San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Spain to Open Emergency-Aid Hub in Panama

SANTIAGO, Chile – The Spanish government announced Nov. 9 that will open a fixed base in Panama to distribute emergency aid in Central America and plans to invest 72 million euros ($105.5 million) in helping that region cope with domestic violence and juvenile delinquency.

Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, accompanied by Spain’s King Juan Carlos, unveiled these two initiatives at a  working breakfast with the CentralAmerican leaders gathered in Santiago for the Latin America-Iberia Summit.

The proposal was announced two days before King Juan Carlos told Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to “shut up,” and then walked out on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s speech criticizing Spanish  electrical company Unión Fenosa (see separatestories).

The purpose of establishing an emergency-aid hub at Panama City’s TocumenAirport is to increase the speed with which Spain can respond to natural disasters that occur in Latin America in general and Central America in particular, the Spanish delegation at the summit said.

The project, a hangar with a capacity for 60 tons of supplies, will allow Spain to send up to six-planes-worth of humanitarian aid.

This storage space will allow Spanish authorities to purify 180,000 liters of water per day and supply some 12,000 people daily or provide basic medical supplies needed to attend to 60,000 patients over a three-month period.

Panama was chosen because of its logistical capacity, but also to establish a “regional line of humanitarian aid and disaster response” coordinated by U.N. agencies, the Red Cross and other organizations.

For its part, Spain’s Central American security program will cover a period of five years and will aim to reduce the rate of violent crime, minimize the impact on victims and integrate marginalized and vulnerable groups into society, a focus that emphasizes the fight against poverty over heavy-handed law enforcement.

The program’s three principal areas of intervention will be the fight against domestic violence; initiatives against youth violence, with a special focus on urban gangs; and the struggle against impunity for violent crime, with initiatives to professionalize the judicial and police sectors.

The program also calls for reinforcing bilateral programs that Spain already has launched with Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama, as well as for identifying new ways to fight against youth violence, especially in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.


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