Officials descend on Ambergris Caye for the 36th Annual SICA Conference

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

A series of meetings have started both, at the technical and vice-ministerial levels, in preparation for the visit of the Heads of State of all Central American countries. The visit by the leaders is part of the Central American Integrated System (SICA) conference (scheduled to end on Thursday, December 16th) when all leaders are expected to discuss a number of issues related to the region before participating in a joint press conference on Thursday afternoon.

The meetings at the technical level started on Monday evening while the vice-ministers met behind closed doors inside the conference room at Coco Beach Resort on Ambergris Caye. The meetings continued on Wednesday with senior officials, including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the various countries. The 36th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and the Government of SICA saw the participation of six Heads of State, including the Prime Minister of Belize, the Honorable Dean Barrow.

While there was no word as to what exactly was discussed in the SICA conference by the Heads of State, one of the burning issues affecting at least two Central American countries, is the Isla Caleros dispute. In October of this year, a dispute surged between Costa Rica and Nicaragua regarding the dredging of 21 miles of the San Juan River by the Nicaraguan Government, an area which included Isla Calero. The Costa Rican Government claimed that there was a flagrant violation of its sovereignty as Nicaraguan troops had entered Costa Rican territory. The dredging of the river caused environmental damage in the wetlands of Isla Calero, which forms part of the island’s nature reserve, in an area that is owned by the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment. The Costa Rican government responded by sending 70 police reinforcements to the border area in mid-October while the Nicaragua Defense minister stationed around 50 soldiers on Isla Calero. Complaints went before the Organization of American States (OAS) and it is expected that the matter will also emerge in the SICA discussions on Ambergris Caye.

In an interview with Ms. Alyssa Carnegie, the Director of the Government Press Office, she explained that “this is the 36th ordinary summit of SICA, which will be held on December 16th 2010. The executive community of SICA met on the 14th to review the Budget of SICA, look at security and the implementation of presidential mandates.On the 15th, the council of foreign affairs met. The actual summit [was held] on Thursday December 16th. The summit [sees] the participation of the President of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, the Vice President of Panama and Representatives of Dominica and Nicaragua.”

Up for discussion were issues pertaining to security such as organized crime, trafficking of arms and humans, juvenile delinquency, as well as environmental issues such as climate change, as well as the Isla Calero issue. Ms Carnegie further stated that, “It is an honor for Belize to coordinate the discussion on these regional issues. At the summit held being held on Thursday, Belize will hand over the presidency of SICA to Guatemala.”

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