WASHINGTON: The U.S. Congress approved US$750 million in aid last December to help El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras combat the violence and poverty that are driving migrants toward the U.S. border, but the money has yet to reach the struggling countries.
In a departure from previous aid packages, the State Department first had to certify that the three nations had taken steps to reduce migration and human trafficking, bolster human rights and improve their justice systems.
Eight months after President Barack Obama signed a spending bill that included the funds, congressional aides told Reuters they were still waiting for the State Department certifications needed to release the money, which was budgeted for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
State has not provided its paperwork and Central American governments have not taken the required actions, congressional aides said. Lawmakers have been particularly unhappy about Honduras because of the murder of a prominent environmental activist there.
“The fiscal year 2016 funds have not been obligated because the State Department has not yet submitted a detailed plan as required by law, spelling out how, where and by whom the funds will be used, what their objectives are and how they will measure progress,” said Tim Rieser, a foreign policy aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid.
The delay highlights the longstanding tension between Washington’s desire to promote human rights and the government’s responsibility to protect U.S. security, economic and other interests. In this case, American lawmakers are reluctant to send hundreds of millions of dollars to countries where human rights abuses remain common, despite the flood of migrants toward the U.S. border.
They want to avoid a repeat of past aid programs, in which large amounts of money sent south yielded few results.
For full article, click here.