US and Central America’s Top Law Enforcement Officials Meet

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Top law enforcement officials from seven Central American countries met with the US Attorney General to discuss rising violence, drug-trafficking, and organized crime, underscoring how seriously the US now views security concerns in the region. 

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with her Central American counterparts in Washington on August 5 to address the region’s alarming security situation in a closed-door meeting. The agenda covered issues related to gang violence, drug trafficking, money laundering, and organized crime. Attorney Generals from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama all took part in the meetings.

The summit was the first time law enforcement representatives from all seven countries have met jointly with US officials, including high ranking officials at the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Departments of Justice, State and Treasury. 

The meeting comes amid escalating violence in the region, particularly in El Salvador. The country recently endured a debilitating gang-enforced transportation strike, and violence has soared to record levels. News came this week that the number of police killings so far this year has now surpassed the total number of police killings reported for all of 2014. El Salvador Attorney General Luis Martinez reportedly requested additional aid from the US during the meetings, saying that crime in El Salvador has overwhelmed his office.

InSight Crime Analysis 

While past summits on issues of security and organized crime in Central America have typically involved diplomatic exchanges, this is the first time that top law-enforcement officials from the entire region have sat down to collaborate directly. The change is a good sign that all parties involved are now operating with an appropriate sense of urgency.

The talks come amid rising concern in Washington about the Central American security situation. In June, the US State Department held a high level security dialogue to address concerns of violence and security in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Delegations from Mexico and Colombia participated in that dialogue to share lessons learned on combatting drug-related violence and sophisticated trafficking networks. In January, the Obama Administration proposed a $1 billion aid package for the Northern Triangle to improve economic growth, curb violence, and stem the flow of child migrants seeking refuge in the US. The aid package is still being reviewed by US lawmakers.

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