CoDev Exec Director Testifies to Citizenship and Immigration Committee
In Mexico—and I think you’ve probably heard these statistics before—large numbers of displacement and violence coincided with the launching of the drug war in 2006, with a total of some 250,000 people believed to have been killed between the launching of the war and last year, while another 37,000 people have been forcibly disappeared.
In Colombia and Mexico, it’s not uncommon for local government and security forces to act in collusion with organized crime, but it’s in the Central American countries, in particular Guatemala and Honduras, where these networks have also deeply penetrated the national state. Organized crime operates on a number of levels in Honduras and Guatemala, ranging up from the street gangs that you’ve heard about in earlier testimonies, such as the Mara 18 and the Salvatruchas, who control both urban neighbourhoods and also a number of rural areas in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, often serving as the foot soldiers for more sophisticated criminal networks involved with drug trafficking, but also involved with graft in a large scale at the state level, and sometimes providing security to transnational corporations operating in these countries.
I’m not going to go in depth on statistics, but some rather stark examples have come up recently with the arrest last week of the brother of the Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández on cocaine smuggling charges, and then just last year Fabio Lobo, the son of the former president, Porfirio Lobo, was sentenced to 24 years after being convicted in U.S. courts on similar charges. In both of these cases, testimony indicates that the Honduran presidents were aware of these activities and, at the very least, did nothing.
However, the Honduran government’s involvement in organized crime goes beyond links to drug smuggling. De facto President Juan Orlando Hernández, in his previous term, was forced to admit that his party looted the national public health and social security system to fund his 2013 electoral campaign.
We find similar cases in neighbouring Guatemala. In 2015, the president, vice-president and most of his cabinet were forced to resign and were indicted on corruption charges after investigations by the United Nations’ international commission against impunity, CICIG, revealed a vast organized crime network within the Guatemalan state.
The president that succeeded him, current president Jimmy Morales, is now also under investigation. In recent times, though, his administration has taken steps to block the effective work of the UN body by preventing its director from entering the country.
The penetration of organized crime into government and state institutions takes place in the context of economic and ecological shifts in the region that are generating significant internal displacement. There are many different factors linked to that, which I mentioned previously.
In the Colombian case, the influx of low-priced basic grains that followed the signing of free trade agreements with North America and Europe in the past 25 years has reduced local food production and made it much more difficult for rural families to earn a living growing basic foods. This is combined with new unpredictability related to climate change, and pressure on farming communities from the expanding agro-industrial frontier—primarily sugar cane and African palm, which is, ironically, often used for the creation of biofuels.
These serve to drive the farmers from the land, either to marginalized communities in surrounding urban areas, or to take the long and dangerous migrant trek.
I know I’m running out of time already—
Click here for the full transcript and questions