New York - A war is under way in Central America, one fuelled by drug trafficking. One statistic alone can suffice to give an idea of the scope of this emergency: Honduras is the country that has the world's highest percentage of homicides. Italy is directly interested in stopping this phenomenon, since our organized crime world exploits it to reap profits. Thus, Italy is prepared to cooperate fully, sharing its experience with countries plagued with the problem. It will begin by training Central American police officers at Italy's Revenue Police Academy. The initiative is to be announced Wednesday by Justice Minister Paola Severino during a conference at the United Nations, which will also be attended by National Anti-Mafia Public Prosecutor Pietro Grasso.
The ongoing war in Central America is one of the world's underlying phenomena whose seriousness is directly proportional to the degree to which it is ignored. The experts are of course well aware of the phenomenon, but the media mention it all too rarely. This is way the general public is in the dark. Until, of course, it discovers, via a front-page New York Times article, that the Pentagon is transferring the troops it is withdrawing from Iraq to Honduras. Naturally, not in the same numbers, but with the same men, those that is who are specialized in covert operations. The aim is to set up small forward bases in the areas where the drug traffickers are active, and to help the local troops that have to combat them. The issue also involves countries like Italy, whose law enforcement personnel has long been committed to countering the drug traffic that often lands up on our coasts.
The Central American problem is both geographical and political. In geographic terms, Honduras lies at the very crossroads between the main drug producing countries, such as Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia, and the main drug consumer: the United States. In political terms, the former are small countries, with scant resources, and in some cases unstable and corrupt. All this has sparked an emergency that in recent years has dramatically worsened. A study recently published by the Council on Foreign Relations, titled "Countering Criminal Violence in Central America," claims that every year in Honduras the homicide ration is 82 in every 100,000 persons, 66 in Salvador, and 41 in Guatemala. In comparison, there are only 5 in the United States. This violence goes to help ferry the drugs that originate in South America, and which take two directions: the United States and Western Africa. From Africa the drugs reach Europe, via Spain, but also involving Italy, with the help of the mafia, camorra, and the 'ndrangheta.
In order to address the problem, the United States often resorts to its military, even if results have not been all that lustrous. In fact, several South American have begun to call for the legalization of drug use. Perhaps this amounts merely to a provocation, but nevertheless the emergency continues. Wednesday's UN conference will aim to find some common ground in terms of solutions, focusing especially on the civil aspects of the struggle, and therefore on the international conventions of Vienna, Palermo, and Merida. Another approach will be that of direct assistance, geared to beefing up law enforcement agencies and the magistracy in SICA [Central American Integration System] countries: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Panama, and the Dominican Republic.
Italy, among other things, is prepared to host at the Revenue Police Academy approximately 20 trainers from the SICA countries, and to acquaint them with asset and finance investigative techniques geared to countering drug trafficking. The aim however is to spark a general mobilization of all donor countries, getting them to acknowledge the emergency, and commit themselves to solving it.