U.S. aid cut plan upends policy in Central America
MEXICO CITY – President Trump’s plan to cut off aid to three Central American countries for failing to stop the flow of migrants toward the United States breaks with years of conventional wisdom in Washington that the best way to halt migration is to attack its root causes.
The decision also runs counter to the approach advocated by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico, among others.
Lopez Obrador has been lobbying Washington to join his government in investing billions of dollars in Central America and southern Mexico, arguing that economic development and reducing violence are the most effective ways to encourage Central Americans to remain home.
Cutting off aid is “shooting yourself in the foot,” said Adriana Beltran, director of citizen security at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights research group that tracks aid closely.
But the president has become incensed at the growing numbers of families arriving at the U.S. border with Mexico asking for asylum.
His administration notified Congress late Friday that it intends to reprogram $450 million in aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and has already sent instructions to embassies in the region.
“No money goes there anymore,” he told reporters Friday. “We’re giving them tremendous aid. We stopped payment.”
While legislators have tools to push back against that decision, it is very possible that some, if not all of that aid, could be suspended for now.
The decision turns U.S. policy in the region on its head.
Not only will it cut development and humanitarian assistance, but it will also halt joint law enforcement efforts, such as anti-gang units vetted by the United States, that had been supported by Republicans and the Trump administration until now, said Juan Gonzalez, a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration. There was no official response from Central American governments Saturday.