MANAGUA, Nicaragua – A U.S. official detailed a $1 billion aid plan for Central America Wednesday focused mainly on Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — violence-wracked countries of origin for many unauthorized migrants trying to enter the United States.
Francisco Palmieri, the U.S. State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for the Caribbean and Central America, discussed the funding President Barack Obama has asked Congress to allocate in 2016 during a visit to Nicaragua for private talks Tuesday with President Daniel Ortega.
Palmieri said the U.S. aid would comprise $400 million for promoting economic growth, $300 million for boosting security, and another $300 million to foster democracy, according to interviews with the newspapers El Nuevo Diario and La Prensa published Wednesday.
The aid plan — which roughly triples the past aid commitment to the region — is essentially aimed at the so-called Northern Triangle made up of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Gang-related violence and sky-high homicide rates in those countries have spurred many young people to leave, often with hopes of entering the United States.
According to a report by the United Nations’ refugee agency last month, there has been a nearly fivefold increase since 2008 of people reaching the United States from those three nations to seek asylum, “and a nearly 13-fold increase of asylum-seekers from the same countries arriving to Mexico and other parts of Central America.”
The Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, said that, in 2013, around three million of America’s 41 million immigrants were from Central America.
Palmieri stressed in his interviews that the United States’ previous aid allocation to Nicaragua would be “maintained,” and that Washington would “double the amount of money aimed at economic growth and the promotion of democracy” in the country.
“The reality is that Central America is a very important zone for the United States,” he said.