Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Between emigration and crime

Reflections of Fidel

Taken from CubaDebate

LATIN Americans are not innate criminals and neither did they invent drugs.

The Aztecs, Mayas and other pre-Columbian peoples of Mexico and Central America, for example, were excellent agriculturalists and knew nothing about coca cultivation.

The Quechuas and Aymaras were capable of producing nutritive foods on perfect terraces which followed the curves of the mountain levels. On altiplanos sometimes in excess of 3-4,000 meters high, they cultivated quinoa, a cereal rich in protein, and potatoes.

They also knew and cultivated the coca plant, the leaves of which they have chewed since time immemorial in order to alleviate the rigor of the heights. It was a millennial custom practiced by peoples with products such as coffee, tobacco, liquor and others.

Coca came originally from the steep mountain slopes of the Amazonian Andes. Their inhabitants knew it long before the Inca empire whose territory, in its maximum splendor, extended over the current territory of southern Colombia, all of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, eastern Chile and northeastern Argentina; close to two million square kilometers.

The consumption of coca leaves became a privilege of the Inca emperors and the nobility in religious ceremonies.

When the empire disappeared after the Spanish invasion, the new masters encouraged the traditional habit of chewing coca leaves in order to extend the working days of the indigenous labor force, a right that lasted until the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs prohibited the use of coca leaves, except for medical or scientific purposes.

Almost all countries signed it. Barely any health related issue was discussed. The trafficking of cocaine had not yet reached its current enormous magnitude. Extremely serious problems have been created in the years that have passed since, which demand profound analyses.

On the thorny issue of the relationship between drugs and organized crime the UN itself delicately affirms that Latin America is inefficient in combating crime.

Information published by distinct institutions is varied, given that the matter is a sensitive one. The data are sometimes so complex and varied that they can lead to confusion. However, there is not the slightest doubt that the problem is rapidly worsening.

Almost six week ago, on February 11, 2011, a report published in Mexico City by that country’s Citizens’ Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice, provided interesting data on the 50 most violent cities in the world, on the basis of homicides committed in 2010. It confirms that Mexico furnishes 25% of them. For the third consecutive year No. 1 falls to Juarez, on the border with the United States.

It goes on to say that, "… in that year the rate of criminal homicides in Juarez was 35% higher than that of Kandahar, Afghanistan – No. 2 in the ranking – and 941% higher than that of Baghdad…"; in other words, almost 10 times that of the Iraqi capital, a city at No. 50 on the list.

It almost immediately adds that the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras lies in third place with 125 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants; only exceeded by Juarez, in Mexico, with 229; and Kandahar in Afghanistan, with 169.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is in sixth place, with 109 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants.

Thus, it can be observed that Honduras, with the yankee Palmerola airbase, where a coup d’état took place during Obama’s presidency, has two cities among the six in which the most homicides in the world take place. The rate in Guatemala City stands at 106.

According to the abovementioned report, the Colombian city of Medellín, with 87.42 likewise figures among the most violent in the Americas and the world.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech in El Salvador and his subsequent press conference, obliged me to publish these lines on the issue.

In my March 21 Reflection I criticized his lack of ethics for not even mentioning in Chile the name of Salvador Allende, a symbol of dignity and courage for the world, who died as the consequence of a coup d’état promoted by a president of the United States.

As I knew that the following day he was to visit El Salvador, a Central American country symbolic of the struggles of the peoples of Our America, which has suffered the most as a result of U.S. policy in our hemisphere, I said, "There he will have to invent a lot, because in that sister Central American nation the weapons and advisors that it received from his country were responsible for much bloodshed."

I wished him bon voyage and "a little more good sense." I have to admit that, on his lengthy tour, he was a little bit more careful during the final stretch.

Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero was a man admired by all Latin Americans, believers or non-believers, as were the Jesuit priests cowardly assassinated by the henchmen that the United States trained, backed and armed to the teeth. In El Salvador, the FMLN, a militant left-wing organization, waged one of the most heroic struggles on our continent.

The Salvadorian people gave the victory to the Party which emerged from the heart of those glorious combatants, whose profound history remains to be constructed.

What is urgent is to confront the dramatic dilemma being experienced by El Salvador, just like Mexico, the rest of Central America and South America.

Obama himself stated that approximately two million Salvadorians live in the United States, equivalent to 30% of the country’s population. The brutal repression unleashed on patriots and the systematic plunder of El Salvador imposed by the United States obliged hundreds of thousands of Salvadorians to emigrate to that territory.

What is new is that the desperate situation of Central Americans has been compounded by the immense power of terrorist gangs, sophisticated weapons and the demand for drugs, created by the U.S. market.

In his brief remarks preceding those of the visitor, the President of El Salvador stated textually, "I insisted to him that the issue of organized crime, drug trafficking, citizen insecurity is not an issue that solely concerns El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua, or even Mexico or Colombia; it is an issue which concerns us as a region, and in that context we are working on building a regional strategy, via the CARFI Initiative."

"…I insisted to him that this is an issue that cannot be approached solely from the perspective of pursuing crime by strengthening our police and armies, but also by emphasizing crime prevention policies and therefore, the best weapon for combating crime in itself, in the region, is by investing in social policies."

In his response, the U.S. leader said, "President Funes is committed to creating more economic opportunities here in El Salvador so that people don’t feel like they have to head north to provide for their families."

"I know this is especially important to the some 2 million Salvadoran people who are living and working in the United States."

"…I updated the President on the new consumer protections that I signed into law, which give people more information and make sure their remittances actually reach their loved ones back home.

"Today, we’re also launching a new effort to confront the narco-traffickers and gangs that have caused so much violence in all of our countries, and especially here in Central America. "

"…we’ll focus $200 million to support efforts here in the region, including addressing, as President Funes indicated, the social and economic forces that drive young people towards criminality. We’ll help strengthen courts, civil society groups and institutions that uphold the rule of law."

I do not need any more words to express the essence of a painfully sad situation.

The reality is that many young Central Americans have been led by imperialism to cross an inflexible and constantly more impassable border, or to provide services to the millionaire drug trafficking gangs.

Would it not be more just – I wonder – to have an Adjustment Act for all Latin Americans, like the one invented almost 50 years ago now to punish Cuba? Will the number of persons who die crossing the U.S. border and the tens of thousands who are dying every year in the nations to which you are offering an "Alliance of Equals" continue to grow ad infinitum?

Fidel Castro Ruz

March 25, 2011

8:46 p.m.

Translated by Granma International