Member of Parliament George Pantophlet just returned from a two day meeting of Parlatino which was held in Central America in El Salvador. Parlatino consists of Members of Parliament of Latin American countries and the Caribbean.
The topics discussed was, money laundering, extortion, alcoholism, security and trafficking in narcotics. Besides host country El Salvador, countries present were St. Maarten, Aruba, Curacao, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay just to name a few. On the matter of money laundering, it was explained that money laundering has a negative effect on a country’s economy as government’s loose large amounts of revenue due to unpaid taxes. It was discussed that some of the avenues used for this practice are Financial Services, casinos, Furniture establishments and so on. There are countries who want to control the money not the laundering. It is a matter of reporting. The U.S. wants to put or already has registration in place to see the source of the money or where it started. Legislation will be put in place to force business to say where the funds originated. Interesting is that the U.S. has the least reporting on money laundering in comparison with many Latin American countries. What has to be looked at is how to inform countries whose merchants send hundreds of millions of dollars overseas to avoid paying tax. Another issue that was discussed is alcoholism. During the discussion cigarettes were also brought into the equation. It was revealed or discovered that although taxes were increased on these commodities sales continue to increase. It was suggested to use the profits to build rehabilitation centers for persons addicted to the substance. What was also debated was the issue of the trafficking in narcotics which is an extremely lethal phenomenon. One of the representatives of Mexico expressed that of the 29000 weapons used by drug dealers in their country, 70% is bought in the U.S. Furthermore in Mexico some 40.000 persons have lost their lives in the last 5 years which are drug related. It has also reached the point where drug dealers want to take over the government. The cartels are well organized and have access to the latest technology and billions of dollars. With some of these funds they build schools, social centers, sporting facilities and so on. What compounds the problem is that because of this these cartels are protected by many in the communities, while there are those who are afraid to report what they know for fear of serious repercussions. These traffickers in narcotics are so powerful that in many cases they the legislators, Justice and Police’s backs are against the wall. It was also disclosed that there are some 40 million drug users in the U.S. alone and although members of Parlatino can come up with laws implementing them will be extremely difficult. A stumbling block or hindrance is that consideration has to be given to the sovereignty of these countries. There are national governments who don’t have to comply with these laws. It will be up to the members of Parliament of these countries who form part of Parlatino to go back and table these on the floor of parliament of their respective countries. We have to look at meeting the public and institutions, unify criteria and norms to help everyone. The interchanging of information, what the law can contain, integrating of the financial system and importantly protecting those who are willing to report. We also have to deal with a matter of Bank Secrecy. The meetings will continue and hopefully concrete decisions will take place to address these ills of society.