Church workers say Latin America important to US foreign policy
The third presidential debate promised a foreign policy focus, but after participants paid scant attention to Latin America, church workers there spoke of the region’s importance to U.S. foreign policy.
“U.S foreign policy has a lot to do with Mexico” and Latin America, said Father Oscar Enrique, director of the Paso del Norte Human Rights Center in Ciudad Juarez. He listed trade — which is booming as companies bring back manufacturing from Asia to the Mexico-U.S. border region — as a top issue.
Father Enriquez also mentioned problems such as a flow of U.S. guns into Mexico and drug consumption in the United States, both of which feed Mexico’s cartel and organized crime violence.
A crackdown on organized crime and drug cartels, along with turf wars over trafficking routes to the United States, has claimed more than 50,000 lives in Mexico since 2006 — 10,000 of those in Ciudad Juarez, which borders El Paso, Texas.
“The United States has to be co-responsible for the situation in Mexico,” said Father Enriquez, who wants U.S. support for security projects in Latin America to be conditional on human rights being respected.
Neither President Barack Obama nor former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney mentioned the murderous situation in some Latin American countries, including Honduras, where the homicide rate is more than 80 per 100,000 residents. San Pedro Sula, Honduras, supplanted Ciudad Juarez as the most murderous city in the world.
“Honduras is seeing the drug war at its highest,” said Juan Sheenan, country director for Catholic Relief Services in Honduras, which has become a transit country for cocaine flowing northward out of South America.
“People don’t realize what it takes to send these drugs to the United States,” Sheenan said.
Making matters worse in Honduras: the political fallout of a 2009 coup, which has weakened the country’s political and security institutions and led to increased corruption and impunity.
The security situation has made it difficult for Catholic Relief Services to carry out projects in Honduras’ urban areas, Sheenan said. [More]