San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S. VP Joe Biden cancels meeting with Central American leaders due to concerns over Syria

PANAMA CITY – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden canceled Wednesday a meeting with Central American presidents in Panama that was scheduled for next week. According to Panama Foreign Minister Fernando Núñez, Biden cancelled the meeting as a result of the increasingly nebulous situation in Syria.

“The vice president met with [Panamanian] President Ricardo Martinelli this afternoon and notified him that due to what’s occurring with Syria, he believed he ought to postpone his Panama trip,” Núñez told the press.

Núñez had announced last week that Biden would meet with Central American leaders on Sept. 18, primarily to address issues related to narcotrafficking and crime.

Presidents in the region had confirmed their attendance for the meetings, including Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla.

“The meeting was actually made at the request of him [Biden] because he wanted to meet with the presidents of the Central American Integration System (SICA) to follow up on a meeting that [U.S. President Barack] Obama had had with the Central America heads of state last May in San José,” Núñez said.

During Obama’s visit to Costa Rica, the Central American leaders called for greater commitment from the U.S. to take more responsibility for the problems generated by the flow of drugs into the United States. The majority – more than 80 percent – of narcotrafficking shipments that pass through Central America, end up the United States.

Central American presidents considered inefficient the $500 million that the U.S. has appropriated since 2008 to the Central America Regional Security Initiative

The isthmus remains one of the most violent places in the world, where organized crime contributes to 40 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. The figure is five times the world average, and Honduras doubles that frightening rate to approximately 80 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

According to Núñez, Biden said the he will announce “soon” when the meeting can be rescheduled.

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