Department of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will host the Ministers of Defense and Security of the Central American nations at a conference on "Security and Economic Opportunity" in Key Biscayne, Fla. Oct. 12-13.
This will be the first meeting at the ministerial level of U.S. and Central American officials after the ratification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement by the U.S. Congress. It will also be the first-ever meeting of a U.S. secretary of defense with the ministers of defense and security of all seven nations of Central America.
The conference will provide the ministers an opportunity to discuss diverse perspectives on the relationship between security, development, economic opportunity, and job creation, with an emphasis on the strengthening of region-wide institutions for security cooperation.
Topics to be discussed include: regional cooperative security mechanisms, emerging non-traditional threats such as gangs and narcoterrorists, improved coordination between military and law enforcement, maritime safety and security, the proposed combined Central American peacekeeping battalion, and rapid regional response to natural disasters.
Delegations representing Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama will attend. The delegations include Belize Minister of Home Affairs and Public Utilities Ralph Fonseca; Costa Rica Minister of Public Security, Government and Police Rogelio Vicente Ramos Martinez; El Salvador Minister of Defense Maj. Gen. Otto Alejandro Romero Orellana; Guatemala Minister of Defense Maj. Gen. Carlos Humberto Aldana Villanueva; Honduras Minister of Defense Federico Breve Travieso; Nicaragua Minister of Defense Avil Ramirez Valdivia; and Panama Minister of Government and Justice Hector Bolivar Aleman Estevez. Several other countries of the region will be represented by observers.
The seven Central American nations encompass a population of 41 million and a combined GDP of $88 billion. In 2004, U.S. imports from the region were $13.5 billion, and exports to the region were $13.2 billion.
Three of the countries, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, provided forces for the coalition in Iraq, with El Salvador currently on its fifth rotation. The Dominican Republic, which will be present as an observer, also provided forces in Iraq.
Media interested in attending the conference must register before Oct. 6 by calling (703) 695-2528 or e-mailing Cmdr. Flex Plexico at email@example.com .