The governments of the Northern Triangle region -- Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador -- have presented the United States government with a reportedly comprehensive plan to address the root causes behind the recent wave of northward migration.
The document itself, known as the “Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle,” has not yet been released to the public. In a Tuesday background briefing, a State Department official told journalists that the report “focuses on economic opportunity and development and employment opportunities, public safety and access to judiciaries, and strengthening institutions,” all of which are generally in line with U.S. development goals in the region.
This remark was essentially all that the media had to go on until yesterday evening, when Reuters reported that it had obtained a copy of the report. According to the news agency, the plan involves major spending on electricity and natural gas projects, as well as improving roadways and other infrastructure elements.
Curiously, several of the proposed projects are not actually in the Northern Triangle, but appear to be relevant to these countries’ trade interests. According to a Reuters Factbox based on the report, the plan includes proposals to improve the international airport in Managua, Nicaragua, as well as to renovate Belize City’s main port.
While the plan does not specify a total cost, the news agency notes that its price tag is likely well over $1 billion, if development projects which had already been announced are included.
Despite the lack of a detailed cost breakdown, the plan sounds like a step beyond the $300 million requested by the White House in July to address the root causes of migration. If Reuters is to be believed, the measure could provide a significant economic boost to the three countries involved, though it may fall short of the massive Plan Colombia or Marshall Plan-style “Plan Central America” that regional leaders have been lobbying for.
Central American leaders have maintained that at least 80 percent of the aid mentioned in the plan should be provided by the United States on the grounds that the North American country’s drug market is fueling much of the violence in the region. It’s a fair point, but hopefully this money will hinge on certain conditions.
In Guatemala, for instance, the U.S. would do well to use the aid money to pressure President Otto Perez Molina to extend the mandate of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) beyond its current expiration in September 2015. As Prensa Libre reported last week, the Perez administration has recently shown some flexibility on the issue, having announced that it will study the possibility of renewing the judicial independence watchdog’s mandate. At the very least, the U.S. could use the money as leverage to encourage the government to crack down on the backroom deals and corruption associated with its top judge-appointing process, as Steve Dudley has detailed.
In Honduras, the Obama administration could pressure President Juan Orlando Hernandez to take a firmer stance against corruption and police abuses, as well as to support the prosecution and investigation of journalist and human rights activists’ murders (as over 100 U.S. lawmakers suggested earlier this year).
In El Salvador, we have already seen what kinds of concessions the U.S. is interested in gaining in exchange from aid money. As Politico noted last week, the U.S. approved a second round of aid to the country via the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) after El Salvador passed a series of reforms meant to tighten its anti-money laundering regime. Indeed, the MCC’s breakdown of the spending seems to dovetail with the Northern Triangle Plan’s aims, as much of it will be used to improve highways and border crossings.
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- NPR offers a look at El Salvador’s draconian anti-abortion law, which has led police to arrest women who suffer miscarriages on suspicion of illegally terminating their pregnancy, for which they can face up to 50 years in prison.
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- In what appears to have been a failed attempt to replicate the recent bombing in Santiago, yesterday Chilean authorities announced that a man was killed after handling a bomb that went off unexpectedly. La Tercera reports that the victim has not been identified, nor has any definitive link to the previous attack been established.