Entradas etiquetadas como Ayuda Extranjera
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress approved $750 million in aid last December to help El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras combat the violence and poverty that are driving migrants towards the U.S. border, but the money has yet to reach the struggling countries.
In a departure from previous aid packages, the State Department first had to certify that the three nations had taken steps to reduce migration and human trafficking, bolster human rights and improve their justice systems.
Eight months after President Barack Obama signed a spending bill that included the funds, congressional aides told Reuters they were still waiting for the State Department certifications needed to release the money, which was budgeted for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
State has not provided its paperwork and Central American governments have not taken the required actions, congressional aides said. Lawmakers have been particularly unhappy about Honduras because of the murder of a prominent environmental activist there.
“The fiscal year 2016 funds have not been obligated because the State Department has not yet submitted a detailed plan as required by law, spelling out how, where and by whom the funds will be used, what their objectives are and how they will measure progress,” said Tim Rieser, a foreign policy aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid.
The delay highlights the longstanding tension between Washington’s desire to promote human rights and the government’s responsibility to protect U.S. security, economic and other interests. In this case, American lawmakers are reluctant to send hundreds of millions of dollars to countries where human rights abuses remain common, despite the flood of migrants towards the U.S. border.
They want to avoid a repeat of past aid programs, in which large amounts of money sent south yielded few results.
“The results have been very disappointing. Programs were poorly conceived, the Central American governments did not do their part, and money was wasted,” Rieser said.
From October 2015 through January 2016, U.S. border patrols stopped some 45,000 Central Americans in the U.S. southwest, more than double the number during the same period a year earlier. Nearly half were unaccompanied children.
None of the countries has yet to meet all the conditions, congressional aides said, although Guatemala is further along. Honduras faces harsh criticism about human rights from lawmakers, due in part to the killing of internationally acclaimed environmentalist Berta Caceres in March.
Dozens of lawmakers have demanded an independent international investigation into her death, and Honduran authorities have arrested five suspects, including an Army officer and an employee of a company running a dam project she opposed.
A spokesman said the State Department was working to obtain congressional approval for the fiscal 2016 funds. In the meantime, he said, the department and U.S. Agency for International Development are using money from prior years to support the U.S. “Strategy for Engagement in Central America.”Guatemalan officials told Reuters they expected their funds to begin arriving between October and November.
In Tegucigalpa, a foreign ministry official who requested anonymity said Honduras has made progress fighting corruption and combating smuggling and hoped the funds would start being released later this year or early in 2017.
In San Salvador, a foreign ministry official said the government was awaiting word on the disbursement, also saying the government had made progress.
Separately, the Obama administration late last month announced the expansion of a programme to let people fleeing violence in the three countries enter the United States as refugees, and said Costa Rica agreed to shelter some of them temporarily.
(Additional reporting by Enrique Pretel in San Jose, Nelson Renteria in San Salvador and Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa; editing by John Walcott and David Gregorio)
Rep. Hank Johnson talks about the struggle for human rights and the future of U.S.-Honduras relations.
El país ha tenido buena hoja de evaluación en más de la mitad de los indicadores que Los Estados Unidos toman en consideración para el desembolso de los fondos de ayuda. Pero en el apartado de la lucha contra la corrupción, la calificación es insuficiente, reconocieron los funcionarios de la administración gubernamental. En estas mismas fuentes oficiales se ha destacado, sin embargo, que en el renglón de la lucha por la transparencia Honduras ha dado un salto de 10 puntos.
State department review of Guardian allegations comes as a group of Congress members renew call to suspend all US aid to Honduran police and military
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.”
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 ALSO: Coverage 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.”
Ayer Japón formalizó la asistencia de 24 millones de lempiras. EUA y PNUD también colaboran
La comunidad internacional se ha hecho presente con 34 millones de lempiras en el financiamiento de actividades paralelas e importantes del proceso electoral.
El último en firmar un convenio de cooperación – ayer- fue Japón que donará 24 millones de lempiras para la campaña nacional de divulgación, adquisición de equipos y suministros necesarios conforme a los requerimientos presentados por el Proyecto de las “Elecciones Generales 2013 del TSE”.
El convenio económico también contempla la devolución de los remanentes o de los intereses devengados, en caso de no haberse utilizado los mismos al término del proyecto.
Según el espíritu de la cooperación, la adquisición de los bienes y servicios estará bajo la responsabilidad del TSE a partir de la entrega del desembolso único.
El TSE se compromete a presentar informes a la Secretaría de Planificación (Seplan) y la Embajada de Japón.
El convenio fue firmado por el presidente del TSE, David Matamoros y el titular de Seplan, Julio Raudales, teniendo como testigo de honor al embajador de Japón en Honduras, Kenji Okada.
Japón, como lo ha hecho en otros campos, siempre ha estado presente en los procesos electorales hondureños.
Para los comicios de 2005 la ayuda del país asiático ascendió a 56 millones de lempiras; otros 38 millones fueron desembolsados en 2009 y en esta ocasión la cooperación supera los 24 millones.
El magistrado presidente del TSE, David Matamoros, dijo que en el mes de marzo de 2014 se hará una auditoría al ente colegiado sobre el manejo de los recursos japoneses, como lo prevé el acuerdo.
Además de Japón, el Tribunal Electoral ha recibido otras ayudas externas.
Estados Unidos, a través de su Agencia para el Desarrollo Internacional, ha desembolsado 600 mil dólares (12 millones de lempiras) en los dos últimos años.
El Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo (PNUD) está financiando el programa de capacitación de representantes de mesas receptoras y custodios electorales, así como el tiraje en las imprentas del material ilustrativo sobre cómo votar.
La fundación Konrad Adenauer, colabora con 15 mil dólares (300 mil lempiras), dinero que sirve para la impresión de los portafolios que se van a distribuir fuera de los centros de votación.