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State Department Announces Cut in Aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador

The White House reported this Saturday that the United States will be cutting aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, an end to the months-long fight the Trump administration has been waging against the Obama-era policy. A spokesperson for the State Department said that “at the Secretary’s instruction, we are carrying out the President’s direction and ending FY 2017 and FY 2018 assistance programs for the Northern Triangle.”

The program in question is the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Latin America, specifically the “Alliance for Prosperity,” a plan developed by the El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala governments to expedite reforms and improvements in the stated countries.

This change involves almost $500 million funds set out in FY 2018, in addition to the leftovers from FY 2017.

Ken Baker, CEO of Glasswing International, a group that runs business, health and education programs in El Salvador funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, said that “through our programs, we’ve been able to provide opportunities and the belief that [would-be migrants] can thrive here […] When you’re talking about the problem at the border in the U.S., it’s already too late.”

A former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Jim Nealon, stated that the U.S. government gives aid “to programs designed and implemented by the U.S., with the cooperation of governments and civil society,” many of which are administered by nonprofit groups.

This announcement comes after President Trump’s comments on Friday that blamed Democrats for lax immigration laws. He tweeted that he would close “large sections of the Border, next week” if Mexico did not take action. This comes as a caravan of 2,000 Central Americans and Cubans heads across Mexico toward the U.S. border.

His tweets continued on Saturday:

Over the past decade, the flow of unauthorized migrants has both increased and altered in composition. Rather than easily deported Mexican men, the people who cross the border currently tend to be families seeking asylum; they are required specific rights according to law.

Surprisingly, the Northern Triangle decision also follows Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s signing of a “historic,” “first of its kind” memorandum of cooperation on Central American border security.

When addressing reporters on the issue, Trump stated that “We were giving them $500 million. We were paying them tremendous amounts of money, and we’re not paying them anymore because they haven’t done a thing for us.”

Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, has supported President Trump’s comments. When asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper about the situation, he said, “If [the aid is] working so well, why are the people still coming? Why are these historic numbers — again, 100,000 people will cross the border this month alone. That is — that is a crisis.”

However, Raúl López, the vice minister of justice in El Salvador, stated on Friday that the amount of people leaving the country was decreasing. He said, “We see that as proof that our investment — and the investment of the international community — in social issues is working [….] U.S. assistance has had a positive impact in reducing migration from El Salvador, but we need more help to continue this fight.”

Other individuals advocate for more aid, saying that it will lower the crime and violence that are considered motivators for emigration from the Northern Triangle.

A delegation of Democrats on a Congressional visit to El Salvador released a statement that said they were “extremely disappointed” with Trump’s decision, and that it would “only result in more children and families being forced to make the dangerous journey north to the U.S.-Mexico border.”

This delegation includes Rep Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.); Rep Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.); Rep Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif); Rep Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash); and Rep Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.). They “will work with [their] colleagues in Congress to do everything in [their] power to push back on the President’s misguided approach to Central America.”

The state department has said that it will “engage Congress in the process.” However, congressional staffers say that the president has “some wiggle room to reprogram funds.”

Photo: Roi Dimor

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