Merida – The Mesoamerica Project member countries called on the United States at the end of their summit in this Mexican city to "explore all the possible options" for reducing drug consumption to decrease the economic power of the cartels responsible for so many deaths in the region.
The final declaration of the 13th summit of the organization, formerly known as the Plan Puebla-Panama, called on the United States and other drug-consuming countries to share responsibility for the problems caused by drug trafficking in Mesoamerica.
The nine-point declaration on organized crime and drug trafficking was read to the gathering by Mexican Government Secretary Alejandro Poire on Monday.
"The extraordinary drug sales of the past decades have given enormous financial power to criminal organizations," the declaration said.
Criminal organizations' financial resources have allowed them to gain access to all kinds of weapons, which have resulted in "immense costs in terms of human lives," the declaration said.
Nearly 50,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico in the past five years.
Several cartels have been battling for control of different states, while gaining a foothold in other countries in Mesoamerica, such as Guatemala, where the Los Zetas cartel now has a strong presence.
Drug-consuming countries, especially the United States, must make an effort to control narcotics use by their citizens and "explore all the possible options for eliminating the huge earnings of the criminals" involved in the illegal industry, the declaration said.
The leaders, however, did not suggest any strategies for accomplishing this goal.
Lawmakers in countries that produce and sell weapons should regulate the flow of firearms to prevent them from falling into the hands of criminal organizations, the declaration said.
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, who was a special guest at the summit, said he was willing to work with the countries involved in the war on drugs.
"There can be no weakness against the criminals, no complacency or doubts, because when we fall into that, they are the ones who advance. We have no other option but to wage that war with all of our strength within the framework of the law," Piñera said.
The member countries reviewed the progress made in different areas, including common infrastructure, health, housing, electricity, telecommunications and social matters, during the summit.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon said in his closing address that the declaration was "a vital instrument for promoting development."
The leaders created a fund, initially containing $160 million, to provide support to the public and private sectors via loans, partial guarantees, venture capital and grants.
In addition to Calderon, Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom; Honduran President Porfirio Lobo; Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli; Dominican President Leonel Fernandez; Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Piñera attended the summit.