Central American leaders launch initiative to tackle drug violence, extreme poverty

By Michael Marshall  |  March 15, 2016 at 7:20 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 15 (UPI) -- Five former Central American presidents on Tuesday called for a regional political process to tackle the growing income inequality and extreme violence that are destabilizing the region.

Speaking at the Organization of American States, they proposed reviving the process that brought an end to decades of civil conflict in Central America in 1986-87. Known as Esquipulas I and II, the agreements opened the way for democratic government.

Former President Vinicio Cerezo of Guatemala said the same model could address economic development and social policies to reach the marginalized in countries with the world's highest murder rate.

"Modernization has to proceed on a regional basis," he added, urging the current leaders to act together.

He was joined by former presidents Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, Alvaro Colom of Guatemala, Nicolas Ardito of Panama and Armando Calderon of El Salvador

Forty percent of Central Americans are under 20, and 57 percent of those live in poverty. For many, their only future lies with drug gangs that operate across borders and threaten the security of the state.

The presidents are part of the Latin American Presidential Mission, a civic organization of democratically elected former presidents. It was launched in 2012 with support from the Global Peace Foundation.

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