Obama Talks about Poverty in Central America

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Recently, President Barack Obama talked about poverty in Central America, as well as other issues including violence, corruption, and drug trafficking. This region has continued to struggle with these issues over the years despite attempts to control them. These problems, although occurring in Central America, have had direct effects on the United States since poverty in Central America often leads thousands to move north along smuggling routes that are often deadly. Obama spoke about poverty in Central America during a press conference with Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla.

In this conference, Obama commented that poverty in Central America can only be truly battled with a comprehensive approach. This approach would include education, youth centers, better institutions, stronger economies, and the creation of a sense of opportunity for the youth of the different countries in Central America. Poverty in Central America, and anywhere else in the globe, can create issues like drug trafficking, because the country becomes vulnerable, and the members of that country do not have institutions that work for them, so they turn to crime in order to make a living and provide for themselves.

Obama also mentioned that if the institutions and economies are made stronger for individuals in the countries, particularly for those seeking legitimate jobs, the drug trafficking operations will be limited, since there will be legal opportunities within reach for those seeking profit. Basically, if people are given more legitimate opportunities, they will be less likely to turn to crime, which is a risky business that can often end in jail or death.

During his trip to Central America, Obama had a meeting with the Central American Integration System, or SICA (its Spanish initials), which is an eight-nation group. The meeting was in order to discuss issues across the various regions of Central America, and to discuss poverty in Central America. The main issues in this eight-nation group are the regional disputes and rivalries that have hindered cooperation between the countries. Still, the group came ready to discuss national security with President Obama, asking for the cooperation of the United States in regards to security and the high level of US drug consumption. The Central American countries asked for the U.S.’s support to tackle drug trafficking across the border. The current U.S. position is to create better use of the aid going to fight poverty in Central America and to use better coordination in order to reach goals of reducing drug trafficking.

Currently, the United States gives $496 million to Central America in security cooperation, and that number is expected to remain the same; in addition, about $162 million will go to fight against drug trafficking in 2014.

During this meeting, the leaders of Central America decided to prioritize the economy according to the United States’ suggestions. They also revealed that the biggest obstacle stopping their success at this point is the lack of trust among the countries in the region. Finally, there was talk of renewing the trade agreement between the SICA members and the U.S. in order to increase exports from the U.S. to stimulate their economies.

Overall, many important issues were discussed and several resolutions were made in regards to poverty in Central America, as well as drug trafficking, trade and economic growth. By rebuilding trust and collaboration in the region, Central American countries can  work together on these issues in order to find better solutions.

– Corina Balsamo

Source: Huffington Post, CBS News, LA Times
Photo: Al Jazeera

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