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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Beatrice Rangel: The Economic Consequences of Peace and The Northern Triangle
Former Venezuela Presidential Chief of Staff Beatrice Rangel on what went wrong in US and UN policy that has caused the refugee crisis on the U.S. southern border.

By Beatrice E. Rangel

As I watch the unfolding tragedy on the U.S. Southern border, I cannot repress a nostalgic flashback to 1992 when the Peace Treaty for El Salvador was signed in Chapultepec, Mexico.

As customary, U.N. mediators and warring parties signed the treaties, shook hands and patted each other on the back. Then everyone went back to their businesses.

The U.N. envoy to face the Bosnian challenge, the friends of Central America to their daily routine and the Salvadorians were left alone to deal with a conflict that had pitted the impoverished rural population against the landowning families for almost half a century.

And however industrious, disciplined and forward thinking the Salvadorians are, the fact was and is now that they could not deal with the economic consequences of war by themselves without external aid.

The same can be ascertained in Honduras.

Guatemala represents a league of its own given that the country has been taken over by a conglomerate that represents the landowners, the drug mafias and the military.

Peace agreements for El Salvador and contra disengagement in Honduras were supposed to stand on three pillars.

First and foremost was responsibility for the barbarian acts of violence deployed throughout the conflict both by the state as well as the insurgent forces. This meant that impunity would not have a day. Responsibility for these crimes was to be ascertained by an independent international commission.

Second, while the Salvadorian State was to recover the monopoly over the right to wage war, its army was significantly reduced, the police rebuilt and enlarged, and the insurgents gave up their arms and integrated into civic life.

Third, the international community was to create a fund to support the reinsertion into civic life of both the soldiers left without a job as well as the disarmed guerrillas.

Needless to say, the first two pillars were built and are still standing in El Salvador as their development rested in the national jurisdiction.

The third, however, never came to fruition as there was a change of guard at the helm of the U.N. Secretary General Perez de Cuellar handed over the matter to Boutros Boutros Ghaii who was more concerned with the explosion in the Balkans than with a peace process that had culminated successfully.

Salvadorians, Hondurans, and Guatemalans were thus left in the hands of destiny to resolve their problems that with time became chronic.

These problems are institutional inadequacy to their resource endowment and lack of capacity to withstand a business that amasses the chunkiest margins of any economic activity: the drugs trade.

And as resources failed to materialize to reinvent the lives of youngsters who only knew how to wage war, they took it to the streets to form gangs that in time evolved into partners in drug and human trade.

27 years thereafter these gangs are part of a very sophisticated network of organized crime that crisscrosses the world and holds politics at ransom as it has taken hold of at least two nations in the hemisphere -- Venezuela and Bolivia -- as well as parts of Colombia and parts of Mexico.

Under such circumstances, violence is rampant and as violence mounts horrified parents flee to the U.S. to save their lives and that of their children. This explains the mounting exodus of incoming asylum seekers to the U.S. Southern border.

The answer of course is not be found in a wall but in how to retake the Initiative for the Americas crafted by the George H.W. Bush administration to bring prosperity to Latin American -- thereby vaccinating the region from the strain of organized crime.

Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.

For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.

You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.


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