The Vice President’s March 2-3 visit to Guatemala and President Obama’s request in his Fiscal Year 2016 budget for $1 billion in assistance to Central America are two critical elements of our new strategy for Central America, which takes a comprehensive view of the region. There has been a longstanding commitment to help these countries--especially those in the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras--address their serious security challenges. However, for many years, there has not been equivalent attention paid to helping them address the issues which have obstructed their economic growth and contributed to weak government institutions.
Our objective is the evolution of an economically integrated Central America that is fully democratic, provides economic opportunities to its people, enjoys more accountable, transparent, and effective public institutions, and ensures a safe environment for its citizens. Using lessons learned from our approaches in other parts of the world, we are working to advance the prosperity, security, and governance in tandem. Our Central American partners agree and are taking same approach to these issues in their “Alliance for Prosperity” plan, which launched in November 2014.
As the Vice President said in his recent New York Times editorial, “The economies of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras remain bogged down as the rest of the Americas surge forward. Inadequate education, institutional corruption, rampant crime and a lack of investment are holding these countries back. Six million young Central Americans are to enter the labor force in the next decade. If opportunity isn’t there for them, the entire Western Hemisphere will feel the consequences.”
The Administration is requesting a significant increase in the foreign assistance budget for Central America and is committed to working closely with U.S. Congress. Actions are underway to change the environment to support growth and stability in the region and to make our assistance dollars more effective. These actions include new laws to provide investors with greater legal protection and work with civil society organizations to increase transparency of government functions. More such actions are needed. The success of this effort will depend ultimately on the readiness of Central American governments to continue to demonstrate political will and undertake substantial political and economic commitments to bring about positive change in the region.
Click here to read more about our strategy.
Annie Pforzheimer is a member of the National Security Council Staff, Western Hemisphere Directorate.