President Barack Obama’s administration hopes to increase funding to Central America to $1 billion next year as part of a drive to boost relations with southern neighbors, bolster security and stem illegal immigration.
“On Monday, President Obama will request from Congress $1 billion to help Central America’s leaders make the difficult reforms and investments required to address the region’s interlocking security, governance and economic challenges,” Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday.
“The economies of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras remain bogged down as the rest of the Americas surge forward,” he wrote in an opinion article published by The New York Times.
“Inadequate education, institutional corruption, rampant crime and a lack of investment are holding these countries back.”
With many economic migrants to the United States coming from the region legally and illegally, the United States has a vested interest in improving stability — which has been hit by poverty, rampant gang warfare and drug trafficking.
The proposal is part of Obama’s 2016 budget plan — to be unveiled fully next week — which would first have to be approved by a hostile Republican-controlled Congress.
The funding for Central America would be used to promote trade, border protection and help create jobs, according to the White House.
Around $300 million will go to “improve community security, promote police reform, continue defense cooperation, and attack organized crime.”
Nearly $250 million would be spent on strengthening institutions, including training civil servants.
US relations with Central America have long been tainted by Washington’s role in backing right-wing dictators during the Cold War.
Relations remain cool in particular with Nicaragua, where former leftist rebel President Daniel Ortega opposed US influence in the region.