Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–March 6, 2012.
“As the nations of Central America develop a new regional security strategy, the United States stands ready to do our part through a new partnership that puts the focus where it should be – on the security of citizens. And with regional and international partners, we’ll make sure our support is not just well-intentioned, but is well-coordinated and well-spent.” – President Barack Obama, Santiago, Chile, March 21, 2011
In his meeting earlier today with the Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama and the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic, Vice President Biden discussed the challenges of crime and violence affecting Central America and the Caribbean.
The Vice President reviewed with the leaders the implementation of the Central American Citizen Security Partnership launched by President Obama during his March 2011 trip to El Salvador. The Partnership seeks to enhance U.S. citizen security assistance in Central America, in close cooperation with regional leaders and the international community in support of the Central American Integration System (SICA) Security Strategy. Our ultimate aim is to significantly improve citizen security in Central America through a broad-based coalition made up of governments, citizens, civil society, and the private sector.
The Central American Citizen Security Partnership includes the work of a wide range of federal departments and agencies to help protect people across Central America and the United States who are threatened by organized crime, gangs, and violence.
The Vice President highlighted how the United States supports the Partnership through multiple investments, including:
- Billions of dollars to reduce the demand for illegal drugs in the United States through education, treatment, and prevention;
- Law enforcement efforts in the United States and in support of regional partners targeting transnational criminal organizations and gangs, including targeting illicit proceeds and illegal weapons trafficking, and human smuggling and trafficking;
- Direct, sustained support for our partners through the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), which has to date allocated $361 million dollars in prevention, law enforcement, and rule of law assistance to the region;
- Cooperation by Department of Defense (DOD), U.S. federal law enforcement officials from the Departments of Justice (DOJ), Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of the Treasury with Central American counterparts;
- Operation Martillo, a U.S.-led Western Hemisphere and European partner nation effort that aims to disrupt and deter trafficking along the Central American coast; and
- Participation in the “Group of Friends of Central America” that has generated more than $650 million in commitments to support implementation of the SICA Security Strategy.
Additional Background on U.S. Efforts in Support of the Central American Citizen Security Partnership:
Reducing domestic illegal drug consumption. The President’s National Drug Control Strategy is based on a comprehensive and balanced approach to reducing drug use and its consequences. During the past three years (FY 2009-2011), the Administration has dedicated more than $10 billion per year to treatment and prevention programs. More than $10 billion dollars was committed in FY 2012 to implement a broad range of drug prevention, rehabilitation, and community outreach programs. While still too high, the rate of overall drug use in America has dropped roughly one-third during the past three decades. More recently, cocaine use has dropped by 39 percent and methamphetamine use has been cut by half.
Concerted U.S. domestic law enforcement against transnational crime and gangs.United States domestic law enforcement efforts also contribute to regional security. The President’s Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime brings focus and new tools to fight transnational criminal activity and gangs. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), DOJ’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program are tackling drug trafficking and production in the United States. 28 HIDTAs across 46 States bring federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies together to coordinate enforcement efforts, enhance intelligence sharing, and support coordinated law enforcement strategies. This multi-agency construct is also being used by local task forces in major metropolitan areas to fight local and other criminal organizations. Treasury and Justice, in partnership with the U.S. banking sector, are targeting illicit monetary transactions and executing an asset forfeiture program that denies criminals the fruits of their illicit activity.
Direct support for partners through a sustained CARSI commitment.From FY 2008 – 2011, funding for CARSI totaled $361 million. During a difficult economic period that has prompted budget cuts in many regionally funded foreign assistance programs the United States commitment to CARSI has remained stable. FY 2012’s $105 million commitment to CARSI will enable the United States to support a broad range of bilateral and regional programs to reduce levels of crime and violence, particularly with at-risk youth and in marginalized communities, strengthen the law enforcement, prosecutorial and judicial capacity of the region, and enhance regional programs that bring the nations of the region together to pursue transnational criminal activities.
Cooperation between U.S. federal law enforcement and partner country law enforcement.U.S. law enforcement agencies are vetting, training and equipping specialized units in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama that focus on multinational and multidisciplinary investigations to degrade transnational criminal organizations and target firearms trafficking, gangs, bulk cash smuggling, and human trafficking. U.S.-trained customs and immigration inspectors, often with U.S.-funded technology, are screening thousands of vessels, vehicles, and aircraft, as well as cargo, crews, and passengers moving through ports of entry throughout the region for illicit activity. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are partnered with Panamanian counterparts to establish the Joint Security Program at Tocumen International Airport to interdict high-risk passengers and contraband. A U.S. aviation program in Guatemala provides rapid mobility in response to intelligence, and is being transferred to Guatemalan law enforcement, as millions of dollars of U.S. provided maritime interceptor vessels, law enforcement vehicles, and other specialized equipment, further enhances the capabilities of national police forces, Navies and Coast Guards throughout the region.
Joint and Combined Operations. This past January, the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, in support of U.S. Southern Command, began Operation Martillo, the largest coordinated multinational and multiagency effort ever conducted in the hemisphere. In cooperation with other federal agencies, U.S. Embassies, and partner nations in the region, the United States is supporting this effort with DOD and DHS ships and aircraft, and DEA and DOJ personnel. Martillo is enabled by long-standing relationships built upon professional exchanges, practical exercises, numerous pre-existing operations, and maritime interdiction capabilities purchased for partner nations by the United States. While Operation Martillo is not a training exercise, the byproduct of successful interoperability is enhanced partner nation counter illicit trafficking capabilities.
Group of Friends of Central America. Comprised of the United States and 16 partner nations from the Western Hemisphere, Europe and Asia, as well as several multilateral institutions, the Group of Friends is working in close partnership with the seven countries of Central America to implement their Central American Security Strategy. Group of Friends commitments, including technical assistance, valued at more than $650 million dollars is assisting in the design and implementation of 22 programs that support the regional security strategy. Eight priority programs will be implemented in the next few months.