Central America drugs war: Clinton pledges more funds

Hillary Clinton at the Central American Security Conference in Guatemala City Hillary Clinton urged businesses in the region to pull their weight in the fight against drug-related violence

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pledged more foreign aid to fight drug cartels in Central America.

Mrs Clinton told a regional security conference in Guatemala that the US would increase its aid by more than 10% to nearly $300m (£187m).

Analysts say the figure is still small, given that more than two-thirds of cocaine sent from South America to the US now passes through Central America.

In total, some $1.8bn was promised to support the region's security.

The World Bank is to provide $1bn in the coming years, said Pamela Cox, the bank's vice-president for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) will also offer $500m over two years.

Announcing the increased US funding, Mrs Clinton said Washington was committed to helping the region.

"Everyone knows the statistics, the murder rates surpassing civil war levels," she said in remarks to the Central American Security Conference (SICA).

Mrs Clinton said funding to tackle transnational organised crime in the region would be increased from $260m in 2010 to almost $300m this year.

But she stressed she expected Central American nations to pull their weight.

"We will be your ready partners but it must begin with you and led by you," she told leaders from across the region.

Fight across borders

Mrs Clinton said governments had to work together to beat the drug cartels, which are behind much of the violence blighting the region.

Police stand guard outside a cocaine laboratory discovered in Honduras Mexican gangs are increasing their operations in Central America

"The cartels and criminals are not contained by borders and so therefore our response must not be either," she said.

But Mrs Clinton did not only call on governments to increase their efforts to fight crime. She said businesses also had a role to play.

"Businesses and the rich in every country must pay their fair share of taxes and become full partners in a whole of society effort. True security cannot be funded on the backs of the poor," she stressed.

Efforts by presidents in Central America to raise taxes have faced opposition in the past.

El Salvador's President Mauricio Funes' plan to impose a new tax to raise money for security programmes has been opposed by many in El Salvador.

Central America has long been used to smuggle drugs from producer countries such as Colombia and Peru to the main drug markets in the United States.

But with Mexican President Felipe Calderon declaring war on drug gangs in his country, Mexican cartels have increasingly been moving into Central America and running smuggling operations there.

In March, police in Honduras for the first time uncovered a cocaine laboratory in the country.

Security officials said it was a first-rate facility, probably run by Mexican gangs, which they said indicated that some of the cocaine production was being moved there.

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