The Obama Administration has a longstanding commitment to confronting the security and economic challenges in Central America - especially those in the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Today, as part of our latest efforts to continue the dialogue on regional collaboration on security, prosperity and good governance, the United States and the governments of Central America’s Northern Triangle met at the U.S. Department of State for a High Level Security Dialogue.
During today’s High Level Security Dialogue, leaders from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala discussed how they have begun taking ownership of the problem and they emphasized the importance of transparency and their stated commitment to anti-corruption measures. Highlighting recent efforts in the meeting, El Salvador described the transfer of 55 high-risk prisoners to high-security prisons in order to minimize the criminal influence of the prisoners. Guatemala discussed investigations, arrests, and ongoing prosecutions of alleged corrupt actions of high-ranking officials, conducted with the support of the United Nations International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala. Honduras presented on the ongoing civilian police reform that demonstrates commitment to civilian policing and violence prevention. Delegations from Colombia and Mexico also participated in the meeting and shared expertise learned in combatting drug trafficking, reducing poverty and institutional corruption along with the United States. The Obama Administration has also established clear goals in our 2020 strategy for engagement with Central America and we will continue to track incremental change using quarterly monitoring reports.
As we were reminded last summer when thousands of Central American unaccompanied children and families took the dangerous journey north, the security and prosperity of Central America are inextricably linked with our own. Resources are essential to lower the level of violence and prevent the dangerous migration of unaccompanied children, adults and families at the hands of criminal smugglers. That’s why President Obama requested in January $1 billion from Congress to help Central America invest in security, good governance and economic growth. The cost of investing now in a secure and prosperous Central America is modest compared with the costs of letting violence and poverty fester.
The United States is committed to helping Central America achieve effective democratic governance and citizen security because we strongly believe that addressing the security crisis in the region is critical to the overall stability of the Americas. The Administration is requesting a significant increase in the foreign assistance budget for Central America and is committed to working closely with U.S. Congress to make this a reality. Actions are underway to change the environment to support growth and stability in the region and to make our assistance dollars more effective. These actions include new laws to provide investors with greater legal protection and work with civil society organizations to increase transparency of government functions. More such actions are needed. The success of this effort will depend ultimately on the readiness of Central American governments to continue to demonstrate political will and undertake substantial political and economic commitments to bring about positive change in the region.
The challenges ahead are formidable. But if the political will exists, there is no reason Central America cannot become the next great success story of the Western Hemisphere.