TEGUCIGALPA — US Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday pledged $107 million more in aid to Central America under a security initiative to tackle organized crime amid soaring drug violence in the region.
"Despite the significant recession ... we are sustaining support for the Central American Regional Security Initiative, through which we have dedicated $361 million since 2008. And we're asking our Congress for another $107 million next year," Biden said after meeting regional presidents in Honduras.
Biden spoke of the "shared responsibility" of the United States and said US authorities were acting on "multiple fronts," including seeking to reduce demand for illegal drugs at home.
He also proposed that the United States and Central American governments hold an annual high-level meeting to assess progress on improving security.
Biden made no mention of a hot regional debate on decriminalizing drugs -- proposed last month by Guatemalan President Otto Perez -- after insisting Monday in Mexico that the United States was firmly opposed to such a move.
The governments of Panama, El Salvador and Honduras have rejected legalization but, along with Costa Rica and Nicaragua, are open to discussing the issue.
They have also requested more help from the United States, the number one consumer of illegal drugs worldwide.
Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have some of the highest murder rates in the world and have seen violent gang crime intensify in recent years with incursions from Mexican drug cartels.
Around 90 percent of the cocaine which arrives in the United States passes through Central America and Mexico.
Some 50,000 people are believed to have been killed in Mexico alone since Mexico launched a massive military crackdown on the gangs in late 2006.