Security ministers from Central America, Mexico and the Dominican Republic agreed Thursday in Guatemala to adopt a joint strategy to confront gangs and drug trafficking.
“Each of the countries has its own strategies [against organized crime]. We have discussed and shared them and the idea is to generate regional plans and protocols,” said Guatemala’s Interior Minister David Napoleon Barrientos at a press conference.
Barrientos explained that the actions will be focused on combating drug trafficking groups, gangs or “maras”, cybersecurity and attending to migratory flows seeking to reach the United States.
For his part, the Minister of Justice and Public Security of El Salvador, Gustavo Villatoro, added that “each country” in the region must adapt the measures against crime according to their realities, but offered the experience that his government has in the “war” against gangs.
“We are winning the war. We have completely dismantled the activity of this terrorist criminal corporation (…). What we have achieved in El Salvador is available to all countries,” added Villatoro, who said they are also looking to repatriate gang members who fled El Salvador.
Since March of last year, El Salvador has maintained an exceptional regime that allows arrests without warrants, a measure criticized by human rights organizations.
The “crusade” against gangs has led to the arrest of almost 63,000 people and on Tuesday Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele presented a mega-jail to hold 40,000 alleged gang members.
“Crime is transnational and we also have to be very coordinated. We have to know who is answering the phone when we call another country,” said Mexico’s Undersecretary of Security and Protection, Luis Rodríguez Bucio, about the joint actions announced.
The meeting was attended by ministers and delegates from Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Nicaragua and Panama did not attend the meeting. The next follow-up meeting will be in six months.
In 2022, criminal violence in Central America left 9,737 deaths, down from 10,487 in 2021.
Guatemala, with 4,274 deaths, and Honduras, with 3,397, lead the figures and accounted for 81.86% of homicides in the region, according to official data.