A Preview of Secretary Clinton's Trip to Guatemala and Jamaica

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
June 20, 2011

On June 20, 2011, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela and Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement William Brownfield held a special press briefing at the Department of State to discuss the Secretary Clinton's upcoming trip to Guatemala and Jamaica.

Assistant Secretary Valenzuela said, "...The Secretary will be traveling this Wednesday to Guatemala City to attend the meeting of the Central American Integration System, SICA, that is being held in Central America in order to discuss the Central American security strategy that the countries of Central America have come up with through their integration mechanism, which is the SICA mechanism.

"They've developed this strategy with support from elements of the international community, including the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, and a Group of Friends. The Group of Friends consist of the United States, European Union, Canada, Spain, other countries.

"This has been a long-going process where we in the international community have tried to focus much more on the severe challenges that Central America faces and, as they develop their own strategy, see how we can more effectively support that strategy. And we're doing so not only with our bilateral assistance. As you know, the President went in March to El Salvador. He mentioned then that he wanted to extend a security partnership to Central America. But this is a broad, integrated strategy that we're contemplating together with our other international partners.

"After the conclusion of this meeting, the Secretary will go to Jamaica, and in Jamaica she will be meeting with the Caribbean foreign ministers. This will be a follow-up to her trip last year, where she met also with the Caribbean foreign ministers in Barbados, where the United States also indicated to the Caribbean states the commitment of the United States to the Caribbean security strategies through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiatives.

"In these discussions, the Secretary will also be focusing on the issue of shared responsibility, which is, in fact, what the United States is doing in both Central America and the Caribbean. The Secretary has made clear in her statements that the United States stands ready to work with the countries of Central America and the Caribbean. And at the same time, we're looking to how the Central Americans, through their own individual country processes as well as through their integration mechanisms address their own responsibilities in this case, which is to increase additional resources internally, strengthen their budgets and that kind of thing, and work much more effectively in developing the security strategy.

Assistant Secretary Valenzuela continued before handing it over to Assistant Secretary Brownfield, "...[T]his is an integrated strategy. It touches on security but it also touches on many other aspects of it. We understand that the fundamental challenges of security in Central America are not just questions of criminal organizations and things like that, but it's also strengthening judicial institutions, training police, but ultimately, also it's about strengthening societies through development, through addressing things like youth at risk and so on. So this is a whole-of-government response. AID plays an important role as well."

Assistant Secretary Brownfield said, "I have very little to add to what Arturo said by way of starting this conversation other than to note our reasoning process as we built our part of the President's announced Central America Citizen Security Partnership from his visit to Central America in April, if I recall correctly.

"Our reasoning went along the following lines. There are two basic institutions that are at this point attacking Central America and, through Central America, the United States of America as well as all other countries in the hemisphere. Those are, in essence, organized gangs and narcotics trafficking. The two obviously overlap to a very considerable extent. Those two institutions take advantage of certain other realities in the region, realities such as porous borders, culture of violence, weak institutions, elites that are reluctant to dedicate their own resources to support these sorts of programs, weak corrections systems, et cetera.

"Our approach, then, is an attempt to address those weak elements in the regional system as a way to attack the ultimate organizations that are the cause of the problems, and that is the gangs and the narcotics trafficking organizations. This approach takes into account the rather logical reality that as we have dedicated a vast amount of resources over the last 11 years to our efforts in Colombia through the so-called Plan Colombia, and a vast number of resources over the past three years to the situation in Mexico through the Merida Initiative, the logic is those who are affected by those efforts have focused their effort, their attention, and their resources in Central America. And if we do not address the Central America issue as well in a comprehensive and coherent manner, as Assistant Secretary Valenzuela suggested -- that it's not just law enforcement, not just drugs, but is also development, it is also security, it is also institution building -- then we are merely moving the problem around the chessboard as opposed to addressing the problem at its fundamental core."

You can read a complete transcript of the special briefing here.



June 21, 2011

Shaw in Spain writes:

This is a meaningful trip. I hope to U.
S. can persuade Brazil to become a full member. Brazil has the tools to lead SICA similar to how Germany leads the EU. Also it seems like this organization is more like an IGO. If this is the case, I hope it has a similar structure to the UN such as a Security Council. This would give it increased strength in the eyes of the international community.

Illinois, USA
June 21, 2011

John in Illinois writes:

I see this as more of a subregional organization (SICA). As long as it has strong support from the OAS, I feel that SICA will be respected by the international community. I feel the U.S. should also push for Brazil to be a full member, and thus lead the organization.


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