Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Emerald Tablets

In a previous article, Introduction to Hermeticism, I briefly discuss Hermes Trismegistus, the legendary figure who is credited with the philosophical movement known as Hermeticism. Hermes Trismegistus is credited with writing the Corpus Hermeticum, one of the foundation documents of Hermeticism, as well as the Emerald Tablets and many other sacred writings. The Emerald Tablets are considered a pillar of Western alchemy and esotericism. The emerald tablets are a series of stones supposedly inscribed with the secrets of the universe, particularly the secrets to alchemy.

While there are a variety of legends that date the tablets to various times of antiquity, the oldest documented source is in "Kitab Balaniyus al-Hakim fi'l-`Ilal Kitāb sirr al-ḫalīqa" (كتاب سر الخليقة و صنعة الطبيعة أو كتاب العلل للحكيم بلنياس), a composite of earlier works attributed to Balinas (possibly a pseudonym of Apollonius of Tyna) and dated to sometime between the 6th and 8th centuries. In this book, Balinas lays out the framework of the Emerald Tablets. He says he found them in a vault beneath a statue of Hermes in the city of Tyana (now located in Turkey).

The Emerald Tablets would go on to be a centerpiece for medieval alchemical movements. It was first translated to Latin the 12th century by Hugo of Santalla. After that, it has been translated by Johannes Trithemius, Roger Bacon, Michael Maier, Albertus Magnus, Isaac Newton, Aleister Crowley, and Helena Blavatsky.

There are variety of legends as to the origins of the Emerald Tablets. The most common is that they were authored by Thoth, an Atlantean Priest-King. Thoth is said to have been an immortal who chose when he would leave the mortal world. At the destruction of Atlantis, he established a colony near ancient Egypt. He is said to have ruled over other colonies located near Central and South America which is said to influence the Mayan culture.

Thoth ruled from 52,000 BC to 36,000 BC, and at the end of his reign, legend states, that it was him who built the Great Pyramid at Giza, not Pharaoh Khufu (also known as Cheops), in order to safeguard the ancient wisdom of Atlantis. According to legend, the Great Pyramid of Egypt has been and still is considered a temple of initiation into the mysteries. The pyramid was placed over another structure known as Great Halls of Amenti. As time progressed in ancient Egypt, Thoth was adopted into their pantheon, being known as the God of Wisdom and Scribe of the Gods. Thoth is said to have three reincarnations, the last being Hermes Trismegistus who authored the Emerald Tablets and which were left with the pyramid priests who protected the Great Halls of Amenti.

The Emerald Tablets are described as being ten in number, each composed of a green stone impervious to the ravages of time, resistant to all substances, and interconnected to each other by gold rings. The Tablets were written in an ancient Atlantean language where the characters respond to attuned thought waves, releasing the associated mental vibration in the mind of the reader. The Tablets contain the history of Atlantis, its destruction, the diaspora of Thoth and his followers to Egypt, the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza, the Halls of Amenti, and the keys to alchemy and ancient wisdom which would result in atonement.

Some legends of the Tablets tie it in with the Abrahamic religions where it is believed that a son of Adam and Eve wrote them, and that they were once held within the Ark of the Covenant. Within Christianity, it has been praised by some while others have condemned it as heretical.

The Emerald Tablets have a foggy history which has given rise to many myths and legends surrounding these artifacts and its assumed author, Hermes Trismegistus. It is said that during the 16th century, Hermes Trismegistus was so revered that his teachings started to replace Aristotle's in European school. So too today are the Tablets still highly regarded by those who seek to truly understand them and not just a temporary fancy.

References

1. Ḏḥwty. (2014, August 10). The Legendary Emerald Tablet. Retrieved from Ancient Origins: http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/legendary-emerald-tablet-001956 

2. Emerald Tablet. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerald_Tablet 

3. ibn Hayyan, J. (n.d.). The Emerald Tablets of Hermes. Retrieved from Sacred Texts: http://www.sacred-texts.com/alc/emerald.htm 

4. Saran, A. (2016, July 5). Summary of "The Emerald Tablets of Thoth". Retrieved from Exemplore: https://exemplore.com/advanced-ancients/The-Emerald-Tablets-of-Thoth-Part-A-Summary 

5. The Corpus Hermeticum and Hermetic Tradition. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Gnostic Society Library: http://gnosis.org/library/hermet.htm 

6. The Emerald Tablet. (n.d.). Retrieved from Crystalinks: http://www.crystalinks.com/emeraldtablet.html 

7. The Emerald Tablets of Thoth. (n.d.). Retrieved from Crystalinks: http://www.crystalinks.com/emerald.html 

8. What Is the Emerald Tablet? (n.d.). Retrieved from Alchemy Lab: https://www.alchemylab.com/what_is_the_tablet.htm

9. Shah, A. (n.d.). The Emerald Tablets – A 38,000 Year Old Alchemist’s Guidebook Shrouded in Mystery. Retrieved from Ancient Explorers: https://ancientexplorers.com/blogs/news/the-emerald-tablets-a-38-000-year-old-alchemist-s-guidebook-shrouded-in-mystery

10. Hauck, D. W. (n.d.). A Hyper-History of the Emerald Tablet. Retrieved from Alchemy Lab: https://www.alchemylab.com/hyper_history.htm

Monday, June 4, 2018

Distinguished Service Awards

As I mentioned in Order of the Secret Vault, there are a number of awards and honors found within the York Rite. The General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons International has the following awards: the Sweetheart Award, the Ritualist Jewel, the Ephraim Kirby Award, and the Distinguished Service Awards. The latter, the Distinguished Service Awards are not meant for those in the Grand Chapter line, but for those Companions working in the quarries. While you may see Past Grand High Priests listed as recipients, they earned the award before assuming the Grand East. There are three types of this award: bronze, silver, and gold.

Bronze Medal
The Distinguished Service Medal in Bronze, also known as the Bronze Medal, is an award given by the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons International to a Companion who has contributed the most to Royal Arch Masonry in a given jurisdiction. Any Royal Arch Mason may nominate another Companion for this award. Nominations for each Grand Chapter are sent to the Grand High Priest who picks the final nomination before sending it onto the General Grand Chapter for approval.

The Distinguished Service Medal in Silver, or Silver Medal, is awarded to those Companions who have given outstanding service to Royal Arch Masonry in a given York Rite Region. This award is presented only once during each Triennium to a Royal Arch Mason of one of the affiliated Grand Chapters of each York Rite Region. Nominations are sent to the Deputy General Grand High Priest of each Region before being sent to the General Grand Chapter.

The Distinguished Service Medal in Gold, or Gold Medal, is awarded to those Companions who have shown exceptional national or international achievement in the Arts and Sciences, in Public Service, and in Business and the Learned Professions. No more than three Companions receive this award a Triennial Convocation.

Friday, May 25, 2018

National Poppy Day

Today is Poppy Day, sometimes referred to as Remembrance Day, which is a memorial day observed by many nations since the end of World War I to remember all who have died in the line of duty. For most nations, this day corresponds to Veterans Day in the US, but last year the US Congress, with much support from the American Legion, passed Resolution 309 which established the Friday preceding Memorial Day as National Poppy Day.

To symbolize this day and our honoring of those fallen heroes, we wear the red poppy:
Poppies were worn for the first time at the 1921 anniversary ceremony. At first real poppies were worn. These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I; their brilliant red color became a symbol for the blood spilled in the war.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Tarot Card of the Month: The Lovers

The Tarot Card for May is The Lovers. The Lovers is sometimes called the Twins and is the Sixth of the Major Arcana in Tarot card decks. The Lovers symbolizes the planet Mercury, the element Air, the zodiacal sign of Gemini, and the archangel Raphael whose name means “It is God who heals.”

The Lovers represent duality and balance, but can also relate to intimacy, attraction, physical, transparency, and spiritual union, connections, and relationships. The Lovers may also represent an either-or choice one has to make or a dilemma one is facing. Some draw a contrast between it and the Devil card where the former may sometimes represent blissful unconsciousness and the latter represents suffering caused by unconsciousness

As the Lovers follows the Hierophant, associated with institutions and external beliefs, the Lovers helps one define their own personal beliefs, making choices that conform to our own principles. By doing this, we understand ourselves better (To thine own self, be true) and are able to forge more meaningful relationships with others.

While there are different versions, this card I've chosen has a great deal of symbolism. This card shows a scene of a naked man and woman beneath an angel. Behind the man is a tree of flames (twelve of them representing the twelve zodiacal signs) while behind a woman is a tree with a snake around it. Between the man and woman is a distant mountain and a cloud above it. Located above the cloud is an angel which is adorned with a purple cloak, hands lifted upward, wings of crimson, and flame for hair. Above the angel, there is the sun spreading its rays. The nude couple is said to represent Adam and Eve at the time they are being told about the Tree of Knowledge. This serves as a metaphor for all relationships meaning that while they start off pure, the best must be made out of it after the initial bliss is gone.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Latest on my Father

It has been some time since I updated everyone on how well my father is doing. The end of March delivered a devastating blow to my family as we were informed that the drug therapy my dad struggled through was not effective. The cancer has not only spread to his liver, but the lumps in his lungs have grown. The medical staff have put my father on a new set of medication which is easier for him to deal with; nausea is not as severe. However, there has been one side-effect that surprised me, his hair is turning very white.

With all of my travelling in April for work and the Grand York Rite sessions, the emotional rollercoaster I was on took its toll on everyone in my family, but my father is keeping up the fight and I will be there to always support him. My family is still meeting every Sunday and the last few weeks my dad seemed like his old self. He was eating, joking, and laughing. Mother's Day I spent most of the day with him. The next medical mile marker is the end of June.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Mason's Wife

From active Masons, resolute, 
Our wives and families we salute; 
We surely know the price you pay, 
Who sit alone while we're away. 
No high degrees on you conferred, 
In Lodge, your name is seldom heard; 
You serve our cause though out of sight, 
While sitting home alone tonight. 
Masonic papers list our names, 
Awards are given, fit to frame; 
But yours is absent...you who strive, 
To keep our fortitude alive. 
You're part of every helpful deed, 
On your encouragement we feed; 
Without your blessings, how could we, 
Continue acts of charity? 
And so, this poem, we dedicate, 
To every Master Mason's mate; 
And offer our undying love, 
Rewards await in Heaven above

Thursday, May 10, 2018

GHP Visits: Mesa Freemasonry

I've spent the last week in the Phoenix area of Arizona for work and while I was here I had the chance to enjoy Freemasonry. On Tuesday, I guest-hosted the Masonic Roundtable where we talked about the Royal Order of Scotland.

On Wednesday, I had the luck to attend the meeting of the Mesa York Rite bodies: Damascus Chapter No. 21, Royal Arch Masons; Mesa Council No.15, Cryptic Masons; and Apache Commandery No.16, Knights Templar. The Right Excellent Grand Scribe of Arizona attended as well and the hospitality of the Companions and Sir Knights was great.

Thursday evening, I attended Apache Lodge No.69 in Mesa. At the dinner, I met the Right Worshipful Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge F&AM of Arizona and many dedicated Brothers. I definitely look forward to my next visit to Arizona.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Order of the Secret Vault

There are a number of awards and honors found within the York Rite. The General Grand Council of Cryptic Masons International has the following awards: Medal of Honor, Columbian Medal, Mordhurst Medal, Cryptic Mason of the Year, Adult Youth Leadership Award, Grand Master's Lapel Pin, Ritualist Award, Lady of the Council, 10% Gain Certificate, and the Order of the Secret Vault. The last one, the Order of the Secret Vault, is one of the newest awards to come from the General Grand Council and many Masons, even York Rite Mason, have never heard of it.

In 2012, the General Grand Council established the College of Preservation in order to honor those who have provided exemplary service to their Grand Councils and/or to the General Grand Council. This purpose of the College of Preservation is to establish the Order of the Secret Vault and confer the honor of the Companion of the Secret Vault on worthy Companions in order to support the Corporate Foundation and through that Foundation build a financial base ensuring the future stability of the General Grand Council, Cryptic Masons International and its Honors Programs.

The General Grand Master of Cryptic Masons International is0 the Grand Master of the College of Preservation and is the head of the Order of the Secret Vault. The Deputy General Grand Master, General Grand Principal Conductor of the Work, General Grand Treasurer, and General Grand Recorder are the governing body of the College of Preservation. Each Grand Council has one to two College Deans that are appointed by the General Grand Master and who have the authority to select those worthy Companions to receive the Order of the Secret Vault in their respective jurisdiction.

Jewel of the Order
of the Secret Vault
The Order of the Secret Vault is by invitation-only and only those who have received this honor may nominate someone to receive it. All nominations go to their College Dean who makes the final selection and sends it on to the College of Preservation who have the final say as to who receives the order. Recipients of this order are known as Companion of the Secret Vault. They receive a certificate as well as a jewel. The jewel (see the pic on the right) is suspended from a purple ribbon. It may be worn with a sports jacket, suit, or tux at any York Rite function, public or private.

The ceremony is short and simple, but memorable in that it charges the Companions of the Secret Vault to preserve the degrees of the Council and preserve the General Grand Council. This ceremony can be done in private or in public. For Idaho, it usually occurs just after the Public Opening and Introductions so that a larger crowd may take witness to this investiture. As of January 1, 2018, there are 414 members worldwide.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

What Level Are you?

This is a question I have been asked by anti-Masons and non-Masons alike...although mostly by the former. Not meaning to sound hostile, but being completely honest, this question is one of the most annoying asked me concerning Freemasonry not because it's bad to ask questions, but, more often than not, it is meant as an attempt to discredit a Mason if they are challenging a myth or lie about Freemasonry. However, to me, it is an indication of one's ignorance, whether innocently or intentionally, concerning how Freemasonry is structured not only in the degrees of Freemasonry but it in hierarchy and governance of the Craft. The purpose of this article will be to discuss this misconception.


Terminology: "Level"

To start off, as Freemasons, we do not use "level" as an indication of one's progress through Freemasonry. For the Blue Lodge and several other concordant/appendant bodies of Freemasonry, the term used is "degree", but you sometimes see "order" or "grade" used. A degree can be defined as "one of the progressive stages of advancement in the lodge and conferred using a ritual ceremony"  (paraphrasing off of Chris Hodapp's definition).

Freemasonry does use the term "level", but it is used in a different context. In Freemasonry, the Level is a symbol of equality and in old times was used by Operative Freemasonry to prove horizontals. It is used in Speculative Freemasonry as the jewel of the Senior Warden and symbolizes equality which is contradictory this misconception where many think degree equates to rank.


How Freemasonry is Structured

Figure 1
Figure 2

Far too often when confronted by anti-Masons hold a belief that Freemasonry is a pyramid structure that paints a picture of anti-democratic, autocratic, and centralized government that controls every thought, word, and action of its members, and where the leaders of Freemasonry are those who have attained some fabled "higher degree" such as the 33°. If one spends any time on the Internet researching Freemasonry, you'll come across a picture similar to Figures 1 or 2. I've even seen anti-Masons take commonly used Masonic charts (see Figure 3) literally in that because a group is shown above others that they must be considered superior to those drawn below it.

Figure 3

In reality, Freemasonry consists of three degrees: Entered Apprentice (1°), Fellow Craft (2°), and Master Mason (3°). The Third Degree is considered the highest degree in Freemasonry while the degrees, orders, and grades of concordant and appendant bodies are considered complimentary not superior to the Third Degree. These first three degrees compose the main body and basic organizational unit of Freemasonry known as the Blue Lodge. The Blue Lodge is the is the center of activity from which all other Masonic organizations spring. The Blue Lodge is presided over by a Worshipful Master who is elected on an annual basis. Blue Lodges are subordinate to a Grand Lodge. A Grand Lodge is the overall governing body of Freemasonry in a given jurisdiction. Typically, a Grand Lodge's jurisdiction is based upon that areas civil government where Grand Lodges govern Blue Lodges within a particular national or state boundary. The Grand Lodge is presided over by a Most Worshipful Grand Master who is elected on a regular (most often annual) basis by the voting members of that Grand Lodge. There is no central body to oversee all of the Grand Lodges around the world; each one is sovereign and independent of each other. Each Grand Lodge chooses its own policies, rituals, practices, rules, and what other Grand Lodges it recognizes.

When one attains the Sublime Degree of Master Mason he has attained the highest degree in Freemasonry, but one can continue to seek further light by joining a concordant body such as the York Rite or Scottish Rite. The York Rite and Scottish Rite are often seen as two branches in competition, but in reality, they both seek to impart further Masonic light to an aspirant. It should be noted that while the Scottish Rite uses a numbering system, those degrees are not superior to the Master Mason degree.

The Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemason, or simply known as the Scottish Rite is perhaps the most known appendant body of Freemasonry, maybe second only to the Shriners. It confers a series of progressive degrees. This Rite is one of several appendant or concordant bodies in the Masonic fraternity. They confer from the 4° to the 33°. These degrees build upon the ethical and moral teachings and philosophies offered in Craft Masonry, or more commonly known as the Blue Lodge, through dramatic presentations. These degrees are conferred by several controlling bodies: The Lodge of Perfection confers the 4° through the 14° and is presided over by a Venerable Master, the Chapter of Rose Croix confers the 15° through the 18° and is presided over by the Wise Master, the Council of Kadosh confers the 19° through the 30° and is presided over by a Commander of Kadosh, and the Consistory confers the 31° and 32° and is presided over by a Master of Kadosh. All of these bodies unite under a body referred to as a "Valley." These Valleys unite under an "Orient" which is presided over by a Sovereign Grand Inspector General (SGIG). These Orients fall under the auspices of a central authority known as a Supreme Council. In the United States there exist two Supreme Councils: Northern Jurisdiction and Southern Jurisdiction. For certain members who have given meritorious service to the community and to Freemasonry, the Rite may confer the 33°.

While the Scottish Rite is a unified body, the York Rite is more accurately described as a confederacy. The term York Rite is a misnomer though and should more accurately be called the American Rite as this rite is comprised of degrees and orders uniquely structured in America in comparison to that seen in such places like the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Scotland. The York Rite is composed of three main organizations who each operate with their own hierarchy and enjoy their own autonomy. These three bodies have united in a confederate system to ensure mutual continuation and prosperity. These three bodies are known as the Royal Arch Masonry, Cryptic Masonry, and Knights Templar. True to all 3-bodies of the York Rite, there is a local body, Grand body, and International body. For the Royal Arch, there is the Chapter, Grand Chapter, and General Grand Chapter. The presiding officer of each of these levels respectively is High Priest, Grand High Priest, and General Grand High Priest. For the Cryptic Masons, there is the Council, Grand Council, and General Grand Council. The presiding officer for each of these levels respectively is Illustrious Master, Most Illustrious Grand Master, and the Most Puissant General Grand Master. For the Knights Templar, there is the Commandery, Grand Commandery, and the Grand Encampment, Knights Templar, USA. The presiding officer for each of these levels respectively is Eminent Commander, Right Eminent Grand Commander, and the Most Eminent Grand Master.

I used the York Rite and Scottish rite as examples of the diverse nature of hierarchies in Freemasonry, but there are many other concordant and appendant orders with their own hierarchy. The authority and scope of each Masonic order are specified in their Constitution and By-Laws. And if it were not all confusing enough, I am speaking primarily to Freemasonry in the US. When you travel outside the US, there will be differences in the degrees conferred in some of the bodies, but my main points still remain the same.


Degree vs Rank

A Master Mason may choose to decide a concordant or appendant body such as the York Rite or Scottish Rite, but it is not required nor considered derogatory if he does not. If one does continue his journey into a concordant or appendant body, he may attain the highest honors one of those groups possess but those accolades do not translate to superiority or authority over Masons, not in those groups. There's also a misconception that degree equates to rank in Freemasonry. It doesn't. An office one holds in a Masonic group equates to rank, but that rank, with one exception, does not translate across to other groups. The exception is that of Most Worshipful Grand Master which is often accorded welcome and honored across Freemasonry.

I'll use Brother Joe Alexander, the Sovereign Grand Inspector General (SGIG) of Idaho, as an example. He sits as the ranking Scottish Rite Mason in Idaho, but when he visits a Lodge, he wouldn't be introduced as the SGIG, he'd be introduced as a Past Grand Master of our Grand Lodge. In the York Rite, he is a member and holds no particular rank.

Simply put, the degrees one has gone through simply show the steps and instruction a Mason has taken to help better himself and understand the world around him. The degree should not be seen as collectibles or for the end of the journey. once one attains any degree it is not the end, but a milestone in a career that should be noted for service to God, country, in one's fellow man.


Origin of the Misconception

So where does this misconception come from? One possible source of this misconception is the cherry-picked quote from Morals & Dogma:
The Blue Degrees [1º–3º] are but the outer court or portico of the Temple.
As I mention in Satan and Freemasonry, Pike remains the favorite "whipping boy" of the anti-Masonic movement who often exaggerate his importance and misquote Morals & Dogma. Anti-Masons go so far as to say that Moral & Dogma carries the weight of Masonic canon or law. It seems to me that most anti-Masons gloss over most of the book to include the Preface of the book where Pike states: "Everyone is entirely free to reject and dissent from whatsoever herein may seem to him to be untrue or unsound." This doesn't seem like a way to start a book that is supposedly the standard of knowledge by which all Masons must believe. Brothers Arturo de Hoyos and S. Brent Morris state, in Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry, "Just because Albert Pike was a brilliant ritualist, an able administrator, and a well-respected Mason doesn't mean all of his opinions are right." This again falls in line with most anti-Masons lack of understanding or denial of what constitutes authority in Freemasonry. I have found that most anti-Masons quoting Pike have never actually read Morals & Dogma, but just copy and paste from some anti-Mason website.


Conclusion

The use of "level" when trying to discuss Mason's rank is a misnomer. We Masons do not use "level" when discussing advancement through Freemasonry. There are degrees, orders, and grades, but not levels. It's not degrees, but offices that equate to rank or authority in Freemasonry. As mentioned before, with the 3º being the highest degree in Freemasonry, all Masonic authority begins and ends with a Grand Lodge. To test this premise, one only needs to look at the implications of a Mason being expelled from the Blue Lodge versus being expelled from any other concordant or appendant body in Freemasonry. If I were to be expelled from the Shriners, I'd only lose membership in that group. If I were to be expelled from the Blue Lodge, I'd lose membership in every Masonic group.

Friday, April 27, 2018

RIP Brother Ted Bahr

Tonight was bittersweet. We initiated two Entered Apprentices into Oriental Lodge No.60, but the Lodge found out that one of our members passed away, at the age of 61, into that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns. Theo "Ted" Bahr was initiated, passed, and raised in Oriental Lodge No.60 in 1987. He served as Worshipful Master of Oriental Lodge No.60 in 1994. Brother Ted was an active Mason 
  • Grand Representative to Sweden for the Grand Lodge AF&AM of Idaho
  • Past Potentate of El Korah Shrine, Shriners International
  • Past Patron of Adah Chapter No.8, Order of the Eastern Star
  • Secretary-General of the Boise Valley of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite
  • Recipient of the 33° Grand Cross of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite
  • Puissant Sovereign of St. Michael's Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine
  • 1st Working Knight of Intermountain Chapel No.27 of the Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon
  • Recipient of the Gold Award from the York Rite Sovereign College of North America

I'm sure I've missed something that he did, but it's hard to keep track of such a distinguished career. You will be missed Brother. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time. God speed.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

2018 Grand York Rite of Idaho

The Thursday of Grand York Rite was filled with the invitational and appendant bodies of the York Rite, that of the Order of the High Priesthood, Order of the Silver Trowel, Order of Knights Preceptor, Knights of the York Cross of Honor, and Knight Commander of the Temple (KCT). After the KCT dinner, the Order of the Sword of Bunker Hill met where I served pro-tem as the Honorable Commander of the Right Wing (3rd-in-command).

Friday afternoon I was honored to be elected and installed into the office of Most Excellent Grand High Priest (MEGHP) of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Idaho. For non-Masons with their eyebrows raised at the name, this position denotes that I am the presiding officer only. I do not carry any ecclesiastical authority or duties with this position. The title commemorates the legend of Royal Arch Masonry, that of the second building of King Solomon's Temple where the High Priest, not the monarch, presided over the high council that oversaw the construction. I’d like to thank the Companions for vesting their confidence in me to serve as Grand High Priest for the ensuing year. It is an extreme honor and I hope to fill the shoes of all those who have preceded me. I'd also like to thank my installation team: Johnny Willis, PGHP of Idaho; David A. Grindle, PGHP of Idaho; James C. Herndon, PGHP of Idaho; and Joe MacIntyre, MEGHP of WA. Each one of them has had a significant impact on my Masonic career.

Friday night, the Divine Service & Necrology Report was held followed by the Holy Land Pilgrimage Benefit Dinner. After dinner, Tri-Valley College No.178 met for its annual stated meeting where I was elected and installed as the Pre-Eminent Governor (the presiding officer). Today has been such a monumental day in my Masonic journey. After such a long day, it was time to relax with some scotch and brotherhood.

Saturday morning the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Idaho opened and Sir Knight Lawrence Lathrop was elected as the Right Eminent Grand Commander. He appointed me as the Eminent Grand Standard Bearer and re-appointed as the Idaho Supplement Editor of the Knight Templar magazine. Saturday afternoon the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of Idaho convened where Companion Steven Hall was elected as Most Illustrious Grand Master and I was elected as the Right Illustrious Grand Principal Conductor of the Work.

For being elected as Most Excellent Grand High Priest and being a member of the Knights of the York Cross of Honor, I was awarded my first Quadrant of the Knight of the York Grand Cross of Honor. When a member of the Knights of the York Cross of Honor serves as the presiding officer of his respective Grand Lodge, Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, Grand Council of Cryptic Masons, and Grand Commandery of Knights Templer, he receives a Quadrant for each of those bodies. The colors of each Quadrant are blue, red, purple, and white for their respective body. The background of my Quadrant is white as I have not served as Prior yet.


Friday, April 20, 2018

Tarot Card of the Month: The Hierophant

During my year as Most Excellent Grand High Priest, I will be writing a monthly article analyzing the tarot and Freemasonry. Tarot has been described as "symbolizing the path of initiation or a journey towards reintegration with one’s true self." Freemasonry is, first and foremost, an initiatic order whose rituals attempt to transform men both spiritually and morally. With this, I see a loose connection, not necessarily a causal relationship, but a connection nonetheless between tarot and Freemasonry. To make it clear, I find the tarot fascinating and I am writing on the correlations between the two, but there is no historical precedence that associates Freemasonry and tarot; any association is speculative. These are the tarot that I will be looking at each month over the next year (April 2018 through March 2019):
  • The Hierophant
  • The Lovers
  • The Chariot
  • Strength
  • The Hermit
  • Justice
  • Death
  • Temperance
  • The Devil 
  • The Star 
  • The Moon 
  • The Emperor 

This month's Tarot is The Hierophant. The Hierophant is sometimes called the Pope or the Druid, is the fifth of the Major Arcana cards in most Tarot decks. The Hierophant symbolizes the planet Venus, the element Earth, and the zodiacal sign Taurus. The Hierophant is the brother card to the High Priestess; she is the female energy to his male energy.

The Hierophant represents institutions, traditions, society, and their impact on our lives; to conform to the norms of society, to meet the needs of life, and to maintain a semblance of individuality is a complicated balancing act. The Hierophant also represents divine wisdom, inspiration, stubborn strength, toil, endurance, persistence, teaching, help from superiors, patience, organization, peace, and goodness of heart.

The Hierophant indicates new beginnings. This card perfectly describes my life as today marks the beginning of my time as Most Excellent Grand High Priest of Royal Arch Masons of Idaho. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Royal Art

By Silas H. Shepherd


Thou, Royal Art, in splendor clothed 
By verse and learned orator extolled 
What is thy power o′er men so frail? 
Where is thy wisdom ne′er assailed?

Is it in mystic rites and form 
Or legends to which all conform, 
That men find satisfaction rare, 
And in it's ceremonies share?

It never could the wise attract 
By mystic rite or tragic act 
Did not some power in secret lie 
Hidden from all but worthy eye.

Its secret most profound and rare 
All worthy men may likewise share. 
It welcomes men with motives pure 
It helps to make their lives secure.

It feeds, with Truth, the hungry soul 
It lights the darkness to the goal, 
Where Father waits His souls to meet, 
Who as a brother fellows greet.

It clears the air of doubt and fear, 
It gives to life delight and cheer, 
It makes the Brotherhood of Man 
A consummation of His Plan.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Securing Central America

In May of 2014, I took a course called "International Law and Organizations." The purpose of the seminar is to attain an understanding of the theories, practices, and processes through which global politics are organized and social, political, and economic outcomes are “governed”. We will discover what global governance is and how it works in various issue areas. The class consisted of both mini-lectures and discussion based on assigned reading. Students are expected to read thoroughly each week's reading and be prepared to discuss the material. The final assignment was a policy paper where I had to identify some problem in world politics and design or redesign a piece of global governance to solve or reduce it.

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Introduction

The Central American region is and has been for many years, a hotbed of political instability. This instability is often the result of violence perpetrated by local and transnational gangs as well as drug cartels that use Central America as a shipping route for their illegal drugs destined to North American states. This violence has affected all aspects of society in the states that comprise Central America; it has caused the downturn of the economies, allowed for corruption to envelope many of the states’ governments, been a source of human rights violations, displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and affected the legitimacy of democratic governments in the region. Much of the criminal activity and violence transcends national borders and is an issue that is more than any one state can handle on its own. These issues are regional and needed to be treated as such, and we see that while individual states have attempted to combat they have wasted resources in a futile effort that could have been used for economic and social improvements (United General Assembly 2012). While no one proposal can be the “magic bullet”, much of the instability is interconnected with the lack of security in the region, and this paper is focusing on the creation of a regional institution that would focus on regional security issues, restoring order to Central America, and maintaining the peace. Security is a major keystone for any state that wishes to prosper. By security, a government solidifies its legitimacy and primary purpose. By it they can further promote democratic values, citizen involvement, and trust in the criminal justice system. By it they foster a peaceful environment and as Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, stated, "…without peace there can be no development, and without development, there can be no lasting peace." (United Nations 2013)

Central America is geographically located on an isthmus, or a narrow strip of land with sea/ocean on either side that forms a link between two larger areas of land. Central America is composed of seven states: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. Prior to the Columbian era, these states were a part of the Mesoamerican societies of the Mayans and the Aztecs. After the Spanish conquest, these states were controlled under Spanish authority, and some under British rule, until the 19th century when rebellions brought down much of the colonial rule in Latin America. Central America would emerge as its own political identity when the Federal Republic of Central America was established in 1823, but only lasted for 15-years when it was brought down by civil wars. Attempts were made to reunite Central America under one authority, but never succeeded. Belize for centuries has been a contested territory, fought over by the Spanish, British, and Guatemalan governments, and didn’t gain independence until 1981; the border land is still disputed among the Belizean, Honduran, and Guatemalan governments. Panama wasn’t considered a part of Central America until after 1903 when it seceded, with some help from the United States, from Columbia (Mabry 2002). As it is seen, these states have much in common and have the misfortune of being placed between a rock and a hard place, between drug supply and drug demand. A regional institution is best suited to solve the issues the region faces as there are “natural, essential core of economic, security, religious, or cultural links between states and people that define a region.” (Karns and Mingst 2010). A regional institution would give these small states a larger voice to express and advance their interests as well as give them strength in numbers in the Western Hemisphere and on the world stage.

Causes of Insecurity

Criminal

Most of the states within Central America have extremely high murder rates and often rate among the top in the world. States like El Salvador are plagued so much by crime that vigilantism has risen and often there is little retribution against criminals who openly commit their crimes with impunity (Department of State 2013). Honduras holds the distinction of having the highest murder rate in the world which makes living there more dangerous than living in a war zone (US Congress 2011), and often these heinous crimes cross the borders affecting multiple states within the region. Some states such as Belize have tried to use an “iron fisted” approach, but this has not had a positive impact on the reduction of crime nor kept any faith in the government (Department of State 2013). In fact, corruption, human smuggling and trafficking, the drug trade, money laundering, and organized gang activity remain significant criminal problems in these states. Due to its proximity to South America where many drugs originate, many of Central America’s problems can trace back to drug trafficking and the cartels who run those operations, but also involves gangs and governments that are trying to fully transition to a democratic system and are on the verge of collapse (Kahn 2013). There is a variety of criminal acts committed that are a persistent plague on these states, some of which includes: Drug trafficking, money laundering, human smuggling, organized crime/gangs, terrorism, and corruption.

The borders of the Central American states can be best described as “porous” (3) as little prevents the drug cartels from moving their drugs through the Central American corridor on their way to North America (UNODC 2014). Columbia is the primary source for cocaine headed to the United States and hundreds of metric tons of cocaine move through Central America each year, roughly 88% of that destined for the US (UNODC 2007). Typically it is shipped over the sea to Central America where it travels on land to its final destination, but drug traffickers have been known to use maritime routes just off of Central American coasts to move their product (UNODC 2014) (Department of State 2013). The states of Central America have shown various levels of willingness to respond to the crime and protect their borders from these criminals and further prove that multilateral efforts are needed to counter the criminal operations.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “money-laundering is the method by which criminals disguise the illegal origins of their wealth and protect their asset bases, so as to avoid the suspicion of law enforcement agencies and prevent leaving a trail of incriminating evidence” (UNODC 2014). Through money laundering can drug cartels, and other transnational criminal organizations, attempt to cover up the financial trail of their crimes as well as bribe government officials to prevent any repercussions put against the criminal elements. Money laundering can also take a toll on a state’s economy by causing high inflation where criminals do business. The success of money laundering has only helped embolden criminal activity as it is actually paying off. The influx of laundered money can also give states a false demand for cash and in most cases they react with poor economic decisions that negatively impact the state and its economy. Laundered money is often untaxed and thus the criminal element further robs the state of additional revenue (Layton 2006). If left unchecked criminals will be able to further cover up their crimes, their financiers, and rob states of revenue that could be used for legitimate purposes.

Connected with the issue of drug trafficking is human trafficking, considered to be the modern form of slavery. The United States and Canada are often the destinations while states like those found in Central and South America, along with other 3rd world nations, are often the nation of origin. Many local gangs use girls for prostitution by a variety of recruitment and control methods such as force, fraud, or coercion, but some of the larger gangs use women to traffic their drugs and smuggle persons across borders. This crime has become a new method of funding their operations. Most of the victims are tricked into being smuggled illegally into the country, but many victims may still be citizens of the state in which they reside (Lederer 2010). Victims of human smuggling are often forced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor, or other types of forced labor (Keefer 2006). 50% of transnational victims are children, 1-million of them being sold for sex (Human Trafficking Statistics). States being reactionary are falling behind the evolution of gang crimes as gangs are more and more using “sexual exploitation and human trafficking to fund their operation” (Lederer 2010). These trafficking activities along with many other activities of gangs has been linked with terrorist activities. Terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda have been known to use smugglers and gangs to move operatives around the world as well as fund their operations (Keefer 2006). Along with the factors that explain the expansion of gang activity, with human smuggling, can be a result of government tolerance and/or gender or “racial myths that promote sexual exploitation.”

Gang violence has continued to thrive around the world, whether through governmental negligence, ignorance, or inability to combat. More often than not, states have treated the symptoms and not the causes; thinking they can use authoritarian methods or arrest their way into a solution. The deteriorating security in Central America has made those states breeding grounds for gangs. These gangs are often transnational and are found to be in control of neighborhoods or entire sections of cities (CFR 2012). Even smaller gangs have far-reaching effects and have been tied to larger transnational criminal organizations like Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) or assist the drug cartels in the trafficking and dealing of drugs emanating from South America (Farah 2007). Gangs use violence, murder, fraud, trafficking (drug and human), extortion, theft and robbery, and other criminal activities to fund their operations. These activities undercut the morale of the community and the authority of the government. Gangs are often characterized by being composed primarily of young men and are often the target for blaming the state’s problems, but are in fact a small cog in a much larger machine. Right with these gangs are also organized crime who are more centralized than gangs. Organized crime is often funded better than gangs, but can be tied to same type of crimes listed above. They are well known to have infiltrated state governments or at least bribed the right officials that they perform their crimes often without any fear of consequences. Organized crime and gangs have a negative effect on government efficiency, fueled corruption, hurt the overall morale of the region, and hindered economic development (UNODC 2014). These criminal elements move beyond borders and are often more able to adapt to new schemes and need to be met with a concerted, multilateral effort.

While not a prevalent issue in Central America, terrorism still contributes to the instability of the region. While no cells are actively known to be in Central America, facilitators and funders of radical Islam are known to operate within Central America (Farah 2007). The possibility of a formal alliance being formed between transnational criminal organizations in Central America and Islamic terrorist organizations is still to be considered a threat to the security of the region (Ramsay 2012). Within most of Central America there is little interaction with domestic terrorists, but along southern Panama and some instances in Costa Rica, there are traces of FARC who use drug trafficking as one of their means of funding their operations and whose views pose a direct threat to the democratic governments within Central America (Leff 2010).

Most Central American states are still transitioning from authoritarian to democratic styles of governments -- still trying to get rid of corruption and grow trust between government and citizenry. The political and judicial corruption is a result of all the well-funded criminal elements operating within the region. Often the police have been infiltrated by criminals and, in the case of Guatemala, criminals wore uniforms and drove vehicles that resemble those of the police, indicating that persons within the police force are involved (Department of State 2013). Often states don’t fund their police, correction, and judiciary as well as they should which leaves them and susceptible to corruption. As a result of this corruption, the rich citizens end up employing their own private security or support vigilantism as a means to enact what they perceive as justice which only exacerbates the mistrust between the citizens and the government, and deteriorates the state (Meyer and Seelke 2013). These transitioning states have to face the fact that lingering suspicions exist among the people and that they must build that trust between the government and the people (UNODC 2007).


Environmental Factors

Another set of factors that affect security in the region is environmental. Much of Central America is within a seismic and volcanic zone. This region also receives its fair share of hurricanes and the states are often not adequate to respond to the aftermath of natural disasters which again causes instability within the region. The states within Central America have not created adequate critical infrastructure policies or preparedness plans that help the infrastructure, the government, and the people prepare, endure, and bounce back from. Natural disasters can exacerbate pre-existing conditions and further overwhelm the government (Futamura, Hobson, and Turner 2011). States that are more stable and secure are more capable of being prepared for and able to respond to natural disasters.


The Impact

There are several impacts to these issues. The first and most notable instance is that when researching information for this topic, I came upon the crime reports and statistics. Crime data can be problematic even in developed states, but in Central America it is extremely problematic. The statistics are often just based upon police statistics and those are calculated based on cases that are reported to police by the public. With such a corrupt system and low trust in the government it is extremely likely that the crime data is much higher than reported, but due to a lack of faith in the judicial system, the citizens of Central America do not report every crime or victimization (UNODC 2007). The second impact is that with an underfunded, ineffective, and often corrupt police force, the citizenry are faced with two choices: take matters into their own hands in the form of either private security or vigilantism, or succumb to the demands of criminals and live within the chaotic environment they control. This distrust also leads criminals act with impunity and in many examples criminals will commit crimes in public places during all times of the day (Casas-Zamora 2011). As I mentioned above, states may decide, by their own beliefs or by public outcry, to use authoritarian means to deal with the criminal elements which often doesn’t help fight crime, but does often lead to the destruction of democracy and the reemergence of authoritarian regimes. Money-laundering and corruption can erode a state’s economy by reducing the revenue brought in by a state, and misuse or divert the funds of the state to support criminal enterprises which otherwise have been used for social and economic development (UNODC 2014). The violence within these states has been estimated to cause a loss of 8% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (Casas-Zamora 2011). The violence that exists within this unstable region also has a severe effect on the workforce of a nation which then affects the economy. Deaths in a family could rob them of their “breadwinner” (UNODC 2007) and often the victims of this violence are young men between the ages of 15 and 29 years of age, who are “at the peak of their productive and reproductive lives” (Casas-Zamora 2011). Another notable impact of this instability is that corporations and other, wealthier states will not want to put any investment into a state where their interests may be jeopardized. Crime raises the cost of doing business and many businesses will find a more suitable environment for their investments when faced with such issues (UNODC 2007).


Proposal

The states within Central America are overmatched in comparison to the transnational criminal organizations and while there has been an effort to curtail the violence and crime, they have fallen short of their desired results and some of the solutions pose as big a threat as the problems themselves (UNODC 2007). Also due to weak institutions, corrupt officials, and few resources, the Central American states have demonstrated different levels of political will to address the regional issues within their geographic jurisdiction (Meyer and Seelke 2013). To combat these threats to regional stability, I propose the creation of an intergovernmental security alliance among the states of Central America to be known as the Central American Security Alliance. This institution would be established through the passage of a treaty among the Central American states. Without having a treaty among the party states, no institution can enforce the laws and policies of that institution as it runs into the issues of the sovereignty of states as well as resources and ability to enforce such policies.

Central American Security Alliance would create an institution of collective defense whereby the states party to the treaty agrees to mutual defense and establishing order within the region through political, diplomatic, and militaristic means. This institution would aim to promote democratic values, assist and train local law enforcement, build trust between citizens and their respective governments, combat transnational criminal organizations, disrupt the shipping and movement of illegal drugs within the region, and prevent open conflict within the region.

Politically and diplomatically, the Central American Security Alliance strives to peacefully settle disputes among the party states. Militaristically, this institution would establish agencies with specific focuses to combat the crime and violence that has permeated the region along with a central administrative agency. Within this institution would consist of an intelligence agency, criminal finance agency, a security force, an environmental security agency, a domestic affairs agency, a regional court system, a correctional agency, an administrative agency, and a representative parliament. The Alliance would be headed by someone nominated by the heads of the state and approved by the Parliament with the rank of General. Each agency would be led by a Commander appointed by the General and approved by the Parliament. The court would exist strictly to preside over criminal court cases and the adjudication process.

The intelligence agency is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and exploiting information; pattern analysis of criminal activity; management of the criminal entity database; provide warning for new modes of criminal operations; profile and target high value targets; share necessary intelligence with national and municipal governments; and conduct counterintelligence operations against external intelligence agencies and threats.

The criminal finance agency would be responsible for identifying and combatting the financial network of criminal organizations throughout the region. This agency would also work with the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication that operates a worldwide messaging system used to transmit financial transaction information. This organization is already in place and would serve as a valuable resource in combatting the transnational criminal organizations that exist with Central America as it would “greatly enhances our ability to map out terrorist networks, often filling in missing links in an investigative chain” (Department of the Treasury 2014).

The security force would be responsible for leading the investigations and apprehension of criminals; the main force behind the combatting of transnational gangs. This agency would be divided between marine forces and land forces, with each one possessing aviation assets to assist in detection and apprehension operations. Units of this agency would be located within each state according to the need with emphasis along states that border North and South America. Underneath this agency would also exist a counter-narcotics sub-agency who would work in tandem with the intelligence agency and be the subject matter experts on the drug trade and their smuggling routes.

The environmental security agency would be responsible for coordinating the response to natural disasters that occur in the region which has overwhelmed the state and municipal governments. This agency would also work with training the state governments in proper response procedures and planning (to include critical infrastructure protection) as well as working with educating the public. While not directly tied with the transnational criminal organizations and drug trafficking, environmental security is key as natural disasters often affect more than one state in Central America, destroy the infrastructure needed for the law enforcement to properly respond, and can displace large amounts of the public which can cause instability in the area.

The domestic affairs agency would focus heavily upon combatting corruption within the government which has the potential to undermine any effort proposed in the region. It would also work with standardizing law enforcement procedures by funding and performing training for the state law enforcement agencies. This agency is one of the key factors to the existence and legitimacy of the Central American Security Alliance as it will give the public more ability to throw off corrupt officials who are plaguing and destroying the state government and further exacerbating the instability of the region.

The regional court system would serve as the venue where those arrested, by the security agency, on charges would face trial and, for those convicted, receive their sentences. Judges would preside and oversee the proceedings and ensure that the law is followed. This agency would also be in charge of issuing warrants for search, seizure, and arrest.

The correctional agency would be in charge of those convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail time. This agency would have the difficult job of overseeing the day-to-day custody of inmates, combatting crime within the system, ensuring safety, and maintaining order. This agency would also work to re-educate and rehabilitate prisoners that they when they are released they can be reintroduced and resume life as a productive member of society. They also oversee the release processes for inmates and sometimes notify victims of changes in the offender's status.

The administrative agency would be the central hub for the institution and provide oversight, direction, and leadership of the other agencies. This agency would provide the parliament with the annual budget to be approved. This agency would ensure that the other agencies were operating under the authority given to them by party states via the treaty and laws and ensure that the decisions made by parliament are being enacted.

To represent the party states and to set goals of the institution, a parliament composed of delegates from the party states would convene each year to discuss the policies and issues that the institution would face and has faced. The head of each state would be an ‘ex oficio’ member, but would appoint 3-members to the parliament to represent the state. This body would approve all nominations.

Funding for this organization would come from the GDP of each party state who would contribute 2% of their GDP as well as grants received from international organizations and policies such as the Central American Regional Security Initiative. The Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) is a policy established by the United States (Seelke et al. 2011). Through CARSI, the Central American Security Alliance would be able to purchase equipment and resources necessary for them to perform their duties within the region. This institution would work with other international organizations and nongovernmental organizations to receive training and create norms conducive to the new security regime.

This institution would be more suited to combat the regional issues as the states’ militaries are not built to handle law enforcement activities. Some states have used them to aid police, but in some instances, this has led to a degradation of democracy and emergence of authoritarianism in the state (Garamone 2011). The police are incapable of performing investigations that cross borders and into territory outside of their jurisdictional authority. The Central American Security Alliance would be interdependent of the party states in regards to funding and decision making, but in performance of their actions would be neutral as they are not just doing the bidding of any one state, and would gain legitimacy by reducing the crime and increasing the security of the region without taking away from the democratic values, which is something that the state could not accomplish on a decentralized basis (Abbot and Snidal 1998). This is the great advantage to the creation of a regional institution as the party states have the ability to gain and achieve their security goals through pooling, joint production, and cooperative relationships. Where assets and resources couldn’t be pooled or gathered unilaterally they could accomplish multilaterally. Particularly with weak states, joint production could benefit as the benefits would outweigh the costs; produce more than they could have alone and reward all parties. Strong, invested alliances can be produced through cooperative relationships and the agreements that accompany them. This multilateral action also gives the institution credibility as it will be under the scrutiny, direction of, and accountable to more than one state.


Key Policies

The Central American Security Alliance would have many smaller goals, but the primary focus, policies, and goals of disrupting, dismantling, and combatting the transnational criminal organizations can be broken down into these five:
Policy #1: Security forces would target known routes and known personnel of drug cartels. They would attempt to seize and destroy all illegal illicit drugs. While not all crime would stop, there is a correlation between the increase in drug seizure and the decrease in violent crime (Department of State 2013).
Policy #2: The security agency receiving information from the intelligence and criminal finance agencies would target key personnel to disrupt criminal activity within the region. This would be accomplished through the use of a White, Grey, and Black High-Value Target (HVT) List. These operations would remove key influential and experienced criminal personnel.
Policy #3: The domestic affairs agency, receiving information from criminal finance agency, would investigate reports of corruption, and arrest those officials found to be in violation of anti-corruption laws. The removal of corrupt officials would further disrupt transnational criminal activity by removing those officials that enable and allow criminal activities to occur within their authority.
Policy #4: The alliance would focus on identifying and targeting criminal financial networks, seizing funds or property within the legal jurisdiction of Central America, and work with other states or international organizations with financial disruption operations that have presence in Central America, but are outside the physical bounds of the region and authority of the Central American Security Alliance.
Policy #5: With the establishment of a regional prison system, the correctional agency would establish a tier system that would focus on keeping criminals from creating criminal bonds and executing criminal operations within the prison itself, and would seek to maintain safety and security. Tier 1 would be reserved for high ranking officers in the drug cartels as well as those officials convicted for being corrupt. Tier 2 prisoners are those who are affiliated or members of drug cartels or transnational criminal organizations. Also found here would be those convicted of committing heinous crimes such as murder that spans multiple state borders. Tier 3 would be reserved for those convicted of drug trafficking, money-laundering, fraud, theft, and other smaller crimes, but who do not meet the requirements for Tier 1 or Tier 2. Tier 4 would be reserved for those convicted of petty crimes connected with international gangs, and who do not meet the requirements for the other tiers. Tier 5 would be reserved for juveniles who have been convicted of a crime and affiliated with gangs, but have not turned 16-years of age.

Obstacles to the Proposal

There are many obstacles though facing the creation of such an organization. States may worry about violations of their national sovereignty and resist signing on to any treaty that would bind them to other nations that would not necessarily benefit them. States may not see any reason to bear the high costs of providing funds, resources, and manpower to providing services for other states. States may believe that investing in the creation of this institution may be too much for their economy and would cause a decline in their economy. The violence and corruption that is inherent to Central America can be one factor that prevents states from being party to a regional organization as those states would be a destabilizing force. Possibly not a negative attribute, but issues are constantly changing, new vulnerabilities and hazards continually emerge, and the solutions of today’s problems will become tomorrow’s vulnerabilities for which reasons the issues that the regional institution has authority over may become irrelevant and thus the reason for the existence of an institution may cause states to leave and abandon it.


Conclusion

To conclude, the current unilateral security policies performed by the individual states within Central America are inadequate to solve the issues caused by transnational criminal organizations and drug trafficking. This demonstrates that a concerted multilateral effort must be emplaced in the form of a security agency. This security agency would conduct operations to detect, disrupt, deter, and destroy transnational criminal organizations and their operations by targeting and disrupting their financial networks, seizing their illegal products along their supply routes through Central America, apprehending key criminal figures, removing corrupt officials within Central American states, imprisoning those convicted of crimes, and rehabilitating the criminals while in the prison system. This institution would pool together resources, funds, and personnel which would be more cost-effective and transparent than the current system which is in place and which has demonstrated to be inadequate to the combatting the transnational criminal organizations.


References

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