“The folks at the State Department that are running the Central American Regional Security Initiative – they are very skeptical about the ability of Central American countries to absorb, and spend effectively and wisely” any increase in international aid, said Kevin Casas-Zamora, a senior fellow at the Latin America Initiative at the Brookings Institution.
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.