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Nov 28, 2003

Meeting next week will focus on Atlantic coast

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With Belize holding the six-month rotating presidency of the Central American Integration system, SICA, there has been no shortage of high-level meetings taking place here. But one gathering that starts Monday will be a little bit different, in that instead of the usual presidents, ministers and government officials, those Central Americans coming to Belize City will be people serving on the front lines of development on the Caribbean coast. Belize’s Ambassador to Mexico, Sal Figueroa, says this meeting will give the people most affected a chance to shape the nature of projects under the Plan Puebla Panama.

Salvador Figueroa, Belize’s Ambassador to Mexico

“Well, we can expect some input from all sides. As you know, we have been pursuing, over the last few years, this initiative from the I.D.B. and President Fox in Mexico, called the Plan Puebla Panama. And basically, the Plan Puebla Panama is the umbrella for this event that we’re hosting. We’re inviting NGOs, indigenous leaders, which is very important to note, all the way from Yucatan to Panama. Business leaders also, we have different representatives from the regional airlines coming in for this meeting. And essentially, what we want to do is form a common agenda to pursue economic and social development over the next ten or fifteen-year period. We already have planned a follow-up meeting in six months in Honduras and we just want to find out what people’s wants and needs are and how we can work together.”

Stewart Krohn

“Ambassador, a lot of meetings are held in the region and they often times amount to nothing more than talk. What tangible results do you expect to see from Monday’s and Tuesday’s meeting?”

Salvador Figueroa

“I think you are perfectly right when you say that we have these gathering and then we go home and we kinda forget about it. And that’s why we have already set in place a follow-up meeting. But what we’re hoping to do is find ways that we can begin to offer opportunities, in particular on the Atlantic Coast where for most of our countries it’s where the richest diversity of ethnic groups live, the indigenous groups live. They are the people who have been sort of kept on the margin in the past, and what we’re trying to do is identify where we can begin to work to create opportunities for these people, in particular how we can use the cultural diversity as a tool for tourism development and have them be stakeholders in whatever we do.”

The purpose of the Plan Puebla Panama is to strengthen regional integration and upgrade infrastructure, trade, and development. Member countries include Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

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