MANAGUA – Despite efforts to create a common Central American agenda heading into the Fifth Summit of the Americas next week in Trinidad and Tobago, unifying the region has been complicated by various ideologies, egos and agendas.
The difficulty of unification was exemplified last month when President Daniel Ortega held an extraordinary meeting of Central American presidents that was skipped by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and Guatemala’s Alvaro Colom. Less than a week later, Costa Rica held its own attempt at a meeting of Central American presidents to greet new U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, but that, too, was skipped by Ortega and Honduras’ Mel Zelaya.
Now, with less than a week to get before the April 17-19 summit, where Central American leaders will get their first look at U.S. President Barack Obama, the region remains divided. President Ortega is scheduled to talk at the summit on the issues of the economic crisis and the need for more U.S. assistance in the drug war.
Ortega has already said he thinks the United States should give Central America its own economic bailout plan as part of the Central American Free-Trade Agreement (CAFTA) – an agreement he thinks is unfair and fickle.
“We are part of the crisis and we are part of (CAFTA), so it is their obligation to give resources to the region,’’ Ortega said of the United States during the March 25 meeting in Managua.
The other presidents of the region didn’t back Ortega’s position. Panama, meanwhile, is trying desperately to finalize its own free-trade agreement with the United States.
The biggest concern for Guatemala is combating citizen insecurity and growing violence as part of the drug trade, as the Mexican cartels make inroads into their country.
El Salvador and Honduras, meanwhile, are mostly focused on the issues of U.S. immigration policy and the fear of mass deportations amid the economic crisis, which is already affecting remittances.