HomeNewsAnalysis5 Takeaways from US Congress Northern Triangle Aid Package
ANALYSIS

5 Takeaways from US Congress Northern Triangle Aid Package

EL SALVADOR / 18 DEC 2015 BY STEVEN DUDLEY AND MIMI YAGOUB EN

The United States Congress included $750 million for the Northern Triangle countries in its annual budget. The amount is below what the White House requested as part of an effort to address an immigration crisis that has since abated, but remains higher than expected.

The "Consolidated Appropriations Act 2016" (pdf) has money for development assistance, economic programs, military financing and training, and global health and security programs for the whole region, but it is mostly focused on the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, which saw a massive uptick in migration of unaccompanied minors in recent years. The bill was approved on December 18, 2015, by the House of Representatives with 316 votes to 113, and by the Senate with 65 votes to 33.

Among the few details given about where the aid would would go (pdf) was a line item for $4 million for forensic technology, $7.5 million for the Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comision Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG), and $3 million for Guatemala's police sexual assault units. (See chart below)

Reactions to the proposed spending in the region were generally positive from the Democrat side.

"The Obama Administration and Congress are ushering in a new era in US-Central America relations with this investment," Representative Eliot L. Engel, a Democrat and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said in a statement.   

Few Republicans reacted directly to the Central America part of the budget proposal, but its base complained that the Obama administration had won a victory by getting congress to support so-called "pull factors" for the migrants, such as amnesties and resettlement programs.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Security Policy

There are numerous conditions and prerequisites placed on the aid package, and congress requires that the administrators of this money -- the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) -- report to it by September 30, 2016, regarding whether or not the recipients are complying with these requirements.

Specifically, the bill says that congress can withhold up to 75 percent of the funding to the Northern Triangle countries "unless the Secretary of State certifies and reports that such government is taking effective steps to meet certain requirements."

15-12-18-US-Congress-Central-America-Aid

15-12-18-US-Congress-Central-America-Aid-2

InSight Crime Analysis

The first thing that stands out in this aid package is the amount of money in the pipeline. The $750 million package -- while not what the White House requested -- is as much as the US gave the entire region via what's known as the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) between 2008 and 2014 (see the Congressional Research Service report about spending here - pdf).

Secondly, the bill comes at a time when the US seems distracted by terrorism in the Middle East and at home, and came from what was, at least, a very divided congress. To be sure, the migrant crisis that precipitated discussion of this aid has abated, although it still remains a major concern. Yet, congress took clear steps to address the ongoing violence, impunity and elite transgressions in the region.   

SEE ALSOCoverage of US/Mexico Border

Third, the conditionality attached to the spending is strict and, while necessary, it may be subject to the political whims of the day and thus endanger overall funding. For example, up to 75 percent of the aid is conditional on Northern Triangle countries showing they are "taking effective steps" to address various border and migration, as well as corruption, human rights, and tax collection issues. However, what is "effective" to one congressman may not be to another.  

Fourth, congress has identified at least one key component for change: forensic evidence. Such evidence is what has unseated a corrupt president and vice president in Guatemala and is upsetting the balance of power in Honduras. Both the $4 million line item for forensic technology and the aid for CICIG -- which is leading the efforts to prosecute the former Guatemalan officials -- are part of this effort; the bill also subtly inserts language requiring similar judicial bodies in both Honduras and El Salvador to "have investigatory and prosecutorial independence and authorities comparable to CICIG."

Fifth, congress is really hoping that it does not have to go at it alone. The Inter American Development Bank helped develop a plan in 2014 to address rising violence in Central America, and the US is clearly hoping it will contribute financially with both loans and aid.  

The money from congress may also be contingent on Central American governments contributing more than they have in the past.

"It is important to set conditions, because these funds cannot be a blank check," Guatemala-born US Congresswoman Norma J. Torres stated in a press release. "Congress [...] will be monitoring the situation closely to ensure that there is real progress." 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EL SALVADOR / 13 DEC 2021

Efforts to reduce gang violence are often thought of as highly dependent on local conditions, but a recent report looks…

BARRIO 18 / 16 DEC 2021

Though El Salvador stands on track for another record low in homicides this year, the country was recently shaken by…

FENTANYL / 14 APR 2021

Seizures of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl by customs agents in the United States have skyrocketed nationwide, underscoring potential shifts…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…