policy in the eighties and its war on drugs since 1971 contributed to the Central misfortunes; Today the US is forced to rectify and address the problems largely created. Which brings us to the most encouraging development this time in Central America.

In 2006, Ban Ki Moon and the Government chapín created the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Its purpose was to be an adjunct to the prosecution and the prosecution in the investigation and trial "for crimes committed by members of the illegal security forces ... and in general actions aimed at dismantling these groups .. . (to) strengthen justice sector institutions so they can continue confronting these illegal groups in the future. " Over time, the CICIG over government corruption issues addressed, and more linked to the US.

Greater US support against government corruption would be a breakthrough in the region
In the first half of 2015, CICIG was front of Guatemalan newspapers for their actions against members of the cabinet of former Perez Molina, the vice president and himself. With its 200 security officers and 200 prosecutors, all foreigners, working directly with the MP; with vigorous new Colombian commissioner; with sufficient resources and support from the US Embassy, ​​CICIG has become a powerful tool for fighting corruption in the country. As told by a senior government official: "It hurts to recognize that we are unable to clean house us. But someone better do it to you not to anyone. " He came to the end: the resignation on September 2, Perez Molina, forced by investigations of CICIG, the impeachment by Congress and street protests.

The idea has made its way. They manifest in Tegucigalpa demanding the creation of a Cicih: the equivalent in Honduras. On a visit to the Honduran capital, the US envoy Tom Shannon suggested that approval of resources for the call Partnership for Prosperity would soon emerge a Cicih disbursed. In El Salvador, although minor challenges confronting the government on corruption than its neighbors, have also emerged demands for a similar commission, so far the regime rejected.

The reason is obvious. 1,000 million US Vice President promised the three Triangle countries almost a year ago not a stunning figure, but are of symbolic value. Washington can condition them to the perpetuation of the war on drugs or immigration, or deterrence fighting corruption through CICIG model. The first two issues would be more of the same; the third, with all its implications of bounded sovereignty, represent a step forward for the region.

As it would be the fulfillment of an old dream: the customs union Triangle countries, and possibly also in Nicaragua and / or Costa Rica. None of these economies, even Guatemala, is truly competitive viable- or even alone. There is sure to be a common market scheme, as in the sixties, not Mexico. And politicians are monumental obstacles. But at least they are beginning to talk about it and negotiate it. It is another ray of hope in a region where there abound.


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