UN Head To Discuss Security with Central American Presidents in Guatemala

Por Dialogo
marzo 15, 2011

Security in Central America, which has become one of the world’s most unsafe regions due to gang and drug-cartel activity, will dominate the agenda at a meeting between UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and isthmus leaders on 16 March in Guatemala.

Ban will arrive in Guatemala on the evening of 15 March and will participate on the following day in bilateral meetings and a plenary session with the Central American presidents, who are seeking aid from the international community to confront the pressing security problems in their countries.

All the presidents of the isthmus “have confirmed their attendance” at the meeting with the UN head, who will leave Guatemala on 17 March, Guatemalan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Andrea Furlán told AFP.

In the case of the Dominican Republic, which is also a member of the organizations promoting Central American integration, Vice President Rafael Albuquerque will attend, Furlán added.

Central America, which has forty million inhabitants, has become one of the world’s most unsafe regions due to the activity of its feared ‘maras’ or gangs, which victimize business owners and drivers of public buses through extortion rackets, and of cartels shipping drugs from South America to North America.

Three countries on the isthmus — Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador — have high homicide rates, but the crime wave has also spread recently to the other nations in a region in which more than 40% of the population lives in poverty.

The process of Central American integration has been stalled for almost two years, first as a consequence of the June 2009 coup d’état in Honduras and then due to the border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which broke out in October 2010 and is now in the hands of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

At the last Central American summit, held on 16 December on an island in Belize, only four of the eight invited presidents attended, so the meeting with Ban in Guatemala on Wednesday may incidentally contribute to relaunching the process of regional integration.

Ban is coming to Guatemala to sign an agreement to extend for two years the mandate of a UN special commission working to strengthen the country’s judicial system, which has a reputation as corrupt and ineffective, and to eradicate clandestine groups sheltered by the state apparatus.

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was created by the UN General Assembly in 2006, and its current mandate concludes in September.

A UN source indicated that Ban will recommend the creation of a fund for the consolidation of peace in Guatemala, fifteen years after the end of a civil war (1960-1996) that left 200,000 dead and missing, according to a UN report.

In addition, Ban will thank Guatemala for supporting UN peace-keeping missions, since it has troops in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the source told AFP.

This will be Ban’s first visit to Guatemala, and he will be accompanied on the trip by officials from several UN agencies.