July 1, 2012
Daniel Crump @dannycru
The killing of a man at the hands of a DEA agent in Honduras earlier this month was an unwelcome reminder that despite promising economic activity in the wider American region, drug manufacturing and the war designed to end it, are still blotches on the international reputation of America’s north, south and central regions. Despite being eerily reminiscent of so many previous occasions of bloodshed at the hands of the drug industry, this latest episode had a hint of novelty to it. This is partly due to the fact that the US government took the step of officially naming the agent as the sole killer, and at no point attempted to shift the blame onto the Honduran police force as has happened before. This is a first for US led operations in the Central American state.
But mostly, this chapter of the war on drugs happened to occur in the midst of the most serious period of analysis about the current approach to drug enforcement that we have seen in modern times. The involvement of the US agent may have propelled the debate to the higher echelons of international news, but the debate has well and truly already begun, most of all in the region’s fastest growing continent, South America.
One of many sticking points between the South and North at the latest OAS summit in Colombia this year was the drug enforcement debate. Argentina and Brazil, seen by many as the continent’s most influential members, directly opposed Obama’s stubborn reluctance to address the status quo and gave serious consideration to drug legalisation.
Drug related crime in the US is undoubtedly still a major issue and remains one of the biggest causes of premature death with figures exceeding the number of soldiers killed in the Afghan war throughout the same period, threefold.
In South America the problems have been far wider reaching. The region’s ideal case study, Colombia, is a living example of how economic prosperity must inevitably take a back seat to drug related crime. Home to Pablo Escobar and the US’s near sole source of cocaine in the 1980’s, Colombia was ravaged by a civil war between Left-wing guerrilla groups and right-wing paramilitaries. Drug cultivation was the overriding factor that kept large amounts of foreign direct investment from reaching Colombia’s poorest regions. In 2002, an offensive led by new President Alvaro Uribe transformed Colombia’s prospects with hard hitting aggression against drug traffickers and Guerilla terrorists and made the country what it is today, enjoying economic growth four times that of the EU. Read more of this post