[OS] US/GUATEMALA/BELIZE/HONDURAS/NICARAGUA/COSTA RICA/PANAMA/EL SALVADOR/CT – 6/20 – US in new push against drugs in Central America

Released on 2013-02-13 00:00 GMT

Email-ID 3008353
Date 2011-06-21 15:30:18
From brian.larkin@stratfor.com
To os@stratfor.com

US in new push against drugs in Central America
June 20, 2011

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gxHKRXNKscqU_7xNRAYDD5XnGpTg?docId=CNG.f6e4cf8f7bcbf9e0be98991770b9f79b.c21

WASHINGTON – The United States will discuss efforts to be a “more
effective” partner with Central America in fighting drug trafficking when
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Guatemala Wednesday, aides said.

The chief US diplomat, aides said Monday, will visit Guatemala City to
discuss a counternarcotics strategy with the leaders of Guatemala, Belize,
El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Other leaders or top officials attending the talks will represent Mexico,
Colombia, Chile, Spain and the European Union, they added.

Clinton has “been concerned about the situation in Central America for
some time,” Arturo Valenzuela, the assistant secretary of state for
Western Hemisphere affairs, told reporters.

As Mexico has tried to fight its drug trafficking scourge, drug mafias
have increasingly pushed south into Central America and countries like
Guatemala and Belize have seen a surge in violence that they seem almost
powerless to stop.

Clinton has “been pushing for greater engagement on the part of the United
States since she began to focus on these issues some time ago,” Valenzuela
said.

However, he said, the meeting will not amount to a donors’ conference and
will instead focus on using existing resources better.

“The question is: Is the funding being used strategically in the
appropriate way? And that?s what we?re going to be addressing in this
meeting,” Valenzuela said.

“The various donors have been pledging monies now for some time in
different kinds of categories,” he added.

“The secretary may announce how we?re repackaging some of our own
assistance,” in support of the counternarcotics strategies of the region’s
countries, he said.

“We want to be more effective partners in carrying out their expectations,
which of course, is also in our fundamental interest,” Valenzuela said,
referring to US efforts to fight drug traffickers traveling north.

Washington cooperates with Central America, which UN figures say is the
world’s most violent region outside of war zones, through the Central
American Regional Security Initiative, with a budget of 260 million
dollars.

Clinton’s main concern is organized crime and its threat to the
continent’s democratic institutions, particularly those in Central
America, said Michael Shifter, who heads the Inter-American Dialogue, a
DC-based think tank.

“When she thinks about the region, it is what concerns her most, and I
believe she wants to achieve a concrete result to contain and respond to
this growing criminality in Central America,” Shifter told AFP.

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