WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
21 Jun 2011 | News

Regional Leaders Meet in Guatemala to Discuss Central American Security Strategy

Guatemala City—On June 22nd and 23rd, the Central American Integration System (SICA) will host delegates from member countries and representatives from cooperating countries to discuss a regional security strategy in light of growing levels of crime and violence. U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton will attend the meeting in Guatemala City along with the Presidents of all seven Central American countries, Mexico, and Colombia, and officials from Canada, Europe, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Bank. As this high-level meeting gears up, WOLA experts Adriana Beltrán and Geoff Thale will be in attendance and are coordinating with civil society experts from Central America to ensure that the viewpoints and experiences of those working on the ground in violence prevention and citizen security are taken into account in the new regional plan.

Many countries in the region are facing grave problems of citizen insecurity. Despite democratic progress, homicide rates have risen steadily over the past fifteen years and the “Northern Triangle” countries—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—consistently rank in the top ten highest homicide rates in the world. The lack of security in the region not only makes citizens fearful but exacerbates poverty and hinders development. The Guatemala City conference will call attention to the serious levels of crime and violence in the region and encourage coordination among the Central American governments and push for support from the international community.

“The calling together of heads of state and high-level decision makers from the international community is significant”said Adriana Beltrán, Senior Associate for WOLA’s Citizen Security program, who will be in attendance. “This meeting has the potential to generate consensus in the region not only on a plan to reduce high levels of crime but can also be a key moment to have a real discussion about the root causes of insecurity,” she added.

Geoff Thale, WOLA’s program director cautioned that high-level meetings like the upcoming SICA Conference have had a tendency in the past to focus narrowly on the threat of drug trafficking and organized crime in lieu of addressing the full spectrum of crime and violence experienced by everyday citizens. He argued that “leaders who are really serious about dealing with the issue of crime and violence will not focus solely on asking the international community for increased technology and equipment for the police or strengthening the military, but instead will propose actions to end corruption in the police and judicial system, rebuild and strengthen communities affected by the violence, and work on job creation.”

As you prepare to cover the SICA meeting in Guatemala, we’d like to draw your attention to WOLA materials related to the ongoing debates:

On the ground in Guatemala City
Adriana Beltrán
Senior Associate for Citizen Security

Geoff Thale
Program Director

For general press inquiries
Kristel Muciño
Communications Coordinator
(617) 584-1713