WAKEFIELD, Canada (AFP) – The top US, Canadian and Mexican diplomats met here Monday to help Central American nations fight drug cartels and ensure contested Haitian election results are properly reviewed, US officials said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Ministers Lawrence Cannon of Canada and Patricia Espinosa of Mexico also met in the rural Quebec community of Wakefield to discuss border security and regional trade, US officials said.
Arturo Valenzuela, the assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, told reporters before leaving Washington that the three top diplomats will map out the agenda for a summit of their three leaders early next year.
A portion of the meeting will be on "broad foreign policy discussions," he said.
"The biggest emphasis will be with regard to Central America and also Haiti. I'm sure Haiti will be a very important part of the discussion," Valenzuela said.
Senior US officials said North American governments feared the drug cartels could relocate to Central American nations as they faced government crackdowns in Mexico and Colombia.
"As you get more success in Colombia and in Mexico, weaker states tend to become more a haven for these organizations," one official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.
Central American states like Guatemala "are arguably weaker states," and they find it even harder to fight the drug cartels, another said.
There is a "tremendous need to address the problem of security in central America," the official added.
"Central American leaders welcome Canadian and Mexican assistance and coordination on their borders," another official said, adding the North American states can help strengthen the police and courts in Central America.
Cannon has said meanwhile that Canada is offering to take part in an international-led recount of ballots in Haiti's disputed presidential election, which has led to deadly rioting.
The Canadian foreign minister suggested Sunday that Ottawa could be part of "a mixed international committee" to supervise a fresh tally of ballots, after charges of irregularities marred the November 28 vote.
The Haitian election saw President Rene Preval's handpicked protege Jude Celestin make it through to a second round run-off, edging out popular opposition candidate Michel Martelly by less than 7,000 votes.
In a bid to counter widespread allegations of fraud and to stave off protests, Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has announced plans to add up all the tally sheets in the presence of the three main candidates.
But those plans are now in disarray after Martelly wrote an angry letter to the election commission, dismissing a process he said would be rigged again.
US officials also sought to help the election review process.
"We've been following it very closely and are engaged to try to assure that the review is a proper review, that the legitimacy of the election can be enhanced through this review," a senior US official said on condition of anonymity.
"I suspect that given the controversies surrounding the election that the discussion of Haiti may be more important than we might have envisioned it when we were first putting this meeting together," he said.
US officials said the three diplomas will also discuss developing common standards in renewable energy and sell the energy across all three markets. They said Mexico's strengths in developing solar and wind power.
by Lachlan Carmichael – 13 Dec 2010
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