Trump Threatens to Curtail Aid to “Northern Triangle”

President Trump announced on March 30 his intention to end U.S. economic aid to the three countries that comprise the Northern Triangle: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. President Trump made this announcement while chastising Central American countries for failing to prevent thousands of asylum seekers from reaching America’s borders. A total of $627 million that had been allocated for aid packages to the region had already been stalled by the president several months ago.

“We were paying them tremendous amounts of money and we’re not paying them anymore, because they haven’t done anything for us,” President Trump stated in an interview with CNN. “They set up these caravans, in many cases they put their worst people in the caravan. They’re not going to put their best in.”

The president’s decision follows his recent threat to close the Mexican border due to his frustration with Mexico’s inability to stop the flow of Central American migrants through the country and to the U.S. More than 76,000 migrants were detained along the U.S.-Mexico border in February alone. However, a shift in the demographics of migrants, from single males to entire asylum-seeking families, has challenged the president’s ability to deport under federal law.

The U.S. aid President Trump is now restricting was part of a program initiated by former President Obama. One of the primary goals of this program, was to “reduce illegal immigration and illicit trafficking.” The millions of dollars in aid was not traditionally received by the governments of the Northern Triangle countries, but largely by nonprofit organizations in charge of managing programs that benefit impoverished areas. The programs, such as Guatemala’s Youth and Gender Justice Project, or Honduras’s Alianza de Café, provide economic, educational, and social aid to help reduce the flow of emigration from the countries.

Trade along the U.S.-Mexico border contributes to over $1,700 million  worth of goods daily between both countries. The $657 million worth of aid is a small sum compared to the economic gains of continued trade. It remains to be seen if President Trump will follow through on this threat.