THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
To demonstrate the Administration’s commitment to working with Central American countries to address the root causes of the dangerous migration of unaccompanied children and families, the Vice President, Secretary of Commerce and other senior Administration officials participated in the Inter-American Development Bank-chaired conference on November 14 entitled “Investing in Central America: Unlocking Opportunities for Development.” This followed President Obama’s July 25 meeting with the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and the Vice President’s June 20 visit to Guatemala to meet with regional leaders, as we worked in partnership to address increased migration by Central American citizens, including thousands of unaccompanied children, to the United States. The President and Vice President expressed the commitment of the United States to work with the three countries to help them address the underlying factors contributing to increased migration and encouraged them to work together to develop a regional solution to their challenges.
The United States seeks to contribute to the evolution of an economically-integrated Central America that provides greater economic opportunities to its people, with strong democratic institutions, with more accountable, transparent, and effective public institutions, and where citizens feel safe and can build their lives in peace and stability. This will require coordination with Central America, Mexico, Colombia, international financial institutions, the private sector, civil society, and other international partners to promote regional prosperity through a sustained, well-coordinated plan to address longstanding challenges to economic growth in the region. To that end, the United States will work closely with the governments of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, as well as with other international partners, as they implement the “Alliance for Prosperity” presented by the leaders of the three countries at the Inter-American Development Bank.
Over the summer, we asked Congress for $300 million more in funding for Central America -nearly double what was available in 2014– and we remain committed to working with Congress to provide additional resources. In fact, $76 million in security funding has already been re-targeted to address urgent needs in the justice and law enforcement sectors.
The United States developed a Central America strategy to complement the work undertaken by regional governments and multilateral development banks. The U.S. strategy focuses on three overarching lines of action: 1) Promoting prosperity and regional economic integration; 2) Enhancing security; and 3) Promoting improved governance.
Prosperity and Regional Integration
The United States will focus on promoting trade facilitation under existing trade agreements, promoting transport and customs/border integration, promoting more efficient and sustainable energy, workforce development, facilitating business development, linking Central American and North American Markets, and strengthening Central American regional institutions. Examples of current and planned activities include:
- Trade capacity building assistance from the Office of the United States Trade Representative and other agencies to help the region with trade facilitation, trade capacity building and technical support to promote efficient movement of goods across borders in a safe and secure framework, support integration of regional value chains and strengthen competitiveness to grow trade and economic prosperity as the Dominican Republic-Central America/United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) market access provisions are fully implemented, and work to improve workers’ rights and conditions. The export of goods to the United States from CAFTA-DR countries increased 66.7 percent since 2005, totaling $30.1 billion in 2013.
- The Overseas Private Investment Corporation has over $500 million invested to support development across the Northern Triangle and is standing by to provide investors and project developers with financing and risk mitigation tools to make investments in the Northern Triangle more attractive. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, is also supporting the planning and development of priority energy and transportation infrastructure projects in Central America.
- The United States helps fund technical assistance to support electricity market integration, renewable energy development, establishment of solvent power sectors, and resource planning to improve Central American citizens’ access to clean, affordable, and reliable electricity and to attract private investment in clean energy infrastructure.
- In September 2014, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed a $277 million Compact with El Salvador, designed to enhance the country’s competitiveness and productivity in international commerce through a set of interrelated projects in investment climate (including regulatory and institutional improvements), education, and logistical infrastructure.
- The United States supports improved educational access and quality for under-served populations, including rural indigenous girls and boys in 900 rural schools, and educational and vocational training opportunities.
El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are plagued by violence as gangs and other organized criminal groups force many communities to live in fear. The United States will focus on promoting police reform, improving community security, continuing defense cooperation, and attacking organized crime. Examples of ongoing and future activities include:
- Continuation of the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), providing for security projects such as model police precincts (MPPs) in Guatemala, El Salvador and most recently, in Honduras. MPP projects, which have shown success in targeted Central American neighborhoods, provide police training, facilitate community engagement, and prioritize the crimes of most concern to Central American citizens: gang extortion, robbery, and domestic violence.
- Preventing violence through Municipal Crime Prevention Committees that identify crime “hot spots” and implement community-led plans to improve security; working with faith-based organizations to provide at-risk youth with life skills, job training, and recreation activities; supporting civic groups to reclaim gang-controlled public spaces and improve basic infrastructure, such as street lights; and providing services at domestic violence assistance centers.
- Developing investigative and prosecutorial capacity to successfully prosecute cases through assessments, training, judicial cooperation and exchanges. The Department of Justice and other agencies are working with local counterparts to advance professional responsibility policies and procedures, and enhance collaboration among all parts of the criminal justice system, including police, courts and corrections.
- Providing assistance through the Departments of Defense, State, Justice and Homeland Security to build partnerships that professionalize and improve the competency, capability, and accountability of security institutions, especially in the fight against transnational organized crime. This is accomplished through activities that include professional education, tactical and operational training and exercises, human rights programs and institutional reform activities.
Strengthened institutions will enable governments to more effectively address the social, economic, political, and security problems they face. The United States will focus on helping Northern Triangle countries improve revenue collection and public sector fiscal management, increase the role and impact of civil society on governance, strengthen the efficiency, accountability, and independence of judicial institutions, reinforce democratic institutions, and target corruption. The following are examples of U.S. cooperation with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to improve governance capacity:
- In 2013, MCC and the Government of Honduras signed a $15.6 million Threshold Program Agreement designed to promote good governance practices in Honduras.
- MCC is currently in the final phases of development of a Threshold Program with Guatemala. The proposed program will focus on policy and institutional reforms to improve the quality of secondary education, including technical and vocational education and training. The program is expected to also help the government to mobilize additional revenues through more efficient tax administration and public-private partnerships.
- A variety of U.S. agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State and the Department of Justice, and the Inter-American Foundation, help national and local governments improve management of the judiciary, rule of law, and public funds and to increase local resilience to issues that can contribute to migration, especially stresses on rural agriculture.