U.S. aid cut plan up­ends pol­icy in Cen­tral Amer­ica

The Buffalo News - - WORLD NEWS -

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.

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