However, Trump’s threats to slash aid to the region if immigration was not contained have persistently raised doubts about how much the United States would stump up.
The United States will spend billions of dollars in Central America and Mexico, as part of a plan to officially strengthen economic growth in the region but also aimed at deterring immigrants who want to travel to the United States as they are forced to flee poverty and violence, the U.S. and Mexican governments said on Tuesday.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been seeking to persuade U.S. counterpart Donald Trump to work with Mexico to develop Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, as well as Mexico’s poorer south to stem the flow of migrants and asylum-seekers.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the United States is committing US$5.8 billion toward development in Central America, aiming to create “a prosperity zone” that would prevent large migrations from the Northern Triangle, meaning Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. It is also increasing public and private investment in Mexico by US$4.8 billion via the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), US$2 billion of which would go to the south.
Ebrard declared he’s “optimistic” about the agreed plan, which according to him symbolizes an approach between the countries and commercial partners after months of strained relations.
The minister said both nations agreed to “promote a strong regional economic growth, better paid jobs and better opportunities for all citizens.”
“Mexico and the U.S. have committed to strengthening and expanding our bilateral cooperation to foster economic development and increase investment in southern Mexico and Central America to create a prosperity zone,” said Ebrard.
Speaking as the U.S. State Department issued a statement setting out the commitments, Ebrard said that the Mexican government had pledged to find US$25 billion to develop the south of the country during the next five years.
“The agreements established here mean more than doubling the foreign investment in the south of Mexico from 2019,” the minister told a news conference in Mexico City.
It was not immediately clear how much of the investment announced represented new funding. A spokesman for Ebrard told Reuters he understood that US$2.5 billion of the pledges to develop Central America were fresh commitments.
Private companies, from the U.S., Mexico and elsewhere, will play a key role in the plan to “explore and increase investment and business opportunities” in the region.
"All told, the deal between the two presidents represented commitments of US$35.6 billion for Central America and southern Mexico from next year," Ebrard said on Twitter.
The plan will be complimentary to the Alliance for Prosperity’s plan for the Northern Triangle, agreed between the Central American governments and the administration of Barack Obama; at the same time the U.S. was implementing tighter immigration policies in 2014.
Ebrard explained that by the end of 2019 the governments of both countries will meet again to discuss a route sheet for addressing the “fundamental causes” of migration.
On Dec. 1, just as Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was sworn in as president, Mexico and the Central American governments agreed on a development plan to address migration.
During many of his political meetings in his last presidential campaign, Lopez Obrador spoke in favor of migrants and reaffirmed the right for people to migrate out of pleasure, but declared that no one should be forced to abandon their place of origin. To counter that, Lopez Obrador has promised to foster development projects in affected areas to convince people that it’s possible to prosper at home.
This idea would not be limited to Mexico, but extended to the southern neighbors.
Lopez Obrador welcomed the joint effort and described the agreement as “good news.”
“We celebrate this because it addresses the migratory issue by paying attention to the causes… to stop forced migration,” he declared to the press.
According to Mexico’s president, the new migration policy will be close to the defense and protection of human rights, guaranteeing asylum and a fair treatment to immigrants.
But despite the goodwill of both governments, Trump attacked migration once more in his Twitter account.
“Illegal immigration costs the United States more than 200 Billion Dollars a year. How was this allowed to happen?” tweeted Trump, continuing with a series of comments about border security and a wall made of “artistically designed steel slats.”
In 2018, several Migrant Caravans, self-described as a great Central American Exodus, left their countries of origin aiming to reach the U.S. to find a better life. These migrations provoked diplomatic tensions and fueled President Donald Trump’s racist, anti-immigration rhethoric for the Nov. 4 midterm elections.