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International conference to strengthen fight against TOC crime, gangs and drug trafficking in Central America.

Arturo Valenzuela Assistant Secretary Western Hemisphere Affairs Term of Appointment: 11/10/2009 to present

Panama City  .- The United States will promote an international conference for fundraising in order  to strengthen the fight against organized crime, drug trafficking and gangs in Central America, announced Friday in Panama Undersecretary of State for Latin America, Arturo Valenzuela .

“We are seeing how to make an international conference under SICA (Central American Integration System), so that it makes possible for the United States and other countries to contribute more in this struggle,” the U.S. official said after a meeting with the foreign ministers of the countries of Central America.

The Secretary General of SICA, Juan Daniel German,  said that there is no place or date set for the conference, but “it will be very soon.”

“The conference is for central american countries to have the opportunity to describe what they are doing, needs, projects and, of course, as we say, pass the hat,” said the official German.

Valenzuela described the meeting as “very helpful” because it was clear the great challenge “that we all have” against the scourge of drug trafficking and organized crime.

“The key is not money per se, the key is strengthening institutions, because if no effective police or no effective  judicial system, if no response to poverty, we are not going to win against this scourge,” he said.

The U.S. official recalled that in 2010, the U.S. has earmarked 100 million dollars to the Central Regional Security Initiative (American version of Plan Merida) and 100 million by 2011.

A statement issued at the end of the meeting, commits participating countries to “strengthen existing measures for coordination and cooperation, to improve the operational capabilities of all States and entities of the security forces.”

The next meeting between the U.S. and Central America on this issue will be held in Washington in 2011.