Cynthia J. Arnson's introductory remarks:
We all know the dismal facts—that the countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala have the highest murder rates in the world, including the highest rates of youth violence
That the presence of organized crime groups has worsened the already alarming crisis of citizen security, in which gangs play a central role
That the region’s fragile institutions, and incomplete processes of reform following the end of internal armed conflicts have provided a fertile context in which crime and violence flourish
And that Central America does not exist in a vacuum. Its fate is deeply connected to the dynamics of migration and organized crime, in which Mexico, and the proximity of the region to the largest drug market in the world, the United States, play central roles
What is less known are the efforts of courageous, determined individuals and organizations, a number of them represented here today, to make a difference in their countries and their communities, in addressing the root causes of violence and improving the capacity of state institutions to combat violence and uphold the rule of law. These efforts are not easy. They are risky and threatening. We applaud your courage and thank you for your efforts.
- Director of Research, Latin American and Caribbean Center (LACC), Florida International University, Miami