Fueled by demand from the north, drug trafficking through Central American continues to wreak havoc on the local environment.
The illicit drug trade in Central America not only destroys lives by fueling violence and insecurity, but also leads to massive environmental destruction, with drug trafficking being linked to intensified levels of deforestation, according to an annual report from a United Nations monitoring organization.
The report released by the International Narcotics Control Board, INCB, on Thursday said that the trafficking and growing of cocaine, particularly within Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, is linked to deforestation.
The report said that the construction of clandestine roads for drug transportation and landing strips for aircraft had helped to intensify deforestation.
The illegal acquisition of public lands in forest regions known as “narco-estates,” was also seen as a large contributing factor to deforestation. After criminal groups have converted forest areas into agricultural areas under their control, it allows them to grow more illegal crops and extend into border regions where money can more easily be laundered.
The report mentioned last year’s Panama Papers corruption leak, whereby subsequent drug trafficking and organized crime operations “have brought to light the international networks existing in Central America and the Caribbean and the actual methods used to launder the proceeds of criminal activities, particularly drug trafficking.”
Although Central America and the Caribbean had high levels of illicit drug trafficking, the region as a whole has a drug use rate lower than other regions around the world, according to the report.
The report noted that increasing demand from North American opium drug markets had seen increases in production in Mexico and Central America. In South America, rising rates of synthetic drugs were also seen.
Commenting on the peace deal between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the INCB said that the peace deal along with its provisions for crop substitution programs are “expected to have a positive effect on the drug control situation in the country.”