Where Does Aid to Central America Go? Police Officers, Farmers and NGOs
The United States also supported border security and efforts to combat drug trafficking, though those funds accounted for a smaller percentage of the overall aid. The Pentagon set aside millions to improve drug interdiction and to supply equipment and training to counter trafficking in Honduras.
In Guatemala, poverty, rather than violence, is the main driver of migration. More than half of the $178 million in 2017 aid went to programs to alleviate poverty, particularly in the country’s western highlands, where many children suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Economic aid is the next largest block of American support in Central America, after security and related programs. The funds support small businesses in Guatemala, schools in Honduras and job training for at-risk youth in El Salvador, among other projects. Some of the programs are broader, such as an effort to bring down high power costs by connecting electrical grids and financing new infrastructure.
In 2017, $18 million was allocated to help farmers in Honduras diversify their crops and improve productivity, to reduce extreme hunger and poverty; and $14.5 million to help small-business owners, including funds to help create a sustainable system for cacao production.
In Guatemala that year, more than $10 million was designated to help communities adapt to climate change’s effects — such as increased drought and coffee-destroying fungus — and $6.3 million to help the Health Ministry prevent maternal and infant deaths, and prevent H.I.V. infections.
Until a large wave of unaccompanied minors from Central America arrived at the Texas border in 2014, American aid to the region focused on economic growth and law enforcement. But the surge of child migrants, which was in part spurred by the high murder rates in the Northern Triangle, prompted the Obama administration to request more money from Congress for a broader approach to the region.
As a result, aid increased to $750 million in 2016 before beginning to drop under the Trump administration. Over all, Congress allocated almost $2.1 billion to Central America from 2016 to 2018, most of it for the Northern Triangle countries, though agencies have been slow to spend all the money.