By Dialogo February 20, 2009 The level of violence related to drug trafficking and drug abuse has continued to rise in Latin America, despite all government efforts to combat it, According to an annual report published in Vienna by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), no countries in the region are free of drug problems, even though there are prominent differences related to production, commerce, and consumption. In this report, the Andean countries of Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru are still considered the main producers of coca crops and cocaine, which is sold mainly to the United States and Europe by land, air, and sea routes through Central America, and increasingly through Africa. The report states that, in the three Latin American countries, the total area used for illegal coca crops rose 16%, up to 181,600 hectares, in comparison to 2007. Only in Colombia, which is still the main cocaine supplier, the area used for illegal crops reached 99,000 hectares, up 27% from 2006. The INCB, an autonomous entity of the UN, emphasizes in this document the increasing professionalization of South America’s drug trafficking networks. These networks have established a system of cooperation between some operations, which “employ specialists” as chemists, ship captains, pilots, and financial analysts for the diverse activities that their criminal business requires. In Central American countries, which mainly serve as drug routes from south to north, the principal concern is the involvement of criminal organizations called “maras” or street gangs. “About 5,000 gangs from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras work in Mexico,” composed of young people recruited by drug dealers based in Mexico, the report states. The INCB also warns that “the increase in deportations from the United States during the last three years has forced many gang members to return to their countries.” Consequently, 75% of Central American gangs maintain relations with other criminal groups in the United States, which strengthens international criminal associations. “Corruption, a judicial system short on resources, a lack of public trust, and weak acts of the law” are factors that still hinder the struggle against drugs in the countries of this region. On the other hand, in Mexico “drug cartels have responded with unprecedented violence” to the authorities’ efforts in combating them, and the number of police officers assassinated has doubled in 2007 and 2008. As regards consumption, the first comparative study on the use of illegal drugs in six countries in South America named Argentina as the main cocaine consumer, followed by Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. Argentina also has the highest number of young consumers, since 25% of them are under 16 years old. Another concern is that posed by “date rape drugs,” substances that criminals give their victims to enable them to commit various offences.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Safe Center LI, which is located at 15 Grumman Road, Bethpage, was officially unveiled Tuesday.Two like-minded nonprofit agencies that help victims of different types of abuse officially merged Tuesday into The Safe Center LI, a facility where victims of sexual or domestic violence can seek assistance.After about a decade of discussions, the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and The Coalition Against Child Abuse & Neglect—two agencies that have been around for more than three decades each—combined their resources to create a collaborative program that transforms how they care for victims.“Co-locating would give us the opportunity to coordinate services to families,” said Sandy Oliva, co-executive director of Safe Center LI, who previously served as the executive director of the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The new venture is a “truly mission-driven endeavor,” she said.Safe Center LI’s programs include child advocacy, a 24/7 multilingual hotline, legal counseling, mental health, rape and sexual assault services, emergency and transitional housing, group work services and education outreach.Joining nonprofit officials in announcing the merger was Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, whose wife, Linda, has advocated for the group in the past, and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, whose office works closely with the group when victims of such crimes turn to the agency for help.“It’s not just about punishing the bad guys and holding them accountable,” Rice said, noting that the collaboration between the two groups provides critical support that her office, and many other governmental organizations cannot provide. “You cannot overstate the significance of a facility like this.”When Rice was first elected in 2005, victims were “shuttled from building to building,” which was “traumatizing to those very vulnerable people,” she said.Safe Center LI officials also touted the work of the Nassau County Police Department, whose Special Victim Squad detectives are housed at the facility. The unit has nine detectives and two supervisors that investigate sexual assault and related cases. An Assistant District Attorney from Rice’s office is also often on site.With the merger official, Safe Center LI will soon begin to focus on sex trafficking and helping the county monitor sex offenders, said Cynthia Scott, co-director of Safe Center LI, and the former executive director of the Coalition Against Child Abuse & Neglect.The overall goal is to be a safe haven to all people, no matter race, gender or age, officials said.Though it’s located in Nassau, the group’s directors said Suffolk County residents are welcome to call the hotline and seek out help, but they may be better off reaching out to similar agencies in Suffolk, especially if a crime has been committed.One such group, the Suffolk County Child Advocacy Center at The Mary & Pat Bagnato Place for Kids, similarly aids families and victims of abuse on eastern Long Island.Safe Center LI is located at 15 Grumman Road, Bethpage, NY.