As violence soars, so do voices of dissent against drug prohibition
Mar 17th 2012 | MEXICO CITY
LATIN AMERICA is rich in sought-after commodities, including narcotics. The coca leaf, from which cocaine is refined, is grown only in the foothills of the Andes. Mexico produces more heroin than anywhere but Afghanistan, as well as much cannabis. Latin American traffickers are even diversifying into synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine.
The illegality of this successful export business means that its multi-billion-dollar profits go to criminal gangs. Their battles for market control have a high cost: according to the UN, eight of the world's ten most violent countries are in Latin America or the Caribbean. Drugs are not the only business of organised crime, but they account for the bulk of the gangs' income and thus their firepower. Honduras, a strategic spot on the trafficking route, has the world's highest murder rate, about 80 times that of western Europe.