US adds $40 mn to fighting Central America crime

Hillary Clinton and Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom


GUATEMALA CITY (AFP) – (AFP) – The United States is boosting aid to Central America by $40 million to help improve security amid rising violence from organized crime, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Wednesday.

After arriving for talks with regional leaders, Clinton announced that funding for Washington’s regional security partnership effort was being increased to $300 million this year, up from $260 million.

Clinton said the “almost $300 million this year backed up by an action plan of our own focused on high impact investments” could have a deep impact on the violence-scarred region.

“We will be your ready partners but it must begin with you and led by you. Political power is necessary to root out corruption and ensure accountable and effective institutions,” she added.

The Inter-American Development Bank meanwhile will also provide some $500 million, spread over two years, to supplement the funding efforts from the region and donor countries, IDB president Luis Alberto Moreno said.

Amid Clinton’s announcement, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos proposed the creation of a regional center to fight money laundering.

“We should hit them where it hurts. And in the drug business what hurts most is their money, their property,” he said.

He also proposed creating a regional database that would contain information about all weapons seized in each country and could help determine where the weapons came from and how they entered the region.

Santos suggested possibly training central security forces at facilities in Colombia, highlighting that his country has experience dealing with criminal organizations.

“This is a dangerous enemy, no scruples, no respect for human rights, but we must respect human rights, so you must train the security forces to be effective without destroying the democratic values,” he said.

 Both were attending the Central American Security Conference with the leaders of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, aiming to curb crime in one of the world’s most violent regions, fueled by a spillover from Mexico’s war on drug cartels.

“Everyone knows the statistics, the murder rates surpassing civil wars levels, the citizens who rank security as their top concern, the violence that burdens economic development and foreign direct investment,” Clinton said in remarks to the conference.

She also highlighted “the threats to democracy, the impacts on society’s most vulnerable populations, especially women and children.”

“But we don’t need to go through the statistics, because many of you around this table are living these brutal facts every single day.”

Saying she wanted “to make good on the promise of shared responsibility,” Clinton stressed the funds will help pay for special police units, intelligence gathering, training of judges and prosecutors, and other efforts.

Washington would back the region in the fight against organized crime “because we care about the citizens… but also because we know that the wave of violence sweeping Central America also threatens our own country.”

“And therefore, we see this not just as an obligation, but as a mutual responsibility,” Clinton said.

According to UN figures, Central America is the world’s most violent region outside of war zones. The US cooperates in the fight against organized crime through the Central American Regional Security Initiative.

During her visit, Clinton was also to meet Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom and the Honduran President Porfirio Lobo.

The top US diplomat was to leave later in the day for Jamaica, where she planned talks on security efforts in the Caribbean region.

According to the IDB, Washington has allocated a total of some $377 million for security efforts in the region.

© AFP — Published at Activist Post with license

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