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Saving Central America

MEXICO CITY – Four Central American countries – Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua – are struggling, still burdened by the legacy of the last century’s wars. They are resilient yet incomplete democracies, challenged by poverty, violence, and corruption – and all but forgotten by the international community. But now there is reason to hope that these countries’ prospects could improve.

Nicaragua, it should be noted, is not quite in the same category as Central America’s other three. Like them, it suffered through a brutal and protracted civil war; unlike them, however, successive governments have built institutions capable of supporting a reasonable level of territorial control and domestic security.

By contrast Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras suffer levels of violence that are among the highest in the world, laying waste to cities and slums, bleeding younger generations, and driving away investment and tourism. The specifics vary across countries, but the results are the same.

In Honduras, local gangs work with international organized crime groups. Since 2005, with the help of Venezuelan Chávistas and Mexican capos, the country has served as a pipeline for illegal drugs, especially cocaine, from Venezuela to Mexico and the United States.