PANAMA CITY – Spain’s Prince Felipe said last weekend here that “nothing that affects the Americas is foreign to us” upon inaugurating a humanitarian center for Latin America and the Caribbean set up by Madrid’s AECID international cooperation and development agency.
With the center, which up to now has been located in Spain, AECID intends to reduce to 40 hours or less its ability to respond to any natural or other disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The heir to the Spanish crown on Saturday inaugurated the center along with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos, who said he was “pleased and honored” at the fact that his country had been selected by Madrid as the location for the new Latin American based emergency aid center.
Torrijos, who called his country a “crossroads between the seas,” said that “Spain can count on our commitment and enthusiasm” to achieve the success of the humanitarian aid initiative.
For his part, the prince said that “in the name of Spain, I greatly thank the Panamanian government for all the facilities offered to bring this project to a completion.”
“Spain feels it is fundamental to work hand in hand with all countries of the region to achieve the maximum efficiency of our humanitarian effort,” he added.
The prince also noted that Madrid’s international cooperation budget allocated for humanitarian aid had been set at 115 million euros (about $160 million) for 2008.
He also said that Spain “has contributed 25 million euros (some $35 million) to the U.N.’s Central Emergency Response Fund over the past two years, with a commitment for 20 million (euros) for 2008,” making Madrid the sixth largest contributor to the fund among the international community.
The establishment of the center in Panama is the result of a year-and-a-half of analysis of the emergency assistance model the region requires.
The AECID center is a replica of another logistical center set up in 2005 at Madrid’s Torrejon de Ardoz airport, where some 800 square meters of space has been set aside and 200 tons of assistance equipment stockpiled to deal with emergencies in the Western Hemisphere.
The type of aid provided in such cases includes health care, provision of potable water, sanitation and shelter for people who have lost their homes.
The center, however, will not stockpile medicine or food, the distribution of which Spain undertakes with financing from international organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization or the World Food Program.