To Assess the violence in the Northern Triangle and suggest measures to establish stability in the region.INTRODUCTIONThe Northern Triangle of Central America consisting of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is referred to as the most violent region of the world.
Due to the increase in violence perpetrated by armed groups such as gangs, organised criminals and drug traffickers, the Northern Triangle’s crime rates have skyrocketed by nearly 133% in the past ten years making it one of the most unsafe places on the planet.Extortion, threats, kidnapping, rape, homicide and forced recruitment of minors are part of everyday life along with widespread violence which has consequently led to a crisis on a scale that is unprecedented for areas not at war.These three countries are on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, with the situation likely to deteriorate in coming months. The safety of the people who live there is constantly under threat along with their ability to enjoy other basic human rights such as the right to freedom of movement and education.BACKGROUNDHISTORICAL BACKGROUNDEL SALVADOR: With disparities in the distribution of land, the contested results of the 1972 election in El Salvador fuelled revolutionary movements. The Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) consolidated into a guerrilla force fighting a civil war that left more than 75,000 dead. Peace Accords were signed in 1992, but not before hundreds of thousands had left to neighbouring countries.
HONDURASFollowing a military coup against the democratically elected president, Ramón Villeda, in 1963, military regimes prevailed until the approval of a new constitution in 1982. The country was used as a base for U.S. support for fighting the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua in the 1980s, while the government cracked down internally on left-wing activists. During the early 1990s, economic adjustment policies raised poverty and great socio-economic divides spurring migrant flows north from Honduras.GUATEMALAIn Guatemala, rebels took up arms against the military regimes that followed the U.S.-backed coup in 1954 against democratically elected President Jacobo Árbenz.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, scorched-earth policies produced genocidal levels of violence in predominantly indigenous rural areas, while repression assailed urban civil society. By the signing of Peace Accords in 1996, the conflict had left 200,000 dead and displaced 40,000 beyond the country’s borders, mainly into Mexico, accompanied by a growing flow of economic migrants to the U.S.
CURRENT CAUSES:ORGANISED CRIME RINGSCentral America is one of the main shipment routes for drugs entering into the United States. Changes in smuggling routes due to Mexico’s ‘war on drugs’ since 2006 has disturbed the power balance among drug trafficking groups in the Northern Triangle and increased the number, range, and use of weapons thus resulting in a sudden upheaval in crime rates.Strong gang presence in communities often results in competition for territorial and economic control through extortion, kidnapping and the retail sale of illegal drugs. Threats of violence and sexual assault are often tools of neighborhood control, and gang rivalries and revenge killings are commonplace.Rival factions like the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (M18) run extortion rackets and assassins for hire, and recruit heavily from poorer neighbourhoods and shanty-towns throughout the region.INCAPABLE AND CORRUPT GOVERNMENT AND LAW ENFORCEMENTDespite warnings, governments in the region have been unable to prevent displacement or systematically respond to the immediate needs of families forced to flee their homes.
Despite nascent public policies there are no legal frameworks that specifically promote protection and assistance for displaced people. High levels of distrust, especially in the police forces and the army, mean that families generally do not look to institutional protection when they need help. The very institutions set up to protect them have failed them.Due to weak law enforcement institutions, elevated levels of corruption, and penetration of the state by criminal groups means impunity for crime is extraordinarily high, and disincentives to criminal activity are almost non-existent. Public confidence in law enforcement is low and crime often goes unreported.
Law enforcement in itself is viewed in a harsh light in these countries and most civilians in the region tend to treat the police and the gangs with the same level of fear.As many as 95 percent of crimes go unpunished in some areas, and the public has little trust in the police and security forces. (The police and military were accused of widespread human rights abuses during El Salvador’s and Guatemala’s civil wars.) POVERTY AND EXTORTIONPoverty along with a corrupt law enforcement has lead to the rapid growth of gang violence in these countries leaving the people both unprotected and powerless against their violent environment.
Salvadorans and Hondurans pay an estimated $390 million, $200 million, and $61 million, respectively, in annual extortion fees.Across the Northern Triangle, small business owners, transport workers, self-employed people and even households are subjected to gang-led protection rackets. Some 79% of registered small businesses in Honduras and 80%of the country’s informal traders report they have been extorted at least once.POLICIES OF THE UNITED STATESThe demand for cocaine in the US and other drugs produced in Latin America is among the highest in the world, and U.S.
and Mexican efforts to interdict drug trafficking in the Caribbean and Mexico has contributed to the trade’s relocation to Central America.Furthermore, the policy of deporting large numbers of young Central Americans in the 1990s and 2000s, many of them already gang members in the United States, helped transfer the problem of violent street gangs from the United States to Central America’s northern triangle.Trafficking of firearms, especially from the United States, has also contributed to the lethality and morbidity of crime. Efforts to slow firearms trafficking from the United States have encountered many domestic and political barriers and continues largely unchecked.
EFFECT: MIGRATION AND INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLEWith few options left, many flee the region completely. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that at least 400,000 migrants try to reach the United States from Central America or Mexico every year.This movement of people is closely linked to widespread violence. To avoid detection, families are forced to pay smugglers, corrupt officials and kidnappers, and are using more dangerous, risky and isolated routes through Mexico.In 2015, the latest year for which data is available, as many as 3.4 million people born in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras were living in the United States, more than double the estimated 1.5 million people in 2000.
About 55 percent of them were undocumented.VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMENDue to the extreme violence and instability of environment it’s no surprise that the countries in the Northern Triangle have been ranked as the most dangerous countries in the world for women with their female homicide rates topping the list.Of the women who managed to find asylum in other countries nearly two-thirds of the women said threats and attacks by armed criminal gangs, including rape, killings, forced recruitment of their children and extortion payments, were among the main reasons why they left their home countries. THE CURRENT SITUATION AND ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENTGUATEMALA A distinct approach to gang violence is being attempted in Guatemala, where the attorney general’s office said it is committed to ending law enforcement strategies based on destruction of the enemy. It created a specialised office to combat extortions with separate units dedicated to the prevalent MS-13 and the B-18 gangs. A hotline to report extortions is permanently available and provides support to victims, while a smartphone app is freely downloadable to prevent extortions. The app uses and updates the attorney general office’s database of phone numbers detected as belonging to extortion racketeers, and can record calls and save the numbers for later criminal investigations. Three big hits against extortion rackets were carried out in Guatemala in 2016, producing 225 captures in total.
The joint police and judicial operations “Rescue of the South”, “Rescuing Guatemala”, and “Guatemala is Ours” were based on investigations carried out over several months.EL SALVADOR Formation of “social-cleansing” death squads solely created to eliminate gang members. The crime rate has indeed seen a drop from 103 to 81 in a span of the year and the governments “extraordinary measures”, including tougher terms of incarceration seems to be a step forward.REACTION FROM THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITYCARSIThe Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) was started by the United States is one of the key programs in place that was funded by the Obama administration. It’s objectives included:1. Create safe streets for the citizens in the region.
2. Disrupt the movement of criminals and contraband within and between the nations of Central America.3. Support the development of strong, capable and accountable Central American governments.4. Re-establish effective state presence and security in communities at risk.5. Foster enhanced levels of security and rule of law coordination and cooperation between the nations of the region.
The effect of this program is for the most part vague and unclear for nothing much seems to have changed for the people living there. 2. COUNTRIES GRANTING ASYLUMThe extreme humanitarian issues surrounding the violence in the Northern Triangle has prompted countries such as Australia, Mexico and previously the United States amongst many other countries to take special notice of the plight of the fleeing Central Americans and grant them asylum. PREVIOUS ACTION TAKEN BY THE UNITED NATIONSTHE SAN JOSE STATEMENT(August 2016)The governments of Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and the United States acknowledged the need for stronger protection of asylum seekers, refugees and internally displaced people in the region and vowed to work together to achieve stability in the region.The UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk stated that it was a visible and significant demonstration of the willingness of countries from the region to work together to address the plight of refugees, internally displaced persons and others in need of protection, in a spirit of solidarity and within a collaborative responsibility sharing framework.
In January 2017, a six-month mediation mission of the UN Department of Political Affairs, led by Mexican diplomat Benito Andión, was unveiled, with the aim of finding common ground between El Salvador’s two main political parties on an unspecified range of issues.A regional meeting, hosted by the Government of Honduras, which was co-chaired by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and by the OAS, with the sponsorship of the General Secretariat of the Central American Integration System (SG-SICA), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the UN system was held in October 2017 to further discuss the issues plaguing the people of the Northern Triangle.In the political declaration adopted in San Pedro Sula, the participants agreed on a number of responses, including the improvement of reception conditions; strengthening asylum systems; creating opportunities for self-reliance and local integration of refugees; as well as supporting the resilience of host communities and communities at risk.THE MAIN BARRIERS TOWARDS A SOLUTIONTHE DEEP ROOTED CORRUPTION IN THE GOVERNMENT AND FEAR AMONGST THE PEOPLEDue to prevailing corruption and civil wars the faith of the people in the government is practically non existent thus leading the civilians to believe that they are utterly alone in fighting the war against violence. An environment with high tension, apprehension and a mistrust in the authorities makes the task all the more difficult.THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S POLICIESThe President of the United States recently decided to end the humanitarian program, known as Temporary Protected Status which granted nearly 200,000 El Salvadorian refugees the right to legally stay and take up a job in the US.
In its absence nearly all Central American refugees will be asked to deport most of whom have been living in the US for nearly 20 years and are married to US citizens.Mass deportations of dangerous criminals and gang members from the US in order to put an end to overflowing prison cells has only lead to increasing the danger in the countries of the Northern Triangle.Strengthening the border wall and cracking down on illegal migrants leave most civilians trapped with no escape from the violence prevailing in their country. QUESTIONS THE RESOLUTION MUST ANSWER What can be done to reduce the violence caused by organised crime in the Northern Triangle?How to close the channels of drug trafficking in Central America entirely?How should the government of these countries strive towards winning back the trust of it’s people and weeding out corruption from it’s ranks?How to raise REFERENCEShttps://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/other_situations_of_violence_in_the_northern_triangle_of_central_america_executive_summary_may_2014.pdfhttps://odihpn.org/magazine/humanitarian-response-central-americas-fragile-cities/https://odihpn.org/magazine/central-america-at-the-tipping-point/https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/crime-and-violence-central-americas-northern-triangle-how-us-policy-responses-arehttps://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/central-america/62-mafia-poor-gang-violence-and-extortion-central-americahttp://reporting.unhcr.org/sites/default/files/Protection%20and%20Solutions%20Strategy%20for%20the%20Northern%20Triangle%20of%20Central%20America%202016-2018.pdfhttp://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2017/10/59f353554/north-central-american-countries-pledge-support-comprehensive-regional.htmlhttp://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2016/8/57a309e34/central-north-american-states-vow-concerted-action-refugees-ahead-september.html