U.S.- Mexico Relations Marked By Lack Of Foreign Aid To Central America

On May 4th of 2022, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador asked the U.S. to increase its financial investment in Central American countries. President Obrador posited that increased U.S. investment in Central America would lessen northward migration by facilitating economic stability. These statements were made amid a reorientation of U.S.-Mexican relations via U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and the Biden administration.

President Obrador elaborated upon his calls for increased U.S. investment, stating that: “There is not sufficient investment yet. We are investing in Central America according to our means, with programs like Sembrando Vida (Seeding Life) and Jovenes Construyendo el Futuro (Youths Building the Future). In El Salvador already 10,000 farmers are getting support from the government of Mexico so they can keep working in their towns and don’t feel obligated to migrate.” President Obrador justified the urgency of his statements by using the Russia-Ukraine conflict as an example of expedited U.S. emergency aid response times. “We are asking them to hurry. [Washington] managed in a few days to send $30 billion for defense to Ukraine and four years have passed without the authorization of $4 billion for Central America.”

President Obrador has the right to enumerate the failings of the U.S. foreign policy in regard to Central America. Expressing discontent with foreign policy in a diplomatic setting is more likely to yield cooperation, and President Obrador has made his policy preferences known. Now that the U.S. government is aware of the policy priorities of the Obrador administration, Secretary Blinken can begin developing a bilateral aid package for Central American states in conjunction with Mexico.

Seeding Life and Youths Building the Future are two employment aid programs established by the Mexican government to encourage Central American workers to remain in their country of origin. Seeding Life pays farmers in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to remain working in the domestic agricultural sector, whereas Youths Building the Future funds construction and business internships. President Obrador has stated that the U.S. could alleviate the burden of northward migration by increasing the number of temporary U.S. visas in Central America. President Obrador believes that an increase in temporary work visas would incentivize legal migration and discourage illegal migration. Additionally, an increase in temporary work visas could help fill the gaping holes in the current U.S. labor market. Finally, Central American workers could send remittances back to their families and increase their local financial stature.

If the U.S. wants to repair and grow its mutually-beneficial relationship with Mexico, Secretary Blinken should seriously heed the advice and suggestions proposed by President Obrador. $4 billion of aid to Central America is a fraction of the U.S. foreign aid budget, and allocating those funds would not financially harm the federal budget. Additionally, President Obrador has expressed a disinterest in imposing sanctions on Russia, and instead called for diplomatic negotiations. While the Biden Administration should freely give aid to Central America, cooperation with President Obrador could incentivize Mexico to reconsider its stance on Russian sanctions.