President Donald Trump, in his most recent rebuke of Central American nations for what he says is their failure to address the issue of migration, announced plans to cut off aid to three nations — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — known as the Northern Triangle.
Critics of the cuts say they will target programs aimed at preventing violence, curbing extreme poverty and hunger, and strengthening the justice system — the very problems residents of those countries give for leaving home and pursuing a more stable future elsewhere.
Though the administration has offered little in the way of details about what precisely could be cut, the State Department notified Congress on Friday night that it would divert about $450 million in aid from the region. Trump also threatened to seal off the southern border of the United States with Mexico if that country “doesn’t get with it.”
So what’s really at stake, and what types of programs could these cuts affect in each nation? The U.S. Agency for International Development describes the multiyear Strategy for Central America, which is responsible for dispersing much of this aid, as focused on institutional changes and developmental challenges that drive migration. The programs it supports enhance security, improve governance and promote prosperity.
Here are some examples of programs financed by U.S. dollars in the three countries targeted by Trump.
Of the Northern Triangle nations, Guatemala receives the most aid from the United States. It is used to enhance economic growth, food security, and rural and social development, according to the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights research group. According to the group’s most recent figures, which are for 2017, more than $78.6 million was awarded to programs that support those goals. An additional $28.8 million went toward border and drug control, $22 million to governance and human rights, and $48.2 million to improve security and justice that year.
The dozens of continuing projects include:
— Feed the Future Guatemala, which focuses on increasing farmers’ incomes, improving rural nutrition and strengthening food security. The Agency for International Development estimates it will invest $36 million from 2017 to 2022.
— The Youth and Gender Justice Project, a program aimed at providing support and services to victims of violence, including youths, women and other vulnerable people. The project will receive an estimated $37.4 million from 2016 to 2021.
— The Community Roots Project, a World Vision program that creates educational, cultural, athletic and employment opportunities for young people in Guatemala. The program is estimated to receive $40 million from 2016 to 2021.
The Agency for International Development said in a 2018 fact sheet that its programs in Guatemala have led to an increase in income in high-migration areas and reduced impunity for criminals by strengthening the courts.
U.S. aid to Honduras is mostly focused on security, the justice sector and violence prevention, according to the Washington Office on Latin America, with $65.5 million in aid going to those types of programs in 2017. An additional $116 million went that year to projects that supported education, sustainable farming and business development.
Some of the projects include:
— Alliance for the Dry Corridor, or ACS, which promotes agricultural diversity and aims to decrease poverty and malnutrition in western Honduras. The program is estimated to receive $60.6 million from 2014 to 2020.
— Avanzando con Libros, a project set to receive $9.9 million from 2017 to 2020. It provides books for students and teachers in schools in need.
— Alianza de Café, which is to receive $2 million between 2018 and 2022, and provides support to small-scale coffee farmers to expand the industry and create opportunities in struggling communities.
The Agency for International Development, in a 2018 fact sheet detailing its programs in Honduras, said that its investments in the country had contributed to an increase in average income for tens of thousands of families, a reduction in homicides and an increased capacity to prosecute criminals.
In El Salvador, the majority of U.S. aid also goes toward security, the justice sector and violence prevention, though at a much higher scale than in Honduras and Guatemala, according to data from the Agency for International Development.
The aid supports projects across the spectrum, including those that strengthen the justice system and create jobs.
A sample of these are:
— The Crime and Violence Prevention program, which received approximately $39.8 million from 2013 to 2019 from the United States. It partners with the government of El Salvador to bolster community-based crime fighting and support innovative ideas for violence prevention.
— Bridges for Employment, a $42.2 million five-year program, promotes technical training for civic organizations that improve employment opportunities for at-risk youth.
— Government Integrity, a $20.3 million project that supports local governments to promote accountability and transparency.
The Agency for International Development reported a 61 percent decrease in homicides between 2015 and 2017 in municipalities that received security funding under its programs, along with the creation of more than 22,000 jobs, in a 2018 fact sheet.