US commits to helping El Salvador tackle violence; Government announces five-year plan for water projects; Lara blames gang violence for most of El Salvador’s homicides
US commits to helping El Salvador tackle violence
On an official visit to Guatemala, President Salvador Sánchez Cerén met with US Vice-President Joseph Biden to discuss the latter’s plans to support Central American countries in addressing the region’s security issues.
The meeting was part of a multilateral dialogue between Biden and representatives of El Salvador, Guatemala (President Otto Pérez Molina), Honduras (Chief of Staff Ramón Hernández Alcerro) and Mexico (Minister of Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong).
The key topics discussed during this dialogue were immigration, security and crime prevention, and economic and social development.
Biden underscored the importance of US relations with Central America and stated that the US wants to keep and improve this close relationship.
On migration, Biden expressed worry over recent developments in which migrant children (most from Central American countries) are caught crossing the US-Mexico border alone. Concerns arose when reports of children sleeping in detention cells were leaked to the press. A recent report by El Salvador’s Consulate General in Tucson, Arizona, stated that of the 1,154 Central American children currently detained in these facilities, 379 are from El Salvador.
The US has been reluctant to harbor these unaccompanied child migrants for long periods of time, or to allow their families to stay in the US indefinitely. Central America’s representatives reiterated what they see as the only comprehensive solution to this problem: immigration reform.
On security, tackling gang violence was the key issue addressed. In El Salvador, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will push for crime and violence prevention programs over a five-year period.
Central America would receive $161.5m through the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). Of this total, $65m would be used for rule of law, human rights and transparency-related programs. The rest would be channeled to programs tasked with directly tackling insecurity, specifically combating gang violence.
Government announces five-year plan for water projects
El Salvador’s government, through the National Administration of Water Supply and Sewage (Administración Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados – ANDA), announced that it would invest $400m in water projects over the next five years.
One major project under consideration is a new system for water sanitation and treatment. A short-term priority is the rehabilitation of the Las Pavas purification plant, which supplies around 65% of El Salvador’s water and is currently working at 50% of its capacity.
The five-year plan also includes changing all of the sewage system in the country’s capital San Salvador, at a cost of some $240m.
In addition, the government will invest in modernizing the system’s administrative software and its mechanisms to detect damaged meters, which would make improve the efficiency of the water utility’s billing process.
The plan also seeks to expand coverage of water services, which for the moment is at 93.4% in urban areas in San Salvador.
Lara blames gang violence for most of El Salvador’s homicides
According to the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Benito Lara, around 80% of homicides committed so far in 2014 are directly linked to inter-gang violence.
Although there has been a slight decrease in homicides between January and May of this year, the daily average of 10 homicides is still significantly high.
Lara highlighted that 85 of the 262 municipalities in El Salvador have been spared of this gang-related violence. In order to reduce violence in the rest of the municipalities, Lara stated that the police and its intelligence capabilities must be strengthen. In addition, working conditions for members of all law enforcement agencies must be improved in order for law enforcement officers to do their job optimally.
Tackling violence would also involve developing a successful program to tackle the poor conditions inside prisons, including its overpopulation, Lara added.