“The countries of the Northern Triangle – El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – are among the most violent in the region. Violence, particularly lethal violence, imposes enormous social and economic burdens on the region”. USAID
Central America is the hub for U.S. trade ships and foreign trade through the Panama Canal, and gas lines across Caribbean waters, but is also home to left-wing guerrillas, juvenile gangs, crime syndicates, drug traffickers and smugglers.
With weak and non-democratic governments the region has the highest rates of poverty, child malnutrition, and poor infrastructure, and since 2014 women and children are fleeing their homes by the hundreds of thousands because of poverty, political aggression, gang-related violence and seeking entry into the U.S. via the southern border stressing and dividing communities.
Central America is part of the U.S. sphere of influence, sadly democracy hasn’t been achieved, development is a sketch and peace is still a dream yet to come especially for countries in the northern triangle –Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador- were violence and political instability push women and children to flee seeking asylum in the U.S. thus creating a political problem for local authorities and an international crisis.
Trafficking in Persons
“Women are particularly vulnerable: female irregular migrants comprise around 20% of the migrant pool. Labor trafficking does occur, but these cases represent less than 10% of the victims detected in the region, so little is known about these markets. Trafficking of Central Ameri- can men and women into agricultural labor in Mexico is more common, but sex trafficking near the border is also widespread”. UNODC (Read More)
Governments of the region are making significant efforts to pass anti-trafficking legislation and are devoting resources for the establishment of specialized anti-trafficking units focusing on training police, prosecutors, magistrates, and judges, as well as border control and migration officers. However, more has to be done to effectively prevent, prosecute and adjudicate trafficking cases. Harmonizing national legislation according to international standards and training public officials is crucial to address this transnational crime.
Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI)
Since 2008, the U.S. government has supported security efforts in Central America through the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). The initiative provides equipment, training, and technical assistance to support immediate law enforcement operations. CARSI is also designed to strengthen the long-term capacities of Central American governments to address security challenges and the underlying social and political factors that contribute to them. (Read More)
The number of asylum seekers worldwide originating from the Northern Triangle reached 110,000 in 2015, a five-fold increase from 2012. Anti-immigration rhetoric and increased border security will surely contribute to an increase in trafficking, criminal groups in the region profit from kidnapping for ransom and human trafficking and smuggling.
The $24.66-million CARSI Secondary Violence Prevention program is still working on violence reduction in San Pedro Sula and other urban centers experiencing gang violence, with funding from the U.S. through 2020. It provides family intervention therapy and risk-reduction services to a minimum of 2,000 families.
Viewing such improvements as beneficial to U.S. national security, at a time when more unaccompanied minors were leaving Central America for the U.S., former President Barack Obama more than doubled aid to Central America between 2014 and 2016, from $338.1 million to $753.7 million. By comparison, funding for the fiscal year 2019 dropped to $527.6 million. And now the Northern Triangle may see none of it.
Honduras has proposed to Guatemala and El Salvador that the region work to create additional joint initiatives to “ensure the sovereignty and dignity of each nation.” Officials in El Salvador have been slower to see cause for concern, perhaps viewing Trump’s announcement as yet another empty threat to satisfy his base.
What else can be done?
- Improve government institutions, the rule of law and a trustable police force that would increase people’s trust in their home countries thus encouraging local development, and
- Create agricultural and manufacturing programs for job creation and youth prevention.
- International efforts allocating more resources in rule of law and employment topics will help to have a more stable region and minimize the adverse effects of unregulated immigration in the southern border, as people would have more opportunities in their home countries.