Mexico, Central America seek cooperation
MERIDA, Mexico (AP) -- Mexican and Central American leaders ended a
two-day summit by announcing an ambitious plan to integrate the region,
including a $3 billion highway project.
The goal of the so-called Plan Puebla Panama's goals is to promote the
development by integrating its roads, electricity grids and tariff systems, as well as
building a gas pipeline from Mexico to Panama.
In the meeting that ended Friday in Merida, 620 miles southeast of Mexico
region's leaders also condemned terrorism and pledged to improve the defense of
Central American countries plan to open a joint office in Mexico's southern
Veracruz state to protect migrant rights, delegates said. Thousands of Central
Americans travel through Mexico on their way to the United States, and many
report being robbed or mistreated by Mexican officials.
Mexican President Vicente Fox, who originally proposed the plan when he
office two years ago, said regional integration "is an imperative need."
Mexico is already providing seed money for the construction of highways
Honduras and Nicaragua. Spain is contributing $70 million of $320 million that the
Inter-American Development Bank has made available for electricity programs.
The plan's proposals include a highway project that is estimated to cost
Although designed basically for economic development, the plan is being
also as a tool to strengthen democratic institutions in Central America.
Plan coordinator Florencio Salazar said Central America has overcome armed
conflicts and all its nations now choose their leaders democratically. "But political
democracy alone does not guarantee the strength and permanence of democratic
institutions unless it is accompanied by economic development."
Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos said that "only together and integrated
political plans and programs ... can we be successful in today's world of
Some of the objections to the plan originally came from environmental and
indigenous groups in southern Mexico.
Ambassador Gustavo Iruegas of the Mexican Foreign Ministry said presidents
agreed Friday that the interests of indigenous and other minority groups will be
Although some observers and possible investors said the plan was not concrete
enough yet, others expressed interest.
"The state of Missouri has some very major, sophisticated construction
infrastructure firms that are taking a real close look at a lot of the infrastructure
projects that they are talking about doing," said David W. Eaton, director of
Missouri's trade office in Mexico City.
Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.