US offers $4.5 billion investment in Central America, Mexico

Washington, USAUpdated: Dec 19, 2018, 09:50 AM IST

File photo of US President Donald Trump. Photograph:(Reuters)

Story highlights

Central America is the primary source of migrants whose unauthorized entry into the United States has become a central focus for President Donald Trump.

The United States, hoping to stem migration, said Tuesday it was ready to support $4.5 billion in investment in Central America and southern Mexico.

The United States promised to back new Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's push for development in Central America, the primary source of migrants whose unauthorized entry into the United States has become a central focus for President Donald Trump.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which offers government-backed favorable financing to US businesses, is prepared to support $2.5 billion in new investment in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras "if commercially viable projects are identified," the State Department said.

OPIC is also looking to mobilize $2 billion more for southern Mexico, the country's poorest region, a statement said.

The State Department said that OPIC already has $2.8 billion worth of projects in the pipeline in Mexico as well as $1 billion since last year in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras -- the so-called "Northern Triangle."

In a parallel announcement in Mexico, Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard told reporters that his government was "committed to promote strong regional growth, better-paying jobs and more opportunities for all our citizens."

Democrats skeptical

The US funding offer, made in a low-key written statement, comes in stark contrast to Trump's years of rallies demanding that Mexico pay for a vast wall on the border.

Trump, railing against unauthorized immigration ahead of last month's election, threatened via Twitter in October to cut off aid to Central America unless they stopped migrants.

Two months later, the US government is teetering on the brink of a shutdown with Trump demanding that Congress provide $5 billion for the wall.

Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat who next month takes over the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was "skeptical" about the "rhetorical commitment" to Central America in light of the Trump administration's policies, including separating children from parents at the border.

He said that Congress would look carefully at the next budget to "separate fact from fiction" and ensure that the United States is in fact supporting Central America.

In new government funding, the State Department said it would request an additional $180 million for the Northern Triangle in its request to Congress for the 2019 fiscal year.

While backing Trump's wall, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has acknowledged that development is a longer-term solution to migration from the Northern Triangle countries, which are among the world's most violent.

State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said the United States expected Central American countries to "hold up their end of the bargain" and work to improve the situation at home.