UNODC: Less drug trafficking often means more violence
A decline in drug trafficking volumes in Central America and the Caribbean may lead to more violence, says a September report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
When the drug trade declines or is interrupted, competition between groups intensifies and they use violence to dominate a smaller or new space.
In the last decade, Mexico's anti-smuggling efforts have made it more difficult to move product north and U.S. demand has fallen. As traffickers compete for a smaller market with more obstacles, the report (.pdf) says more violence has ensued.
Newer, more erratic traffickers who want to prove their willingness to use violence have replaced some experienced traffickers, the report adds.
Events unrelated to the drug trade can also trigger violence. A political coup or natural disaster can change traffickers' habits and put groups into new competition.
The report notes that El Salvador has a relatively low flow of cocaine but the highest sustained murder rate in Central America and the Caribbean. Meanwhile, compared to El Salvador, Costa Rica has 26 times the cocaine flow and one-sixth the 10-year murder rate.
In Nicaragua, the cocaine trade is 14 percent of gross domestic product, but it occurs mostly in remote areas and the murder rate has not risen with the cocaine trade.
Since changing circumstances drive violence more than drug trafficking itself, stakeholders need to prepare for a spike in violence if they make progress against the drug trade, the report says.
Plus, criminals might lean more on other kinds of income--like extortion, kidnapping and robbery--that can be more violent than drug trafficking.
- download the report, "Transnational Organized Crime in Central America and the Caribbean: A Threat Assessment" (.pdf)