Central America Regional Security Initiative: Background and Policy Issues for Congress [July 26, 2012] [open pdf - 645KB]
"The security situation in Central America has deteriorated in recent years as gangs, drug traffickers, and other criminal groups have expanded their activities in the region, contributing to escalating levels of crime and violence that have alarmed citizens and threaten to overwhelm governments. Violence is particularly intense in the 'northern triangle' countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, which have some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Citizens of nearly every Central American nation now rank public insecurity as the top problem facing their countries. The World Bank estimates that the overall economic costs of crime and violence average 7.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) in Central America. Moreover, some analysts maintain that the pervasive lack of security in the region not only threatens Central American governments and civil society, but presents a potential threat to the United States. Given the proximity of Central America, instability in the region--whether in the form of declining support for democracy as a result of corrupt governance, drug traffickers acting with impunity as a result of weak state presence, or increased emigration as a result of economic and physical insecurity-- is likely to affect the United States. Although some analysts assert that the current situation in Central America presents a greater threat to regional security than the civil wars of the 1980s, policymakers have only recently begun to offer increased attention and financial support to the region. During the 1980s, the United States provided Central America with an average of nearly $1.3 billion (constant 2010 U.S. dollars) annually in economic and military assistance to support efforts to combat leftist political movements."
CRS Report for Congress, R41731