PRESIDENT LOBO SOSA: [As interpreted by Government of Honduras interpreter] Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the national and international press and the media. It's a true honor for us that today we count with the attendance of Vice President Joe Biden. Welcome to the Republic of Honduras, sir. (Applause.)
Likewise, it's a true pleasure to receive the Presidents Otto Peréz Molina of Guatemala, Mauricio Funes of El Salvador, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, Ricardo Martinelli of Panama, and Chancellor Carlos Morales Troncoso on behalf of the President Leonel Fernéndez of the Dominican Republic.
We held a joint meeting, the presidents of the Central American Integration System, SICA, together with Vice President Biden. It's been a fairly -- a meeting concentrated in citizen security and how to continue our endeavors, efforts between the people and country of the United States of America and the peoples and governments of Central America on the struggle against organized crime and drug traffic.
We are doing our best efforts and also using the best collaboration efforts from the people and government of the United States. Vice President Biden, it's a true honor for us, and to President Barack Obama, please mention that we count with your eternal friendship and the support of brotherly country. And you're accompanying us in this struggle that we need so much in order to generate spaces that are in our interest as we have lots of poverty that is the scourge of our country. So, thank you for attending, being here with us. Thank you.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Mr. President, it's an honor -- it's a genuine honor to be here. I appreciate President Lobo hosting me today and hosting our colleagues across the region. And the leader of the Senate is here, Congress is here. I thank you, Mr. President.
And to the Vice Presidents, I thank you. Madam Vice President, thank you for traveling an hour and a half to meet my aircraft. The hospitality was much appreciated.
The United States and Honduras have had a long and close partnership, and we reaffirmed that today. The President and I discussed a wide range of topics, especially security and economic development. We understand the grave threats of narcotrafficking and the gang violence, and the threat it poses to the people of Honduras, but quite frankly to the entire region as well as to my country. And the United States is absolutely committed to continuing to work with Honduras to win this battle against the narcotraffickers.
One important area in which we can hopefully be of help -- and their legislature is already leading down here -- is in vetting the police, the prosecutors, and the judges. My experience has been, and the experience of all of us is, that the people of a country have to be able to have confidence in the integrity of each of those institutions if progress is going to be made.
I was pleased to meet with the presidents of the Central American countries to discuss the upcoming summit, the Summit of the Americas, and a wide range of regional issues. I held a similar meeting in Costa Rica in 2009, March of 2009, immediately after President Obama and I were sworn into office. And although many of the faces have changed around the table as new leaders have been elected, our common interests have not and the fundamental agenda has not changed.
Security was an important part of our discussion in 2009, when President Obama and I came to office. And we underscored, again, our commitment to work to build a safer future for the citizens of this region. Last March, in El Salvador, President Obama announced the Central American Citizen Security Partnership, which recognizes that a secure and prosperous Central America is in the interest of all our people -- and I mean all of our people, including the United States.
To meet our shared responsibility -- and it is shared, because the United States has responsibility as well -- we help and are acting on multiple fronts. Despite the significant recession we inherited and our difficult budget situation, we are sustaining support for the Central American Regional Security Initiative, through which we have dedicated $361 million since 2008. And we're asking our Congress for another $107 million next year. At home, in the United States, we're investing to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and to cut the illicit flow of money and weapons that contribute to crime and violence in the region. It is our responsibility.
No one country can defeat transnational crime alone. And we will continue to encourage increased collaboration among the Central American countries, as well as with the Group of Friends of Central America. Not only are we committed to maintaining the financial support we've pledged, but we are working as hard as we can to get the Friends of Central America to increase and keep their commitments because it is a significant problem. The indispensable ingredient comes, of course, from Central America itself in the form of action by governments, civil society, as well as the private sector.
And I applaud the leaders here today for the key steps that they have taken to tackle their security challenges. To deepen our partnership, I proposed that our governments -- the same governments that met here today -- that our governments hold an annual high-level meeting to assess the progress we are making toward improving the security of our citizenry. I asked my colleagues to take that under consideration, because we believe we should all be held accountable and all account for the progress we are making and what needs to be done beyond.
The ties that bind the United States and Central America are broad and they are deep. That's why we also focused on the importance of economic opportunity, social inclusion, respect for human rights and the rule of law. The United States is committed, not merely because we gave our word, because it is in our own interest as well to help the region develop more prosperous and more inclusive societies. Our trade and our economic cooperation through CAFTA-DR -- the CAFTA-DR agreement has helped advance trade in both directions and will help fuel sustainable and widely-shared economic growth.
We must give particular attention, in our view, to educating today's young people so that they are equipped to compete in the challenging environment of the 21st century, the much larger market place. To that end, as one example, the United States and the partners in the region -- including governments, universities, and the private sector -- are expanding international study opportunities under President Obama's 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative. Increased exchanges of our students will bring together the best and the brightest young thinkers in Central America and the United States to jointly confront the challenges which we face today as well as tomorrow.
And again, Mr. President, President Lobo, I thank you and my fellow leaders in Central America for this opportunity to discuss a broad range of issues relating to our partnerships and to work that I know the President is -- President Obama is interested in pursuing and looks forward to continuing at the Summit of the Americas next month.
It has been a pleasure being with you. I truly appreciate your hospitality and I'm sure we're going to continue to make progress.