Shifting Sights: Adapting Central American Security Structures to 21st Century Threats

By Fisk, Daniel W. | DISAM Journal, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Shifting Sights: Adapting Central American Security Structures to 21st Century Threats


Fisk, Daniel W., DISAM Journal


[The following are excerpts of the remarks presented to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., June 18, 2003.]

Introduction

I would like to address the relationship between the process of integration in Central America and the security framework and structures in the Central America region. There is a growing consensus in Central America that each state stands to gain from increasing collaboration and cooperation. The end of the Cold War and its polarizing influences within and between Central American nations, as well the general recognition of the wealth creating power of open societies, market liberalization, and trade, have given rise to a climate ripe for dramatic progress in reforming and reconfiguring Central American security structures and institutions.

The leaders of Central America have taken some initial, but bold steps toward this end. Presidents Bolanos, Maduro, Flores, Pacheco, and Portillo have each made important contributions to this process. President Bush had the opportunity to congratulate the five Central American Presidents on their progress towards an isthmus of peace and prosperity when he met with them in Washington in April.

Their commitment to the integration process is reflected in the negotiations towards a U.S. Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The CAFTA represents the common aspirations and goals of all our citizens. It will allow the Central American democracies to put their economic assets to more efficient use, attract more capital, and, ultimately, devote greater resources to development education, health care, and other pressing social needs. The Bush Administration is committed to bringing the CAFTA negotiations to fruition because we believe CAFTA will be a powerful force for growth and prosperity in the region.

U.S. foreign assistance programs also are being retooled to complement the forces for reform unleashed by free trade and the region s democratic evolution. Under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), good governance criteria are designed to support and encourage the efforts of Central American leaders thus far and provide incentives for continuing political and social reforms.

One of the hallmarks of good governance is the rational allocation of national resources. As times have changed for the better and we have seen a welcomed decrease in military spending throughout the region. Nevertheless, there is no question that the Central American states would benefit from even lower levels of spending and from further reform of security institutions, including the military.

The security structures and institutions of Central America were and largely remain organized and equipped to fight yesterday's wars and confront yesterday's challenges. With increasing economic integration and the recent success of peaceful mechanisms to resolve disputes between states in the region, defending against or deterring invasion by a neighboring state can no longer be rationally supported as the raison dItre of Central America's militaries. Further, there is no global struggle between superpowers for which the region might serve as a battlefield. And stable representative democracies do not require disproportionately large standing armies or security forces to impose control on their populations.

There are clear and present dangers to national security, sovereignty, and public safety in Central America. Transnational criminal networks of terrorists, narcotics and arms traffickers, alien smugglers, and traffickers in people, are the enemy today. Their corrupting influence and destructive power should not be underestimated. Today's enemies are truly stateless. They respect no national sovereignty and, to them, a border is only something to hide behind.

Central America also is a region disproportionately plagued by natural disasters; security institutions could play a more active role in emergency preparedness and response. …

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Shifting Sights: Adapting Central American Security Structures to 21st Century Threats
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