Clinton, Central American leaders meet on crime, security issues
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Wednesday in Guatemala City that drug trafficking across borders requires a multinational response, dpa reported.
"The strategy must reflect the transnational nature of the challenge we face. The cartels and criminals are not contained by borders, and so, therefore, our response must not be either," said Clinton, attending a two-day conference on Central America's security strategy.
The conference brings together nine presidents including those of Mexico and Colombia, both major fronts in the hemisphere's battle against narcotics trafficking.
Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom opened the meeting by pointing to "all the lives that could be saved" by addressing the trafficking problem, and called to reverse "imbalances" in the fight against organized crime.
"Who punishes arms manufacturers? We have to discuss that and come to agreements. Why do we not punish those who make the chemicals (used to make drugs)?" Colom asked.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon complained about the "flow of weapons" used in the violence in his country and in Central America. These weapons give the gangs more "ferocity and ability to expand," he said.
Calderon noted that 60 per cent of the weapons seized by Mexican authorities are assault rifles. He claimed that 80 per cent of these were sold in the United States, though he said US authorities put the rate at 70 per cent.
Colom complained that impoverished Central America has to invest precious money "so that drugs do not reach the consumer markets."
Central American leaders were hoping that the meeting would include pledges of fresh international money for the fight against drug gangs, but none were forthcoming from the United States, the world's largest consumer of illegal drugs.
"We do have shared responsibility, and now we have to see it in action. But I will underscore that the leadership must come from Central America itself, and not only from governments but also private sectors and civil societies," Clinton said. "We will all be your ready partners, but we want and need to follow your lead."
"Businesses and the rich in every country must pay their fair share of taxes and become full partners in a whole-of-society effort. True security cannot be funded on the backs of the poor," she said.
Guatemalan Finance Minister Rolando del Cid estimated this week that Central America needs 6 billion dollars per year - equivalent to 8 per cent of the region's GDP - to finance its joint strategy against organized crime.