Media Center

Press Release


  May 23, 2007

Commending the latest international findings on how crime and violence harm development in Central American countries, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, said the study will provide important tools to help the OAS more strategically focus its action in this area.

Insulza made the comments today during a press conference at OAS headquarters, where the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) Antonio María Costa, unveiled a report entitled Crime and Development in Central America: Caught in the Crossfire. Insulza remarked that, while uncovering no new major trends, the findings do provide a great deal of data that could help shape long-term international cooperation designed to address problems arising from crime and violence in the Central American countries.

According to the OAS Secretary General, in grappling with the issue of crime, the link should also be made in policy discussions on development and democracy. He said the information in the report also brings to light the undeniable links between crime and poverty and, at the same time, reinforces the OAS in its efforts to combat illegal drugs and terrorism, part of its multidimensional security agenda.

Costa, for his part, explained during the press conference that the study—the product of broad-based consultation on the effects of crime and violence—seeks to break the “vicious cycle” of the severe impact of crime on security, stability and development. He added that underdevelopment is also a major cause of vulnerability to crime.

The document stresses that all of the countries studied—Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama—are affected to varying degrees by drugs, crime and underdevelopment. Several of the countries are vulnerable because of socioeconomic factors related to income disparity, uncontrolled urban development, widespread poverty, a relatively young population, easy access to large quantities of weapons and an unstable post-conflict environment, among other factors. As well, according to the report, their particular geography puts the countries at risk: they are trapped between the world’s largest coca producer—Colombia—and the largest consumer of cocaine, the United States.

The OAS and UNODC intend to use this study as the basis for cooperation among the countries of the region and other international organizations on strategies to tackle crime, corruption and drugs and the effect of these on development in Central America and the Caribbean.
Besides the senior UNODC officials, Central American ambassadors to the OAS were on hand for the presentation of the study. Also distributed was a previous study on the situation in the Caribbean countries, entitled, “Crime, Violence and Development: Trends, costs and policy options in the Caribbean.”

Reference: E-134/07