Clinton Heading US Delegation at Central America Drug Conference

Posted June 21st, 2011 at 7:40 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading to Guatemala to participate in a conference on the growing problem of drug violence and weapons trafficking in Central America.

Secretary Clinton arrives in Guatemala City Wednesday, leading a delegation that includes representatives from the State, Justice, Defense and Homeland Security departments, as well as the National Security Council and USAID.

At a briefing this week, Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela said Secretary Clinton has for some time been “concerned about the situation” in Central America. Valenzuela said this trip is part of Clinton's efforts to push for “greater engagement” on the issue of insecurity in Central America.

But Valenzuela told reporters Clinton was unlikely to pledge new aid money during the two-day meeting, saying the secretary would more likely announce “repackaging” of previously pledged assistance.

The State Department said in a statement the conference aims to foster greater cooperation among Central American governments, civil society, and private companies in responding to the “grave security challenges” they face, as well as to encourage international support for their efforts.

After the conference, Clinton is scheduled to go to Jamaica for a meeting with Caribbean foreign ministers. The meeting is a follow-up to one last year in Barbados, when Secretary Clinton and members of the Caribbean Community announced a new regional security partnership known as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. The initiative calls for $124 million to be spent over a two-year period to help countries counter illicit trafficking in drugs and small arms.