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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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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.

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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

Support for U.S. President Donald Trump Increases Slightly among Republicans

Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has lost support, however, with Democrats and independents

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US, President, Donald Trump
President Donald Trump listens during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, July 16, 2019, in Washington. VOA

Support for U.S. President Donald Trump increased slightly among Republicans after he lashed out on Twitter over the weekend in a racially charged attack on four minority Democratic congresswomen, a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll shows.

The national survey, conducted on Monday and Tuesday after Trump told the lawmakers they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” showed his net approval among members of his Republican Party rose by 5 percentage points to 72%, compared with a similar poll that ran last week.

Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has lost support, however, with Democrats and independents since the Sunday tweetstorm.

Among independents, about three out of 10 said they approved of Trump, down from four out of 10 a week ago. His net approval – the percentage who approve minus the percentage who disapprove – dropped by 2 points among Democrats in the poll.

US, President, Donald Trump
President Donald Trump portrays Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., left, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., 2nd left, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY., 3rd left, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., right, as foreign-born troublemakers. VOA

Trump’s overall approval remained unchanged over the past week. According to the poll, 41% of the U.S. public said they approved of his performance in office, while 55% disapproved.

The results showed strong Republican backing for Trump as the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a symbolic resolution on Tuesday, largely along party lines, to condemn him for “racist comments” against the four Democratic lawmakers.

All four U.S. representatives – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – are U.S. citizens.

Three were born in the United States.

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The public response to Trump’s statements appeared to be a little better for him than in 2017, after the president said there were “very fine people” on both sides of a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In that instance, Trump’s net approval dropped by about 10 points a week after the Charlottesville rally.

This time, while Democrats and some independents may see clear signs of racial intolerance woven throughout Trump’s tweets, Republicans are hearing a different message, said Vincent Hutchings, a political science and African-American studies professor at the University of Michigan.

“To Republicans, Trump is simply saying: ‘Hey, if you don’t like America, you can leave,” Hutchings said. “That is not at all controversial. If you already support Trump, then it’s very easy to interpret his comments that way.”

US, President, Donald Trump
The national survey, conducted on Monday and Tuesday after Trump told the lawmakers they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Pixabay

By criticizing liberal members of the House, Trump is “doing exactly what Republicans want him to do,” Hutchings said. “He’s taking on groups that they oppose.”

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The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English and gathered responses from 1,113 adults, including 478 Democrats and 406 Republicans in the United States. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3 percentage points for the entire group and 5 points for Democrats or Republicans. (VOA)