malinowska6_PaulinaVallejo_womanchildhuggingboats Paulina Vallejo
English

How the US Drug War Victimizes Women in Latin America

As part of its expanded, brutal, and failed war on drugs, US authorities have detained hundreds of foreign fishermen in international waters. Those fishermen’s families – particularly the women – are left agonizing over what might have happened to their loved ones, and they are often pushed to the brink of destitution.

NEW YORK – It has been two years since Cecilia’s son, Carlos, set sail from the coast of Ecuador on an ordinary day’s fishing voyage. She has not heard from him since. At first, she feared that his fishing trawler had sunk or been attacked by pirates. But the fate Carlos turned out to have met was more surreal than that, and in a way, even more harrowing: deep in international waters, thousands of miles from the United States, he was detained by the US Coast Guard. He has been locked away in a New Jersey prison ever since.

Carlos, who faces an 11-year sentence, is one of hundreds of men ensnared in an expansion of America’s “war on drugs,” whereby US authorities now apprehend and detain foreign fishermen in international waters. Those fishermen’s families – particularly the women – are left agonizing over what might have happened to their loved ones, and they are often pushed to the brink of destitution.

Before Carlos was arrested, he and Cecilia lived in a modest house in Manta, a seaside Ecuadorian city with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. In a good week, a fisherman like Carlos might take home the equivalent of seven or eight dollars for his catch. But in recent years, even this meager income had begun to dwindle, as large industry vessels and tourist-chartered deep-sea fishing boats depleted once-healthy stocks of marlin and swordfish.

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