Here's Dr. Cruz
In the early 1990s, far-reaching political transitions, wrought by successful peace agreements, created expectations that these poverty-stricken countries would somehow flourish as vibrant democracies and thriving market economies.
Since then, the international community and, especially, the United States have spent billions of dollars trying to strengthen national and regional institutions in Central America in an effort to create the conditions for rule of law and democracy. Data collected by the Washington Office on Latin America show that, since 2003, international cooperation in citizen security programs in Central America has amounted to over $1.7 billion, with the United States providing the lion’s share, more than 36 percent of the assistance.
But, as it has turned out, things have gone hopelessly awry. Part of the problem centers on how these reforms were implemented, as local elites maneuvered to promote old-regime security operators at the helm of law-enforcement institutions. Many of those officials were already implicated in abuses and illegal activities.And Mr. Shifter
Still, Central American leaders are hardly blameless. The Obama administration is right to urge them to more seriously tackle domestic challenges, including corruption, which is pervasive and shows few signs of abating. Central Americans in positions of power have not done nearly enough to advance the rule of law, promote economic opportunities and help construct a decent life for their poorest citizens. Guatemala’s notably low tax burden, at just over 11 percent, is often cited to illustrate the failure of the country’s most well-to-do to assume their responsibility to finance basic public services. Some voices in the private sector are calling for higher income taxes, but progress has been disappointing and resistance remains enormous. With few exceptions, political figures and public officials have stood in the way of dealing with the spreading criminality, proliferation of gangs and penetration of organized crime in all institutions. Gangs are more common in El Salvador and Honduras; corruption stemming from the drug trade paralyzes Honduras and Guatemala. Since 2012, more than 200 police officers in Guatemala have been purged and are awaiting trial for their collusion with criminal organizations.While the presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala travel to the White House today to lobby President Obama for greater assistance in dealing with the exodus and forced return of their region's youth, the US should not be afraid to ask - "What are you going to do yourselves?"
Here are some of the issues that President Obama might discuss with Guatemalan President Perez Molina that I came up with somewhat tongue-in-cheek last month.