In his May 3 meeting with the Presidents of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and the Dominican Republic, and the Prime Minister of Belize, President Obama discussed our comprehensive regional partnership to improve citizen security in Central America.
Through the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) and multiple complementary citizen security investments, the United States supports the region’s governments to create safer streets, strengthen the rule of law, and protect human rights across Central America. The United States takes an integrated, whole-of-government approach to combating transnational crime and improving security and opportunity for all Central Americans. Priorities for U.S. cooperation on Central American citizen security include:
Direct, sustained support for Central America through CARSI. CARSI is the primary mechanism for assisting Central American governments to improve citizen security. Through CARSI, the United States supports Central American nations to reduce levels of crime and violence, boost the capacity and accountability of rule of law institutions, and expand municipal crime prevention and services for at-risk youth. From fiscal years 2008 – 2012, the United States contributed $496 million through CARSI to tackle the most immediate security threats and to build stronger institutional foundations for long-term success. FY 2012’s $135 million commitment to CARSI represented a 33 percent increase over 2011 funding, and the Administration has requested $161.5 million in FY 2014.
Reducing the vulnerability of communities to crime. U.S. assistance to Central America emphasizes sustainable, long-term solutions that address the root causes of insecurity. The United States supports Municipal Crime Prevention Committees that bring together local and national stakeholders to identify risk factors that contribute to crime and violence and develop community-based strategies to improve safety. We also support extensive services for at-risk youth through vocational training, life skills development, and more than 100 outreach centers in high-risk communities. Through programs such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Feed the Future, and Pathways to Prosperity, we support economic development, combat poverty, hunger, and malnutrition, and promote greater opportunity for all Central Americans.
Strengthening the rule of law. One key U.S. objective is support for the development of strong, transparent, and effective Central American governments and institutions. Violence and impunity across the region threaten human rights and the rule of law and present overwhelming challenges to governments in providing services to their citizens. We help Central American governments to increase the capacity of investigators, prosecutors, judges, and prison administrators to combat impunity and to ensure that those responsible for crimes and human rights abuses are brought to justice. We empower civil society to play a constructive role in the development of security policy and as independent auditors of government performance. The United States incorporates human rights training into all programs with police and armed forces, and assists with police reform and internal affairs to root out corruption.
Cooperation between U.S. federal law enforcement and Central American counterparts. Extensive law enforcement cooperation builds the region’s capacity and ensures more effective response to transnational criminal threats. The U.S.-supported Central America Police Reform Project brings Panamanian National Police, Colombian National Police, and other advisors to the region to assist in reforming and advancing key functions such as computerized crime mapping, police academy curricula, and training methodologies. The U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security train and mentor vetted law enforcement units in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama in conducting complex investigations that target arms trafficking, gangs, extortion, bulk cash smuggling, kidnapping, and human trafficking – crimes that affect both local and regional security. U.S.-trained border officials in Central America screen thousands of vessels, vehicles, and aircraft moving through ports of entry. Guatemala and the United States cooperate on an aviation program that provides rapid mobility to support interdiction. U.S. maritime capacity building programs enhance the capabilities of the region’s police forces, navies, and coast guards. U.S. Embassy personnel, technical experts, and mobile training teams provide ongoing training for law enforcement personnel.
Concerted U.S. domestic law enforcement against transnational crime and gangs. The United States implements a diverse mix of domestic programs to target, investigate, disrupt, and dismantle the criminal networks in the United States that undermine citizen security in Central America. The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program brings together federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies across 46 U.S. states to coordinate law enforcement strategies and enhance intelligence sharing to combat drug trafficking and production from source countries through Central America and Mexico to the United States. Local task forces in major U.S. metropolitan areas draw upon significant interagency collaboration to combat criminal networks, including the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs, which operate throughout the United States and Central America. The U.S. Department of Treasury, in partnership with the U.S. banking sector and Financial Action Task Forces in Central America, targets illicit money transactions and administers an asset forfeiture program that denies criminals the fruits of their illicit activity.
Reducing domestic illegal drug consumption. The United States recognizes our shared responsibility to reduce demand for illicit drugs, and over the last three years, the U.S. government has spent more than $31 billion on domestic demand reduction. The 2013 National Drug Control Strategy represents a 21st century approach to drug policy that outlines innovative policies and programs and recognizes that substance use disorders are not just a criminal justice issue, but also a major public health concern. To support the Strategy, the Obama Administration has requested more than $10.7 billion to support drug education programs and expand access to treatment for people with substance use disorders for fiscal year 2014. The rate of overall drug use in America has dropped roughly one-third over the past three decades. More recently, the number of current cocaine users has dropped by 44 percent and methamphetamine use has been cut by 40 percent from 2006 to 2011.
Maritime and air interdiction to disrupt criminal activity in coastal waters. U.S. maritime and aerial support to Central American nations is instrumental in facilitating the timely detection, monitoring, and interdiction of narcotics and other illicit cargo across the region. Operation Martillo (Hammer) is a joint U.S., European, and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort to disrupt transnational criminal activity in the coastal waters of the Central American isthmus. Through Operation Martillo, the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security provide assets and training that deter crime and trafficking and their corrosive effects on Central America and build partner nation capacity, in support of the White House Strategies for Combating Transnational Organized Crime, National Drug Control, and National Security.
Group of Friends of Central America. International partnership is essential to combating shared security threats in Central America. The Group of Friends of Central America, comprising the United States and more than 20 partner nations and multilateral organizations from the Western Hemisphere, Europe, and Asia, works with the seven countries of Central America to implement the Central America Security Strategy of the Central American Integration System (SICA). The Group of Friends and SICA have joined through technical working groups and high-level meetings to coordinate support under four pillars: Combating Crime; Rehabilitation and Penitentiaries; Institutional Strengthening; and Prevention of Violence.