The Trump administration has announced that millions of aid dollars planned for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras will be reallocated. The move follows Trump’s announcement in March, where he expressed unhappiness over the number of migrants from Central America’s “Northern Triangle” reaching the southern US border, and vowed to cut funding as a result.
The decision to withdraw aid money will see a reallocation of $370 million in aid which was approved by Congress in 2018. An additional $180 million which was approved in 2017 will also be withdrawn. These aid cuts follow Trump’s recent threats to Mexico to place a 5% tariff on exports if it does not decrease the number of non-Mexicans who end up the US border to seek asylum.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that these actions were “consistent with the President’s direction and with the recognition that it is critical that there be sufficient political will in these countries to address the problem at its source.” Critics of the decision however, argue that these actions are not going to prevent the high number of migrants trying to cross the southern U.S. border, which has seen more than 140,000 people in May either apprehended or deemed inadmissible according to Customs and Border Protection data. In a statement on Twitter, Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto said that cutting off aid to Central America would “exacerbate the crisis, driving children and families to our southern border.”
The troubled state of the Central American economies is producing extreme levels of poverty with little prospects for improvement. The changing climate is causing severe droughts which are seeing people unable to produce enough food to feed themselves or their families. Additionally, a severe drop in coffee prices is forcing more and more coffee farmers to head north.
Trump’s persistence to use financial muscle to reduce the flow of immigrants to the US border is a short-term reaction which will have dire consequences going forward. Not only will withholding aid fail to reduce the number of people seeking US asylum, but Trump’s doubling down on tariff threats to Mexico is likely to perpetuate conflict at the Mexico-Guatemala border. After a recent agreement between the US and Mexico, Mexico has pledged to send 6000 troops of a new Mexican National Guard to be placed at the Guatemalan border. Whether there will be peaceful interactions between the troops and those trying to get to the US remains to be seen.
The Organization for World Peace will be monitoring the situation closely.