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Working Together Toward a Stable and Prosperous Northern Triangle

The United States is working with our Northern Triangle partners – El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – toward a secure, stable, and prosperous future.

Yesterday, I co-chaired the U.S.-Northern Triangle High Level Dialogue with Tom Shannon, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. We met with Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez, Guatemalan Foreign Minister Carlos Raul Morales, and Honduran Minister Coordinator General of the Government Jose Ramon Hernandez Alcerro to review our joint efforts to enhance citizen security, strengthen governance, and improve economic conditions in the Northern Triangle.  We were joined by President Luis Alberto Moreno of the Inter-American Development Bank, who has been an important partner to our four governments in these efforts.


In the February 24, 2016 Blair House Joint Communique, Vice President Biden and the Presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras committed to a periodic High Level Dialogue to “enable strategic coordination and review the implementation of the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity.”  Following their September 23 meeting in Washington, the Vice President and the Northern Triangle Presidents publicly reaffirmed this commitment with a joint statement affirming the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America and the Alliance for Prosperity should “further efforts to promote a secure, stable, and prosperous Central America.” 


Yesterday’s High Level Dialogue built on previous high-level security discussions in July 2014, June 2015, and February 2016. Notably:

  • El Salvador began implementing its comprehensive security strategy in 10 targeted municipalities identified through government-produced diagnostics of social, economic, and security indicators. In July, the government completed its first large-scale effort to target the financial networks of MS-13, resulting in 78 arrests and the seizure of 178 vehicles, bars, auto dealerships, and hotels.
  • The Guatemalan government has significantly increased the number of border operations and detentions of third country nationals since April this year and continues to pursue high-level corruption in all sectors of society.  To improve revenue transparency and regain public trust, the government has implemented a series of reforms and changes within the Tax and Customs Authority, such as amending several laws to improve transparency and accountability and appointing a new Superintendent and Board of Directors.
  • Honduras approved and supported the launch of the Organization of American States’ Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) in April.  The United States is providing more than $5 million to support MACCIH staff and operations. The Honduran government is also providing over $60 million to address poverty and resource scarcity in the Dry Corridor in western Honduras.
  • The U.S. government is implementing $560 million in fiscal year 2015 funding to advance security, governance, and prosperity programming in Central America.  The U.S. government is also working with the U.S. Congress on the $750 million in fiscal 2016 funding Congress appropriated to support the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America and complement the Northern Triangle government’s Alliance for Prosperity plan. 


At yesterday’s High Level Dialogue, we discussed the creation of technical working groups in the region that will help advance progress in the below focus areas.  We also agreed on a timeline for the development of 2017 priorities. The United States and Northern Triangle governments discussed:

  • Ensuring each country’s autonomous, publicly accountable oversight entity is more inclusive, particularly of civil society.
  • Expanding coordination among the three Northern Triangle Attorneys General on corruption, transnational crime, and human rights cases.
  • Promoting regional border security coordination to increase information sharing and security cooperation to combat transnational crime and illicit cross-border activities.
  • Improving customs operations to reduce the time and cost of regional trade in the context of the obligations of the Trade Facilitation Agreement and work towards a Central American Customs Union, consistent with existing international and regional trade obligations.


While overall Southwest border apprehensions remain lower than in FY 2014, the number of families fleeing poverty and violence in Central America remains high.  In 2014, Central Americans apprehended on the southern border outnumbered Mexicans for the first time.  In 2016, it happened again. 


The migration to our border is a symptom of much larger issues in Central America, such as the lack of economic opportunity and continuing gang violence.  That’s why advancing security, governance, and prosperity through the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America remain priorities for this Administration.  The hard work of providing Central American citizens with greater security, more transparent and effective institutions, and increased economic opportunities requires sustained engagement, alignment of U.S. efforts with the Central American governments, and commitment to meeting clear metrics.  By partnering with the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – with the strong support of the Inter-American Development Bank and the U.S. Congress – we can help this vital region achieve a brighter future that will have a far more durable impact on our border security. 


Amy Pope is Deputy Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy Assistant to the President at the National Security Council