Vice President Kamala Harris announced Monday in a virtual meeting with President Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala that the U.S. government pledged the money in support of humanitarian relief and food shortages in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
The U.S. Agency for International Development will provide $125 million to stem the effects of recurrent droughts, food shortages, and coronavirus-related issues in the three countries. The State Department has appropriated $104 million "to meet the immediate safety and protection needs of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, and other vulnerable populations in the region," though the White House did not reveal more on how the money will be spent.
Twenty-six million dollars from the Pentagon will go toward increasing partnerships that provide needed disaster relief, education, and health services.
Within Guatemala, $25 million from the Agriculture Department will go toward enhancing the country's agricultural industry and helping farmers access financing. Another $30 million will be spent to expand access to daily meals and reading activities for school children in Guatemala and Honduras.
“We want to work with you to address both the acute causes as well as the root causes in a way that will bring hope to the people of Guatemala that there will be an opportunity for them if they stay at home,” Harris told Giammattei.
Guatemala said it would increase security border security personnel along its northern and southern borders, and both countries intend to work together on law enforcement operations targeting migrant smugglers, human and drug traffickers, and by seizing assets from criminal groups.
U.S. officials will also train and advise Guatemalan border security and law enforcement.
The announcement marks the latest effort by the Biden administration to clamp down on corruption in the region, which officials say is a major driver of northward migration.
Earlier Monday, the State Department said it would impose sanctions on one current and one former Guatemalan government official, a decision that White House press secretary Jen Psaki told the Washington Examiner was made “in close coordination with the United Kingdom” as part of an effort to tackle corruption.
On Wednesday, Harris is set to host a virtual roundtable with Guatemalan community-based groups.
The Biden administration, since taking office, has focused on dealing with the root causes that prompt so many to leave their homes. President Joe Biden proposed spending $861 million in foreign aid to Central America in the fiscal 2022 budget. The figure is considerably higher than the $560 million spent in 2017 and $462 million in 2018.