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Column 011011 Brewer Monday, January 10, 2011 Organized Crime Assault Threatens Central America By Jerry Brewer Unconventional threats in Central America continue to imperil, on the fast track, democratic legitimacy. Threats, along with those participating, which are not perpetrated under any national flag nor do they reflect unified and exclusively homegrown cadres. The organized crime insurgency throughout Latin America is a conglomerate of elements of drug traffickers, organized criminal syndicates, and youth gangs. The effects of this ruthless and violent crime insurgency have been measured graphically in body counts, as well as in demonstrating the abundance of weak government institutions. It now appears clear that lasting resolutions to this scourge of violence lie not only in many of the root causes, such as corruption and imbedded poverty, but also in forming transnational partnerships with neighboring nations, cooperative intelligence sharing across borders, and strong investigative alliances. There are those that don’t, or refuse, to recognize that this threat is a fluid epidemic that filters up through South America and all points north, and that it is not just conducive to any specific homeland. This transnational organized crime insurgency has dramatically expanded operational activities in virtually every nation of Central America. It is clearly a form of irregular warfare against government institutions, as these groups plan and do not hesitate to attack state institutions, fund candidates for public office, and bribe officials all the way up to the highest levels. Those who cannot be bribed are most often murdered and displayed graphically for affect. As the think tanks smolder in strategic thought, and politicians posture with plans that generally reflect partisan support, the obvious answer to the alarming violence and threats is that the majority of these national governments do not have the capacity to fight them. It is most often that the nations with the highest presence of crime organizations are the ones in which a strong role for the state is practically absent.

The institutions of thought that valiantly look for solutions, continue to be looking much further ahead to address root causes of poverty, lack of education and opportunity for youth, as well as establishing a community policing philosophy in the face of heavy gunfire by superior automatic weapons, torture, and murder. A case in point is the recent escalation of violence in Guatemala, where Mexican gunmen walking on the streets and in the malls openly carry pistols on their belts. They were described as wearing brand new clothes, and they drove “brand new trucks.” Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the hemisphere, with 52 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with 14 in Mexico and 5.4 in the US. It has been reported that 57.7 percent of the country's murders in 2010 happened in and around Guatemala City. Long term planning is in fact essential to any progressive nation preparing for the future. However, short term planning in addressing the issues of porous borders, weak institutions of policing readiness, prosecution, and incarceration are necessary for the current rule of law to prevail and serve not only as a deterrent, but a brick wall of enforcement efforts. Yet youth in particular, whether caught up in a life of poverty or not, can be easily led to join organized criminal groups such as Mexico's Los Zeta’s through recruiting efforts now going on all over Central America. The potential financial rewards can be far more lucrative than a regular job or career that would bring far less money for long hours of hard work. A popular saying over many decades was that “the U.S. border is paved with gold waiting to be picked.” In a sense, the voracious drug demand within the U.S. lays the gold out to be picked for whoever wishes to be a participant on the supply side. Gunmen continue to amass an ever growing death toll throughout Central America that is increasingly targeting innocents. Honduras has witnessed brazen attacks on passenger busses in which women and children have been shot. Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom recently told reporters that drug gangs were "invading" Central America to move contraband from Colombia to Mexico and the US. "These individuals were not just preparing to confront the security forces, they were preparing to take control of the country," he said. Los Zetas have in fact escalated their drug war by seizing control of parts of northern Guatemala. The power and wealth of Los Zetas alone is demonstrated by the recent seizure in Guatemala of small planes, as well as 150 weapons that included grenade launchers — much of

what began on the streets of Nuevo Laredo in 2005. Los Zetas continue to use violence, and they have threatened a “fullscale insurgency if the government did not back down” in its interdiction efforts. The plan for victory against these murdering insurgents must include neighboring nation collaboration and mutual assistance. The stability of governments within the northern triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras is at great risk. —————————— Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia. His website is located at www.cjiausa.org. TWITTER: cjiausa

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