Saturday, October 02, 2010

Funes asks for millions to combat narco-trafficking

El Salvador and other Central American nations are asking the US to increase aid to fight drug-trafficking. The Washington Post published an article describing how Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes delivered this request for aid directly to the US government:

Unnerved by the explosion of drug trafficking in the region, Central American governments are petitioning the Obama administration for more funds to strengthen their police and social programs, saying current U.S. aid is insufficient.

President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador presented a $900 million Central American anti-drug-trafficking plan to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday, and asked the Obama administration to help fund it.

But with the administration under pressure to cut costs, it may be difficult for the Central Americans to win more U.S. aid.

The U.S. government has spent about $1.8 billion over three years to fight drug trafficking in Mexico and Central America through the Merida Initiative.

"There should be a bigger presence of the United States government in Central America beyond the Merida Initiative, which was created to emphasize the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime in Mexico," Funes said in an interview.

"The amounts provided for Central America are small," he added. "They don't compensate us for the efforts we're making."...

Funes said that Clinton "was sympathetic" to the proposal he presented Wednesday, and he suggested forming a U.S.-Central American group to study it.

But one State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that because of U.S. budget constraints there would probably not be "exponential growth" in anti-drug aid for the region.

In a sign of the growing reach of Mexico's drug cartels, President Obama for the first time included Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica on the annual U.S. list of major drug-trafficking nations, which was released this month. Guatemala and Panama were already on the list.

El Salvador is not (yet) on the list of major drug-trafficking nations. El Salvador and Belize are the only Central American countries not on the list.

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