Foreign ministers from across Central America met Wednesday morning to announce the creation of a new statistical organization and a border security agreement leading up to the 41st Central American Integration System (SICA) Summit, in the Costa Rican capital.
Representatives from the eight member states met in a ballroom at the Hotel Real InterContinental, in Escazú, southwest of San José, to finalize the Declaration of San José, a sprawling agreement addressing reforms to SICA, development and security concerns, among others.
One of the results of Wednesday’s meeting was the creation of the SICA Center for Statistics (CENTROESTAD), an organization charged with providing leaders with information to guide regional policy. The body will provide statistics on education, security, social and economic topics, and food security, according to a statement from Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry, which has held the president pro tempore position for the last six months.
The SICA foreign ministers also signed the Regional Accord on Border Security, and agreement that seeks to improve communication and cooperation on national and regional border security issues.
During the signing ceremony on Thursday, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla will hand over the rotating presidency to Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli.
Panama’s foreign minister, Fernando Núñez Fábrega, told The Tico Times that his country would work to address concerns about transparency in the system, improve coordination between member-state organizations and further regional integration.
Núñez said, “the 21st century is the century of integration,” adding that reducing restrictions on people and goods in the region would be a major focus of Panama’s SICA leadership. The minister added that Panama and Costa Rica recently signed an agreement allowing citizens from both countries to cross their shared border without a passport.
The minister noted that political disputes between SICA members were a hurdle to integration, but he trumpeted the economic benefits promised by greater regional unity. Critics have charged that SICA has been hobbled by regional squabbles, including a protracted border dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua over Isla Calera along the San Juan River, the natural northern border between the two countries.
Besides announcing Panama as the system’s interim leader, SICA will also name a successor to out-going Secretary General Juan Daniel Alemán.
Based in San Salvador, SICA is made up of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, and the soon-to-be-added Dominican Republic.