One of the latest responses to migrants coming at the southern border is the Trump administration moving to cut off humanitarian to Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras). The presumed reason is that these countries are taking insufficient steps to stem the tide of emigrants.
The United States is halting humanitarian funding to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, just days after Trump warned of a new migrant caravan heading toward the U.S. border.
That brings into question a better understanding of what is the aid currently used for – and how likely is this approach likely to be effective. On the surface at least it appears it could at least as likely be counter-productive.
Here is a good breakdown of where that aid is being spent with an ability to drill down to particular projects.
The amount of aid has already been dropping:
Historically, the United States has viewed foreign aid programs to Central American countries as a vital component of stabilizing the countries, potentially halting the flow of immigrants seeking to migrate to the United States. Under Trump, aid to the countries had already plummeted.
The U.S. provided about $131 million in aid to Guatemala, $98 million to Honduras, and $68 million to El Salvador in 2016, according to Reuters. The following year the funding fell to about $69 million for Guatemala, $66 million for Honduras and $46 million for El Salvador.
There is also something to be sorted out depending on how the laws granting this aid was passed, since it might depend on Congress more than the president.
There were small amounts of aid suspended on particular issues such as this (mis)-use of military vehicles.
Analyst and former Interior Minister Francisco Jimenez called the U.S. decision an important message with a political impact.
Some of the past budget amounts have not been spent by the Trump administration, also suggesting Trump has already had an effect on spending.
The Trump administration is seeking Central America’s help to reduce migration. But Trump keeps throwing tantrums.
As I understand things, a lot of this foreign aid funnels through USAID. Here is their fact sheet about Guatemala from July 2018. The overall goals include:
Consistent with the goals of the U.S. Strategy for Central America, and in broad alignment with the Northern Triangle Countries’ Alliance for Prosperity Plan, USAID programs in Guatemala seek to address the drivers of irregular migration to the United States, including high levels of violence and insecurity, pervasive poverty, and chronic malnutrition.
The following goes into more detail with a sequence of projects.
Here is a case made from a pro-aid group
Gang violence, political instability, and poverty are all key factors driving families to make the risky journey from Central America without any guarantee of safety.
Here is a more nuanced perspective
Overall, these numbers don’t seem large. For example, a spending of $69 million for Guatemala would not build very much fencing.