The Central American Integration System, SICA

The governments of Central America and the Dominican Republic are planning measures to share information on criminal records and allow “hot pursuit” chases across borders, in an effort to fight transnational criminal groups.

Designed to target organized crime groups, the agreement will allow law enforcement agencies from one country to pursue suspects over the border into a neighboring another country. The agreement will also see states share criminal records so suspects are prosecuted as repeat offenders for crimes they have committed in other countries.

Representatives of the governments agreed on the wording of the deal at a conference in Panama last week, reported EFE. Once the agreement is signed by justice ministers from each country, it will be taken to the mid-2013 Central American Integration System's (SICA) annual summit for signature by the presidents.

InSight Crime Analysis

Weak law enforcement cooperation between countries and lack of border controls has helped make Central America an attractive venue for organized crime with criminals able to move quickly into the next country in order to escape pursuit by the law. One example is offered by the case of Jose Natividad Luna Pereira, or “Chepe Luna,” a Salvadoran drug trafficker who in recent years has been hiding out in Honduras, where he also holds citizenship, after a series of failed police operations to capture him in El Salvador.

Those that do get caught may get away with relativly light sentences despite a long criminal history if it is their first offence in the country where they are arrested.

Free movement policies, like the Central America-4 (CA-4) Border Control Agreement, have also made it easier for criminals to do business between El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

The Central American Parliament, which oversees SICA, has plans to expand the Central American Court of Justice to further coordinate law enforcement efforts in the region, currently a major corridor for trafficking drugs from South America up to Mexico and the United States.

The case of Facundo Cabral, an Argentine folk singer murdered in Guatemala in 2011, has also drawn attention to the importance of cooperation in the region. Costa Rican Alejandro Jimenez, alias "El Palidejo," allegedly ordered the hit, which was intended to kill Nicaraguan nightclub owner Henry Fariñas. Authorities in all three countries have been cooperating in the case, which has also led to arrests in Colombia.