But greater cooperation — between the U.S. and Central America and among the Central American nations — is complicated. Many countries have weak democracies, corrupt or inept institutions and security forces tainted by poor human rights records. There is little trust to go around.

“There’s really much more that needs to take place dynamically within the region, but there are … some countries where it’s just really hard to find institutional partners,” said Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “If the idea is to integrate … and get greater cooperation, but you don’t have a viable national partner, I mean, you know, what can you do?”

Honduras is especially crippled. Its police chief has been implicated in illegal killings and kidnappings of alleged criminals. Many of the country’s senior officials supported a military coup that ousted the elected president in 2009. Political violence since then has claimed the lives of scores of activists, peasant leaders, journalists and citizens.

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