Aug. 18 News Brief Central America/Caribbean

Winston F. Burges

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Customs security stepped up: Approximately 1,400 customs staff members have been replaced at 48 Mexican border points around the country, mainly along the 1,865 mile U.S.-Mexico border. Their places will be taken by defense ministry agents trained in the use of firearms and responding to difficult situations. The measure was implemented by the Mexican Revenue Service as part of President Felipe Calderón's plan to eradicate pockets of corruption and step up the fight against drugs.

[El Universal, Excélsior]

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Tourism, coffee exports plummet: The Salvadorian Coffee Council revealed that local coffee producers had been badly hit by the international crisis with a fall in revenue of 20.3 percent in June compared to the same period in 2008, owing to a drop in exports of 19.6 percent. In tourism, another vital sector for El Salvador's economy, inter-annual employment fell by 3 percent. This represents a loss of 1,300 jobs between 2008 and 2009.

[La Prensa Gráfica, Elsalvador.com]

PANAMA CITY, Panama –  Efforts to prevent Panama from exiting Parlacen: The Central American Parliament (Parlacen) could be left with only four members if the regional president, Gloria Guadalupe Oquelí of Honduras, fails to persuade Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli not to remove his country from the organization. Martinelli believes that Parlacen is useless and a den of immunity and his decision is supported by the people of Panama. The country’s Vice President and Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Varela announced that all the legal steps had been taken to submit Panama’s withdrawal.

[Nación, Elsalvador.com, EFE]

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Central America considers reopening EU negotiations: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador are willing to resume negotiations in September towards an Association Agreement with the European Union (EU). Talks had been suspended owing to the Honduran crisis. Foreign trade ministers from the four countries will gather for two rounds of meetings this week in Costa Rica to discuss the main obstacles to completing the deal – banana export quotas and the situation in Honduras. Spain's First Vice Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández will head the EU delegation.

[AFP, El Nuevo Diario, Nación]

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