Top State Department official William Brownfield is expected to announce plans for a new, large-scale Central American security strategy in the coming days. Officials in the region hope the plan will address increasing criminal activities in their respective countries, but are waiting on Washington to develop a clear framework and provide financial support.
Brownfield, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for narcotics and law enforcement, is in Honduras as part of a week-long tour through Latin America; he met with officials in Guatemala and El Salvador earlier in the week, and plans to end his trip in Colombia on Thursday.
The Spanish news agency EFE reports that the Honduran Minister of Security, Oscar Alvarez, is optimistic about the visit, and expects Secretary Brownfield to announce a major shift in U.S. security efforts in the Northern Triangle. “Brownfield’s visit will bring some very important announcements,” said Alvarez. “What we seek to push forward is the idea of a ‘Plan Central America’ for our country, much like there has been a Plan Colombia and a Merida Initiative.”
The region already receives $165 million in aid under the terms of the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). Brownfield's speech in Guatemala on Monday gave Central American authorities some reason to believe that more aid could be in the works.
“After this tour, if we find we have a shared perspective in the region, we hope it will allow us to develop a new structure which could develop more collaboration between countries in the Mesoamerican region, as well as other countries in the hemisphere that offer their support and participation," said Brownfield, according to French press agency AFP.
While the exact nature and degree of collaboration that Brownfield is calling for are unclear, some analysts predict that it may lead to the institutionalization of a “Mesoamerican Security Corridor,” in which Colombia, and possibly to a lesser extent Mexico, could lend their expertise and training to beef up anti-crime operations in Central America.
According to AFP, there is significant support for the idea in Colombia, where the country’s Defense Minister, Rodrigo Rivera, announced yesterday that the country is willing to share its relative success in counter-narcotics with other Latin American regions, but is waiting on funding from Washington. “We have been responding on a case by case basis, but now we want to develop a plan that aligns with a strategic logic, with a portfolio of capacities and services that we could make available to other countries," said Rivera.
Despite such optimistic assertions, several obstacles to such a plan remain, including the longstanding issue of Honduras’ diplomatic isolation, the recent border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and of course legislative politics in Washington, where the Republican opposition has declared itself hostile to foreign aid spending. Still, the issue is unlikely to go away in the near future, and will likely be a cornerstone of President Obama’s visit to Latin America this March.