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Special 082508 CA

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Price of Crime and Violence in Central America

By Southern Pulse Network Staff

The Salvadorian Public Security Council (CNSP) recently released a report that quantified violence, drug trafficking, and organized crime by placing a number on the amount Central American countries spend on security.

In an effort to curb violence, Central American governments spent some US$6.5 billion in 2006, according to the CNSP study, or nearly 7.7% of the sub-region’s GDP.

The highest spending rates are for Guatemala, with a bill of US$2.29 billion, followed by El Salvador with US$2.10 billion. Costa Rica and Nicaragua registered significantly less with US$ 791 million and US$529 million respectively.

When compared to the GDP of each country, these numbers represent a surprisingly high portion of GDP, with some 11% for El Salvador, with 10% in Nicaragua, and 3.6% for Costa Rica.

Measured against this backdrop, international aid focused on increasing security seems woefully lacking. As part of Plan Merida, the United States’ most recent anti-narcotrafficking legislation, Central America may receive up to US$150 million in the next two years.

Yet compared to US$2.29 billion spent in Guatemala on security in 2006 alone, the money slotted for Central America in the Merida Plan, if allowed to pass, will likely fall far short of making any real impact in the region.

El Salvador had one of the world's highest death rates at 150 per 100,000 in 1991 at the end of that country's civil war. Some 15 years later, in 2006, Salvador's CNSP registered a death rate of 67.8 per 100,000, still one of the region's highest death rates, measured at three times Mexico's death rate, where the drug trade ensures the death of over 2,500 annually.

How much money needs to be spent before Central American leaders realize they need to try another approach?

According to the CNSP study El Salvador spends some 11% of its GDP on security, yet spends only 2.7% on education.

Something is not right.


This article was originally published by Southern Pulse Network, a network of individuals who have extended experience in the realms of international affairs, specifically in politics, security, and energy.  The regional focus will initially be Latin America.  Reprinted with authorization from Southern Pulse Network.