El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have agreed to cooperate on fighting criminal gangs and drug traffickers, presidents of Central America’s “Northern Triangle” countries announced on Tuesday.
The joint proposal, called “Elite Security Group,” was originally suggested by Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
“What we’re doing now is [undertaking]a transnational effort, a force that allows us to make our work to fight crime more effective,” said Hernandez.
The joint task force, which will be deployed in September, will coordinate security operations to combat organized crime such as drug trafficking, illegal arms trafficking, trafficking in persons, extortion and kidnapping. According to El Diario de Hoy, this will include setting up a binational force along the border of Honduras and El Salvador border in the coming weeks, in order to stop the passage of gang members, contraband and human traffickers between the two countries.
The pact also aims to coordinate security measures, share intelligence information and exchange arrested suspects in the most “expeditious way possible.”
Standing alongside Hernandez and Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales, President Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador said Tuesday the joint operation will be comprised of personnel from the three nations’ security, justice, intelligence and defense sectors.
However, as Reuters noted, the presidents did not elaborate on whether the force would be made up of police or military personnel, nor give any other details about its members.
The Northern Triangle is one of the world’s most violent areas, with drug trafficking, gangs and other actors of organized crime fueling a high regional murder rate. In 2015, a total of 17,422 murders were committed across the Northern Triangle countries. The region is home to around 31 million people, but the violence has been causing a mass exodus of Central Americans trying to illegally enter the United States every year.
In Honduras and El Salvador, the former and current murder capitals of the world, governments have been resorting to relying on the military to combat crime. This has been widely criticized by human rights groups, who fear such tactics are causing undue harm and providing little stability to the region.
The security plan announced this week is a promising sign that the Northern Triangle countries are able to cooperate in the fight against domestic security threats, but the plan has also been criticized by those who doubt the ability of the Northern Triangles to implement well-rounded security policies when they struggle to do so individually. The plan also fails to address money laundering and high-level corruption, Insight Crime notes, which continue to pose threats to justice, public security and development across the region.