Central American Citizen Security

Deterioration in citizen security in the “Northern Triangle” of Central America -- El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras -- and the difficulties faced by governments in sustainably reducing violence and addressing its root causes has eroded trust in democratic institutions and weakened public support for the region’s fragile democracies. According to Latinobarómetro, an annual public opinion survey in Latin America, support for democracy in Central America has prominently declined in the 1995-2013 period. Countries such as Honduras and El Salvador present the sharpest decline to support for democracy in the region. 

Those responsible for violent crimes rarely are brought to justice. Confronting increased violence has driven leaders in these countries to adopt new approaches to security, but the success of these measures for strengthening democratic institutions is limited by the lack of engagement of citizens in the development and implementation of these policies. The gang truce in El Salvador from 2012 to 2014 precipitated a sharp drop in homicides, but a new Salvadoran government subsequently eschewed such an approach, which many local observers concluded had facilitated other types of crimes, such as extortion.  Deployment of the military along with police in Guatemala and Honduras has generated criticism from human rights groups, while local communities have urged greater investment by their governments in violence prevention. 

In response to these challenges, Central American governments are increasing efforts to coordinate approaches, policies and activities to improve citizen security. In June 2011, the Central American Integration System (SICA), a multilateral organization based in the region, laid out a set of comprehensive strategies to address insecurity issues covering prevention, crime control, social rehabilitation and institutional strengthening. Progress on implementing this agenda has been slow. In 2014, the three Central American governments announced  the Plan for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle, a common initiative developed with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank, aimed at increasing economic opportunity, overcoming security challenges and strengthening democratic governance in the three countries. Detailed action plans are being developed by the three governments, along with a process of internal consultations.    


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