A high-level Trump administration official displayed a rare bit of candor Friday, admitting that the high demand for drugs by U.S. residents has fueled social problems in Central America. The comments, delivered by U.S. National Security Secretary John Kelly, were delivered during the second day of discussions at the Summit on Prosperity and Security in Central America, centered on El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
The former U.S. Marine general and U.S. Southern Command head noted the “devastating” nature of the violent crime crisis emanating from the Central American region, detailing his own first-hand investigation in the matter, such as his encounter with a woman at a refugee camp who was sexually assaulted and narrowly escaped murder amid her journey north to the United States.
Kelly also acknowledged the massive nature of the drug problem in the United States, where appetites for opiates, illicit coca leaf products and other dangerous narcotics have reached epidemic proportions.
“Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for people under the age of 50,” the official said, noting that the number of those who die each year are more than the entire death toll of U.S. military personnel in the wars on Korea and Vietnam.
Kelly also noted that “security and prosperity go hand in hand,” hailing security measures adopted by Central American nations such as El Salvador.
The sympathetic messaging is at odds with the menacing rhetoric his commander-in-chief, U.S. President Donald Trump, has utilized in his immigrant-scapegoating missives launched prior to Inauguration Day.
“They’re killing and raping everybody out there,” the former reality television personality said of Central Americans in a December 2016 TIME Magazine Person of the Year interview.
“They’re illegal, and they are finished.”