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Conference of U.S.-Central American Ministers

Rumsfeld To Host Conference of U.S.-Central American Ministers

Oct. 12-13 meeting will explore regional security, economic issues

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will host the ministers of defense and security of the nations of Central America at a conference on security issues and economic opportunity in Key Biscayne, Florida, October 12-13, according to the Department of Defense (DOD).

In a press release issued October 4, the DOD explained that "this will be the first meeting at the ministerial level of U.S. and Central American officials after the ratification" of the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement by the U.S. Congress. "It will also be the first-ever meeting of a U.S. secretary of defense with the ministers of defense and security of all seven nations of Central America," the DOD noted.

The ministers will discuss a wide range of topics, such as regional cooperative security mechanisms, emerging nontraditional threats such as gangs and narco-terrorists, improved coordination between military and law enforcement, maritime safety and security, the proposed combined Central American peacekeeping battalion and rapid regional response to natural disasters. "Delegations representing Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama will attend," said the DOD.

Following is the text of the DOD press release, with further details:

(begin text)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Press Advisory

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 4, 2005

Rumsfeld To Host U.S.-Central America Ministers at Conference on "Security And Economic Opportunity"

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 -- Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld will host the Ministers of Defense and Security of the Central American nations at a conference on "Security and Economic Opportunity" in Key Biscayne, Florida, October 12-13.

This will be the first meeting at the ministerial level of U.S. and Central American officials after the ratification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement by the U.S. Congress. It will also be the first-ever meeting of a U.S. secretary of defense with the ministers of defense and security of all seven nations of Central America.

The conference will provide the ministers an opportunity to discuss diverse perspectives on the relationship between security, development, economic opportunity, and job creation, with an emphasis on the strengthening of region-wide institutions for security cooperation.

Topics to be discussed include: regional cooperative security mechanisms, emerging non-traditional threats such as gangs and narco-terrorists, improved coordination between military and law enforcement, maritime safety and security, the proposed combined Central American peacekeeping battalion, and rapid regional response to natural disasters.

Delegations representing Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama will attend. The delegations include Belize Minister of Home Affairs and Public Utilities Ralph Fonseca; Costa Rica Minister of Public Security, Government and Police Rogelio Vicente Ramos Martinez; El Salvador Minister of Defense Maj. Gen. Otto Alejandro Romero Orellana; Guatemala Minister of Defense Maj. Gen. Carlos Humberto Aldana Villanueva; Honduras Minister of Defense Federico Breve Travieso; Nicaragua Minister of Defense Avil Ramirez Valdivia; and Panama Minister of Government and Justice Hector Bolivar Aleman Estevez. Several other countries of the region will be represented by observers.

The seven Central American nations encompass a population of 41 million and a combined GDP of $88 billion. In 2004, U.S. imports from the region were $13.5 billion, and exports to the region were $13.2 billion.

Three of the countries, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicragua, provided forces for the coalition in Iraq, with El Salvador currently on its fifth rotation. The Dominican Republic, which will be present as an observer, also provided forces in Iraq.

(end text)

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