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Drug trafficking and femicide in Latin America

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Summary of story from hondurasweekly, October 29, 2011

While men have dominated drug trafficking, women have played an increasing role in the business since the 1920s.

Drug smuggling yields profits of between US$18 billion and US$35 billion a year. The high financial rewards attract a lot of women, including many single or poor mothers. Others are drawn to the excitement, mystery and power.

The death of a boyfriend or husband by a rival cartel prompts other, often uneducated, women to take over as breadwinner.

Women are also recruited because they are less likely to be associated with the business. Traffickers often approach beauty contestants, for example, to act as drug mules. And some women are sent on missions unaware that they are carrying drugs.

But the danger is not just in “swallowers” overdosing on drugs if a packet breaks internally.

Femicide has become a method of retaliation against government crackdowns on drug trafficking, and as a threat to rival gangs.

In May 2011, a woman’s decapitated head was found in a phone box, with a message warning the government to end policies aimed at stopping criminal activity.

Femicide also impacts on the family, leaving children to grow up in an unstable environment. The increase in violence towards women creates an image that it is acceptable.

In many Mexican states the number of murdered women tripled between 2005 and 2009, from 3.7 to 11.1 per 100,000.

Women are often affected indirectly through association with male smugglers, coming under suspicion from the authorities or having their house raided.

This was the situation for Veronica Vasquez who is serving five years in prison after her husband’s cocaine was found during a house raid.

Government crackdowns on drug cartels also indirectly affect women because of the increase in alternatives like prostitution and sex trafficking.

Since 2007, there has been a 400 percent increase in women jailed in Mexico for activity linked to organised crime.

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