U.S. pledges $200 million to fight Central American gangs

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 22, 2011 5:55 PM
U.S. pledges $200 million to fight Central American gangs

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - The United States will spend $200 million to combat drug trafficking and gangs in Central America, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday.

The program would tackle the poverty and social factors that drive young people toward crime, Obama said at a news conference during a visit to El Salvador.

"We'll help strengthen courts, civil society groups and institutions that uphold the rule of law," he said.

"Dollars are important but institutional reforms may end up being even more important, or at least they have to go hand and hand."

Salvadoran President Carlos Funes said that local officials were already working with the United States to train 150 prosecutors to improve crime investigation.

The two countries were trying to make sure Salvadoran youth had other options than crime gangs or emigration, Funes said.

The program would involve working closely with countries including Mexico, Colombia and Chile, as well as Spain and the European Union.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Doina Chiacu)