I agree, but I stand by my point.But the outcomes are radically different. Every country from Colombia on North has massive amounts of cocaine smuggling. El Salvador and to about half the extent, Honduras, were basically warzones in some cities. Not that "Chicago is a warzone" hype, but on a comparable magnitude to Syria during their civil war. I think San Salvador hit 200/100k, and Syria in 2013 hit 350/100k, but otherwise was less than San Salvador.
But the three countries between Colombia and Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua are all peaceful and full of cocaine smuggling. And Costa Rica, the marginally most violent of the three, is a fully functioning democracy. CR and Panama have loads of US support. Nicaragua, the marginally most peaceful, has an authoritarian government and is antagonized by the US government.
It's not obvious what makes the difference, but what is obvious is no matter how much the drive to violence comes foremost from USA drug laws, there is total agency within a society to produce a manageable level of crime and an out of control quasi civil war.
And that's the question. What can and should be done if such a war emerges as it did in Salvador? What are the options? What are the alternatives?
Just because the countries in the south/central america all experience the drug war to different extents does not mean the the root cause, illegal and massively profitable drugs and free availability of automatic weapons, is different. The fact that El Salvador is worse than others should make it easier to implement radical solutions. If the country is willing to have such a large proportion of the population locked up without access to the legal system then surely they would be willing to try government sanctioned and protected cocaine production and supply.