US pledges more foreign aid to fight drug cartels

By BRADLEY KLAPPER | June 22, 2011 | 3:00 PM EDT

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton walks down an airplane stairway upon her arrival at an Air Force base in Guatemala City, Wednesday, June 22, 2011. Clinton will take part in the Central American Security Strategy summit. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The Obama administration is pledging to increase security aid to Central America to nearly $300 million this year. The money is supposed to help countries if the region thwart the expanding activities of powerful drug cartels.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the new funds at a 12-nation meeting in Guatemala. Some of the money was previously allotted or is being repackaged from other programs. The total figure represents a more than 10 percent jump from last year's aid of $260 million.

Altogether, donors at the conference pledged nearly $1 billion.

Years of U.S.-backed anti-drug crackdowns in Mexico and Colombia have pushed traffickers into Central American countries. The problem has grown almost unchecked in a region beset by corruption, poverty and underfunded police forces.