Central America Seeks International Help for Its Security Strategy

By Dialogo
May 12, 2011

Central America has completed the design of a regional security strategy that includes the concept of “shared responsibility” and is hoping that the international community will finance part of the one billion dollars needed to confront organized crime.

“The issue of security is a transnational problem, and we all have to assume our share of the responsibility, in proportion,” Costa Rican Foreign Minister René Castro declared to AFP.

“Shared responsibility” in the execution of the strategy, which includes crime prevention and re-entry into society, is justified, according to Castro, in areas like drug trafficking, which involves the countries of origin of the drugs, the transit nations, and the destination countries.

According to a draft of the regional strategy, fighting crime is what will require the most resources: 803 million dollars.

Prior to this meeting, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes warned that the drug cartels operating in the isthmus have an annual income of 100 billion dollars, five times more than El Salvador’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“We are facing a very powerful enemy, one who acts on a regional level with resources that exceed those available to the security forces of our countries,” Funes indicated.

In order to confront crime, the countries of Central America’s Northern Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) decided to send their armies into the streets to support the police in security tasks.

Crime and violence cost Central America 8% of its GDP, according to the World Bank. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), between 2003 and 2008, more than 79,000 people were murdered in the region, where almost three million firearms are in circulation, two out of three of them illegally.

The delegates discussed, among other issues, how to ensure that Costa Rica and Panama, which do not have armies or navies, can safeguard their territorial waters.

The director of the Guatemalan police, Jaime Leonel Otzin, commented that the security agencies and the judicial system are working “harmoniously” on short-, medium-, and long-term programs contained in the regional strategy.

For Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martínez, the most important thing is that the design of a common strategy is being achieved.

“Now we have a security plan that specifies national and regional activities (and) the costs of those activities,” in Martínez’s estimation.

For his part, the secretary general of the Central American Integration System (SICA), Juan Daniel Alemán, stated that with the strategy, the aim is to “generate awareness under the principle of shared responsibility and the additive character of resources in the area of democratic security.”

The shared strategy, according to Alemán, is “directed” toward an effort that will begin on 16 May with the search for funds in Madrid, Spain.

The final occasion for obtaining international cooperation will be at an international conference that will be held on 22 and 23 June in Guatemala.