Central America: Nicaragua pulls out from OAS defense treaty
Nicaragua pulls out from OAS defense treaty, as Costa Rica claims lowest homicide rate in Central America and 11 Guatemalan police arrested for kidnappings.
Nicaragua pulls out from OAS defense treaty
The strength of Washington’s influence in the Western hemisphere has suffered a new blow, as Nicaragua is pulling out – along with Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador – from the continent’s major defense treaty, Nicaraguan officials announced Wednesday.
Known as the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (see document), the treaty was created under U.S. leadership during the onset of the Cold War (1947). It calls for member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) to rally in each other’s defense in the event of an outside attack.
‘The High Contracting Parties agree that an armed attack by any State against an American State shall be considered as an attack against all the American States,’ reads Article 3 of the treaty.
The treaty is considered to have been a crucial legal framework which enabled the U.S. to prevent the rise of leftist governments in the hemisphere up to the 1980’s and exert its influence in ‘our little region over here that has never bothered anyone,’ as former U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson once put it.
The pull-out was announced at a OAS meeting in Bolivia. The four countries in question have also taken issue with the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), accusing it of acting in the interest of the United States.
‘Our countries have made the decision to bury what deserves to be buried, to throw into the trash what is no longer useful,’ said Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino in reference to the treaty.
Costa Rica claims lowest homicide rate in Central America
In other news, following a government report released last week, Costa Rica now hails the lowest homicide rate in Central America and, according to Tico Times’ Isabel Schwartz, has become ‘the first country to rid itself of the “violence epidemic” label that haunts the region’.
This epidemic includes the current recipient of the title of murder capital of the world, Honduras, with a homicide rate of 82 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011, followed by El Salvador, with 71 per 100,000 for the same year. After Costa Rica, Nicaragua (14) and Panama (19) came at the lower end of the spectrum last year.
The report showed murder rates in Costa Rica fell from 11.5 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010 (total of 520 homicides reported) to 10.3 per 100,000 in 2011 (total of approximately 459 homicides reported).
These optimistic trends have trickled down into the first three months of 2012, with 22 homicides registered during this period against 56 in the first three months of 2011, Minister of Public Security Mario Zamorra said.
‘In 2012, we want to pull the country out of what the World Health Organization calls a “violence epidemic,” which refers to a homicide rate of over 10 for every 100,000 inhabitants,’ Zamora said. ‘So far, we think we’re getting closer to that goal.’
Costa Rica’s murder rate climbed significantly between 2006 and 2010, from 7 murders per 100,000 inhabitants to 11 per 100,000 in 2010, and is now exhibiting its first signs of decline in the past six years.
During this period, the nation’s primary concern was insecurity, with 80% of Costa Ricans hailing it as public enemy number one in 2009, according to a study conducted by the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica.
Still widely perceived as one of the gravest social problems facing the country, the latter figure nonetheless declined to 45% according to data from the region’s Latinobarómetro for 2011.
The drop in homicide rates and public concern regarding insecurity follows a significant increase in government security spending since President Laura Chinchilla was sworn in back in 2010.
Since then, however, there has also been a worrying threefold increase in the number of incarcerated people under 25.
Last year, the Public Security Ministry broke its spending record, using up to 94 percent of its US$312 million budget.
There are now over 600 police vehicles patrolling the country’s streets against 276 in 2011, with 3,000 police being added to the public security contingent in the past two years, making a total of 14,000.
The first woman to helm Costa Rica’s Public Security Ministry, Chinchilla hopes to add an additional 500 vehicles and 2,000 police by 2013.
11 Guatemalan police arrested for kidnapping
Also this week, 11 Guatemalan police officers were arrested between Thursday and Friday in connection with the kidnapping of two civilians, in what officials say is a crime in which Guatemalan security forces are commonly involved.
The arrests were made following an investigation by the Public Ministry into reports filed by the alleged kidnap victims.
According to Prensa Libre, the Guatemalan Byron Eduardo López Moreno and Mexican national Francisco Bravo Navarro told authorities they were negotiating the sale of a car outside a casino in Guatemala City in May when they were detained by police officers.
Both men were handcuffed by policmen, but while López was forced into the police vehicle, Bravo managed to escape, they said. Accomplices in civilian clothes and with their faces covered drove the car around the city, while police hit López and demanded 500,000 quetzales (approximately US$65,000) from him, according to his statements.
López said that the police released him after a friend of the two men delivered Bravo’s handcuffs back to the station, as the officers were concerned that the escaped man would use the cuffs as evidence to report them. They took López to La Villa police station and forced him to sign a document that he was not allowed to read, according to the report.