The EU provides EUR 20 million for a regional programme that will support SICA Member States (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Belize, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic) to improve cooperation on criminal investigation and the prosecution of cases related to transnational crime and drug trafficking.
Today, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica, and Secretary-General of the Central American Integration System (SICA), Vinicio Cerezo, signed a EUR 21.5 million Financing Agreement on "Cooperation on Criminal Investigation in Central America to Fight Transnational Crime and Drug Trafficking", ICRIME.
The objective is to support cooperation among SICA Member States in the fight against cross-border organised crime in Central America. The EU will contribute EUR 20 million, while Spain and the Secretariat General of SICA will contribute EUR 1 million and EUR 500 000, respectively.
Commissioner Mimica said: "Cross-border criminal activities are a major challenge for the economic development of Central America. The fight against organised crime concerns us all as criminal activities do not stop at borders. With this new regional action, the EU supports the Central American countries in their efforts to clamp down on transnational organised crime and strengthening regional integration".
For his part, Vinicio Cerezo, Secretary General of The Central American Integration System (SICA) recognized the support of the European Union, as a supportive partner for the development of Central America, while emphasizing that strengthening the democratic security efforts is a priority for the region. “Organized crime is transnational; therefore, the answer cannot be other than through integrated, regional and international, efforts. That is why, together with the friends of the Central American Security Strategy (ESCA), we are sure that our chances of success will increase”.
Secretary General Vinicio Cerezo and Commissioner Neven Mimica
The programme will help SICA countries to increase information sharing, use each other's evidence, and coordinate operations on the ground, the ICRIME programme will support the criminal investigation and prosecution chains at different levels, focusing on transnational cooperation between the police, forensic institutes, prosecutors, and the judiciary.
The existence of porous land borders between Central American countries and their extensive coastlines exacerbates the vulnerability of these countries to organised crime, in particular to trafficking in drugs, firearms, and persons.
Insecurity in Central America also affects the EU. With trafficking networks being globally interlinked, criminal activities extend to transatlantic cocaine traffic routes, the operations of transnational cartels in Europe, and money laundering.
The region continues to suffer also from a limited capacity of the security and justice actors to prosecute crime beyond national borders. It is estimated that around 75 % of criminal complaints in SICA Member States do not reach the final stage of legal ruling.
The ICRIME programme contributes to the implementation of the "Central American Security Strategy" (ESCA) and builds on previous EU support at the Central American regional level, such as:
- The "Central American Small Arms and Light Weapons Control Programme" (CASAC) that supported four regional police operations and resulted in the seizure of large numbers of firearms and the dismantling of criminal networks.
- The "Programme of support to ESCA" that supported 11 joint operations (in the areas of drug trafficking, criminal gangs, human trafficking, firearms, and stolen vehicles), and the "Regional Training Master Plan" that provided specialised training at the regional level to police, public prosecutors, and the judiciary.
For more information:
in Spanish: https://www.sica.int/
or in English: https://www.sica.int/index_en.aspx
On previous programme in the sector (Support to ESCA):
SICA link to previous programme in sector (CASAC):
Link to EU Delegation to Nicaragua and to the Central American Integration System (SICA): https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/nicaragua_en