COVID-19’s economic devastation will likely make Mexico and the Northern Triangle an even more fertile ground for drug cartels and gangs. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2021 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to discourage iron fist policies and instead help design local security strategies.
Originally published in War On The Rocks
In his introduction to this month’s CrisisWatch, Interim President Richard Atwood reflects on the pandemic’s impact one year after Crisis Group published its first report on COVID-19 and conflict.
As the coronavirus rages in Mexico and the northerly Central American countries, criminal outfits have adapted, often enlarging their turf. To fight organised crime more effectively, governments should combine policing with programs to aid the vulnerable and create attractive alternatives to illegal economic activity.
The murder rate in El Salvador, once the world’s highest, is falling fast. President Nayib Bukele attributes the good news to his harsh anti-gang crackdown, but other factors are likely also salient. The government should explore policing and socio-economic reforms to calm the country’s streets.
Despite U.S. restrictions on Central American migration, Hondurans are fleeing north in record numbers as the country struggles with polarised government, corruption, poverty and violence. With outside help, Tegucigalpa should revisit its heavy-handed security policies and enact judicial and electoral reforms to avert future upheaval.
President Daniel Ortega’s government has released almost all political prisoners held since Nicaragua’s April 2018 uprising. It should stay this course, honouring its other commitments to the opposition in national dialogue. International actors should promise consequences if the government drags its feet.
Public resentment is high in Nicaragua after street protests in April were crushed in a brutal government crackdown. To prevent further unrest, President Ortega should implement agreed electoral reforms while international actors maintain diplomatic pressure to create conditions for dialogue.
Next year, President Jimmy Morales vows he will end the mandate of the UN-backed Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. Hugely popular, the commission has helped reduce the country’s terrible murder rate. To keep it going, its supporters should refocus on fighting the worst violent crime.
The reduction of homicides [in El Salvador] seemed not to be due to government security strategy, but rather a gang decision.
What we are seeing is a quiet stifling of opposition [in Nicaragua].
A troubling aspect of Trump’s move to sever aid for Central America isn't its limited economic impact & counter-productive effects. It's the contradiction with long-standing U.S cooperation in the region.
The crux of the recent crisis at the [U.S.-Mexico] border is that there are fewer male migrants in their 20s or 30s making the crossing, and many more families, newborns, children, and pregnant women escaping life-or-death situations as much as poverty.
Un pacto de Estado por la paz en El Salvador [entre el Partido FMLN y Arena que] suponga un compromiso con los cinco ejes del Plan El Salvador Seguro [es un paso indispensable].
Guatemala struggles to adhere to the rule of law. Criminal actors have ways of influencing government decisions that do not produce good conditions for investment or for economic activity in general.
Online Event to discuss International Crisis Group's report on the drop in homicide rates in El Salvador and the security policies of President Nayib Bukele.
The murder rate in El Salvador, once the world’s highest, is falling fast. President Nayib Bukele attributes the good news to his harsh anti-gang crackdown, but other factors are likely also salient. The government should explore policing and socio-economic reforms to calm the country’s streets. These interviews were recorded in San Salvador, capital of El Salvador, in December 2019. During our field research we met with representatives from civil society, ex-gang members, politicians and government officials.