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“Countries Had “Set Up” Migrant Caravans That Make Their Way To The U.S.,” President Donald Trump Calls for Ending Aid

The U.S. has had an inconstant history of involvement in Central America, with some arguing that it is American foreign policy in the region has caused the instability and inequality at the root of the current crisis.

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Migrants
People belonging to a caravan of migrants from Honduras en route to the United States cross the Suchiate River to Mexico from Tecun Uman, Guatemala, Jan. 18, 2019. VOA

The Trump administration wants to halt funding to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the State Department confirmed Saturday.

“We are carrying out the president’s direction and ending [fiscal year] 2017 and [fiscal year] 2018 foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement. “We will be engaging Congress as part of this process.”

The Northern Triangle refers to the three northern Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The three countries were set to receive about $500 million in aid in the 2018 fiscal year plus millions more that were left over from 2017, according to The Washington Post.

Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador
Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. VOA

The move comes a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said the countries had “set up” migrant caravans that make their way to the United States.

“We were giving them $500 million. We were paying them tremendous amounts of money, and we’re not paying them anymore because they haven’t done a thing for us,” Trump said Friday. Trump also warned he was ready to close the southern border if Mexico doesn’t do more to push back migrants.

Congressional action would be needed to cut off aid to the three countries.

FILE - Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., speaks to members of the media after leaving a closed door meeting about Saudi Arabia with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Nov. 28, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., speaks to members of the media after leaving a closed door meeting about Saudi Arabia with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Nov. 28, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Trump’s order a “reckless announcement” and urged Democrats and Republicans alike to reject it.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat and chairman of the Hispanic Caucus, warned in a statement released Saturday that cutting off aid will further destabilize these countries.

“By cutting off desperately needed aid, the administration will deprive El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras of critical funds that help stabilize these countries by curbing migration push factors such as violence, gangs, poverty and insecurity. Ultimately, this short-sighted and flawed decision lays the groundwork for the humanitarian crisis at our border to escalate further,” he said.

Foreign aid and stability

The U.S. has viewed foreign aid programs to Central American countries as a vital component in stabilizing these countries, potentially reducing the flow of immigrants seeking to migrate to the United States. Under the Trump administration, aid to those countries began falling.

Donald Trump
The Trump administration wants to halt funding to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the State Department confirmed Saturday. VOA

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.

Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at The Center for Global Development, says the administration’s strategy to shape migration through aid needs to be done right.

“If what the United States wants to do is prevent irregular child migration in a way that works and is cost-effective, it should not do what it has traditionally done — spend 10 times as much on border enforcement trying to keep child migrants out as it spends on security assistance to the region. In fact, smartly packaged security assistance is the only things that have been shown to reduce violence effectively and cost effectively,” he said.

Also Read: Do You Know? Sun’s Magnetic Field Is 10 Times Stronger Than Actually Believed

The U.S. has had an inconstant history of involvement in Central America, with some arguing that it is American foreign policy in the region has caused the instability and inequality at the root of the current crisis.

Jeff Faux, at the left-leaning think tank the Economic Policy Institute, argues that U.S. policy created the immigration crisis.

“For at least 150 years, the United States has intervened in these countries with arms, political pressure and money in order to support alliances between our business and military elites and theirs — who prosper by impoverishing their people,” Faux wrote in an article for The American Prospect magazine last year. (VOA)

Next Story

Economy to Overcome Other Issues in 2020, says Trump

President Donald Trump is hoping that simple message in 2020 will help foil his eventual Democratic Party challenger. 

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President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump attends a Keep America Great Rally at the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, U.S. VOA

“It’s the economy, stupid” has been a catchphrase of U.S. presidential politics since the 1992 campaign, when Bill Clinton unseated incumbent George H.W. Bush. Nearly three decades later, U.S. President Donald Trump is hoping that simple message in 2020 will help foil his eventual Democratic Party challenger.

Trump — in tweets, at political rallies and in remarks to reporters — constantly emphasizes the performance of the U.S. economy, stock market surges, low unemployment rates and his tax cuts to boast he is doing a great job as president.

Economists and political analysts are divided on whether that message will enable the incumbent to stay in office beyond January 2021.

Culture war, partisan split

Ever since Clinton, “we’ve all kind of assumed that should be true. And I think for the most part, it is,” said Ryan McMaken, senior editor and economist at the Mises Institute, a politics and economics research group in Alabama. He cautioned, though, that Trump finds himself on one side of a culture war that his predecessors did not have to confront, as well as a deep partisan divide on consumer confidence.

Walmart Supercentre
Balo Balogun labels items in preparation for a holiday sale at a Walmart Supercenter, in Las Vegas. Black Friday once again kicks off the start of the holiday shopping season. But it will be the shortest season since 2013 because of Thanksgiving falling on the fourth Thursday in November, the latest possible date it can be. VOA

Policy analyst James Pethokoukis at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, a public policy research group, also is cautious about the economy prevailing over all other issues.

“Just having a strong economy is not going to guarantee you re-election,” he said. “People often point back to the 2000 election, which occurred after a decade of tremendous economic growth any way you want to measure it — gross domestic product, jobs and wage growth. And yet, [Clinton’s vice president] Al Gore still lost that election to George W. Bush.”

McMaken questioned whether voters in key swing states — such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio — who cast ballots for Trump in 2016 were experiencing enough of the touted economic performance to vote again for the president.

Overall, however, “it’s not a bad economy to run on if you’re Donald Trump,” said Pethokoukis.

Trump, said to have concerns about the direction of the economy ahead of next November’s election, will likely push for more tax cuts, passage of a renegotiated North American trade pact and continued pressure on the country’s central banking system, the Federal Reserve, to lower interest rates.

A LB Steel LLC's employee manufactures a component
A LB Steel LLC’s employee manufactures a component for new Amtrak Acela trains built in partnership with Alstom in Harvey, Illinois, U.S. VOA

Trouble ahead?

There are rumblings of economic storm clouds on the horizon. The impact can be seen in Trump’s trade war with China, which has hurt U.S. farmers and raised prices for consumer goods. It’s also reflected in the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Index, an underperforming U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index and a ballooning record national debt, in addition to the worrying level of money owed to creditors by middle-class Americans.

“We’ve actually been in a sort of a manufacturing recession, seen a shrinkage of factory jobs, the exact kinds of jobs that I’m sure that people voting for the president thought would be a lot better now,” said Pethokoukis.

So far, none of this has prompted a major stock market correction.

“There seems to be a lot of adaptations in the markets to Trump’s America. That may work to his advantage,” said the Mises Institute’s McMaken.

Analysts note a lack of emphasis on economic platforms so far by the leading Democratic U.S. presidential candidates seeking to oust Trump next year.

But such a platform is likely to be touted when the opposition party holds its convention next July in Milwaukee and picks its campaign ticket. Pethokoukis suggested the Democratic Party should devise a plan with a goal to boost American worker productivity, which has flatlined for years.

The great divide

McMaken pointed out that the widening chasm between the well-off and those struggling economically in the United States makes Trump vulnerable — something emphasized by left-leaning Democratic presidential contenders such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Donald Trump says the economy isn't doing well
Tents and tarps erected by homeless people are shown along sidewalks and streets in the skid row area of downtown Los Angeles, California, U.S. VOA

“On the ground level, I would say just in general, the economy isn’t doing as well,” concluded McMaken.

ALSO READ: Greed For Power May Demolish The Democracy

Amid an impeachment drive by the Democrats, Trump is repeatedly hammering on a specific message to those questioning his suitability for office while being impressed with the performance of their pension accounts during his presidency.

“Love me or hate me, you’ve got to vote for me,” Trump said at a rally in New Hampshire in August, warning that Americans’ investments portfolios would go “down the tubes” if he lost next year’s election. (VOA)