The Salvadorian Public Security Council (CNSP) recently released a report that quantified violence, drug trafficking, and organized crime by placing a number on the amount Central American countries spend on security.
In an effort to curb violence, Central American governments spent some US$6.5 billion in 2006, according to the CNSP study, or nearly 7.7 percent of the sub-region’s GDP.
The highest spending rates are for Guatemala, with a bill of US$2.29 billion, followed by El Salvador with US$2.10 billion. Costa Rica and Nicaragua registered significantly less with US$ 791 million and US$529 million respectively.
When compared to the GDP of each country, these numbers represent a surprisingly high portion of GDP, with some 11 percent for El Salvador, with ten percent in Nicaragua, and 3.6 percent for Costa Rica.
Measured against this backdrop, international aid focused on increasing security seems woefully lacking. As part of Plan Merida, the US’ most recent anti-narco trafficking legislation, Central America may receive up to US$150 million in the next two years.
Yet compared to 2.29 billion spent in Guatemala on security in 2006 alone, the money slotted for Central America in the Merida Plan, if allowed to pass, will likely fall far short of making any real impact in the region.
El Salvador had one of the world's highest death rates at 150 per 100,000 in 1991 at the end of that country's civil war. Some 15 years later, in 2006, Salvador's CNSP registered a death rate of 67.8 per 100,000, still one of the region's highest death rates, measured at three times Mexico's death rate, where the drug trade ensures the death of over 2,500 annually.
How much money needs to be spent before Central American leaders realize they need to try another approach?
According to the CNSP study El Salvador spends some 11 percent of its GDP on security, yet spends only 2.7 percent on education. Something is not right.
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