In El Salvador, OAS Commits to Joining Forces Against Crime

By Dialogo
June 09, 2011

At the assembly that concluded Tuesday in El Salvador, the foreign ministers of the Organization of American States (OAS) committed to building a common front against organized crime, which is threatening several Latin America countries, especially in Central America.

The OAS approved the “Declaration of San Salvador on Citizen Security,” in which they laid the foundation for a continental security plan, the details of which will be debated over the next year, and which will be definitively presented at the next OAS General Assembly, in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in July 2012.

What the declaration does is to “consolidate and achieve greater commitment to those efforts” against organized crime, Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martínez said at a press conference following the conclusion of the assembly.

The thirty-four countries that are active members of the organization approached their discussion of the topic with the urgency imposed by the statistics: the Americas are the most violent continent in the world, with one murder every four minutes, according to a report by the OAS itself released during the meeting.

This assembly precedes another that will be held from 22 to 23 June in Guatemala, where the leaders of Central America, the region hardest hit by organized crime, will meet with donors in search of funds for a new regional plan.

Although the assembly took place without major incidents, it was not free of harsh exchanges: Bolivia and Chile clashed over La Paz’s demand for access to the sea, lost in an 1879 war.

Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca demanded that Chile immediately begin “concrete, practical, and useful” bilateral negotiations, while he did not rule out the possibility of resorting at the same time to “judicial bodies,” which could indicate that the case might end up at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“Chile has very clearly indicated that it is not in a position to grant Bolivia sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean, still less without (territorial) compensation,” Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno replied, insisting that the issue should be negotiated bilaterally and not in international forums.

In the declaration on security, the countries agreed on “the need to continue strengthening bilateral, subregional, regional, and international cooperation mechanisms (…) to address, prevent, and combat, in a comprehensive and effective manner, transnational organized crime, illicit arms trafficking,” and other forms of crime.

The countries committed to fighting poverty and social exclusion, as factors that promote crime, and to improving their judicial, prison, prevention, and rehabilitation systems.