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US boosts funds to fight Central American drug crime

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The Guatemalan capital provided a somber backdrop to the event, where heavily armed police patrolled the streets around the Westin Camino Real. Just days before the conference, candidates for mayor of a town outside Guatemala City considered suspending their campaigns after two opponents were assassinated. Elsewhere in the capital, neighborhood groups started barricading streets with bars and concrete to keep out criminals, Prensa Libre reported. The country’s homicide rate nearly doubled between 2000 and 2009, according to the Interior Ministry.

International donors committed $1.7 billion for security programs in Central America over the past three years, according to a study released this week by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Inter-American Development Bank. The report found a lack of coordination and communication between donors and recipient governments, which led to duplication of efforts and sometimes to conflicting goals.

“It’s not just an issue of quantity, but of quality and sustainability,” said Adriana Beltran, senior associate for citizen security at WOLA, in an e-mailed response to questions. “Many countries have tended to focus on short-term, heavy handed responses that have proven to be ineffective and counterproductive.”

Ms. Clinton said yesterday that efforts are beginning to resolve those problems through more high-level coordination, and this week’s conference was the first ever meeting organized by the Central American Integration System, a regional body founded in 1991, that focused specifically on security.

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