TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — USAID Honduras Country Director Fernando Cossich said Wednesday that he has no information about when foreign assistance will again begin flowing to the Northern Triangle.
“The way we are going to invest is going to change,” Cossich said at the Central America Donors Forum. “It has not been defined how that is going to happen, when the funds are going to come. So that’s as far as I can go on that. There’s a lot of uncertainty.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that American foreign assistance to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, which had been frozen in March, would resume due to cooperation and “great progress” made by those governments in stopping migration to the U.S. border as demanded by President Donald Trump.
More on aid to Central America
Over the past several months, each of the three Northern Triangle countries has signed migration cooperation agreements with the U.S. These accords, the text of which has not been made public, gave the U.S. the ability to require those seeking asylum to first request protections in the region, rather than doing so at the U.S. border.
Observers speculated the agreements, the first of which was signed with Guatemala in July, were a prerequisite to the resumption of U.S. aid. Human rights groups have said that the agreements force some of the most violent countries in the world to take in asylum-seekers for whom they have little ability to provide safe haven.
The more than six-month foreign assistance cutoff was marked by frustration from USAID missions, implementers, and NGOs who were given little information from Washington about how long the aid would be suspended and how their programs and staffing may be impacted. Many were forced to scale back or end programs and lay off staff as some of the money originally intended for the Northern Triangle was reprogrammed elsewhere in the region.
“When the funds were stopped by President Trump back in March, we had to start making hard decisions on what projects are going to be able to continue with remaining funds,” Cossich said. “We want to make sure that we have the highest impact of the remaining funds.”
Cossich said USAID would be investing in new initiatives, and that projects in the region would continue, but did not elaborate on what those might be. The U.S. has indicated its aid to the region will focus on promoting American interests — chief among them reducing migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Aid advocates have cautioned against applying this singular lens to the myriad of problems facing the Northern Triangle because all development programming in the region cannot be directly linked to migration.