The United States (U.S.), is halting humanitarian funding to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the State Department has confirmed.
The move comes just days after President Donald Trump warned of a new migrant caravan heading toward the southern U.S. border and issued warnings that he planned to close the U.S.-Mexico border next week if Mexico did not do more to stop caravans of migrants.
Many are also fleeing Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and attempting to gain entry into the U.S.
“At the Secretary’s instruction, we are carrying out the President’s direction and ending FY 2017 and FY 2018 foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle.
“We will be engaging Congress as part of this process,” a State Department spokesperson told USA TODAY.
Trump has long threatened to cut off humanitarian aid to the countries, including before the 2018 midterm elections when he held a slew of rallies and warned of an “invasion” of migrants from the countries.
He recently declared a national emergency at the border to secure funding for a proposed wall, despite Congressional opposition.
On Friday, the president threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border if Mexico didn’t stop undocumented migrants from coming.
“There’s a very good likelihood that I’ll be closing the border next week,” Trump told reporters gathered at his Florida resort. “I will close the border if Mexico doesn’t get with it.”
Historically, the United States has viewed foreign aid programs to Central American countries as a vital component of stabilising the countries, potentially halting the flow of immigrants seeking to migrate to the United States. Under Trump, aid to the countries had already plummeted.
The U.S. provided about $131 million in aid to Guatemala, $98 million to Honduras, and $68 million to El Salvador in 2016, according to Reuters.
The following year the funding fell to about $69 million for Guatemala, $66 million for Honduras and $46 million for El Salvador.
In April, Trump also threatened to withdraw aid from Honduras a caravan of migrants fled the country.
The group, which grew to as many as 1,600 migrants, grew smaller as it moved north. By the time they reached Tijuana, on the Mexican side of the southern U.S. border, only about 300 migrants remained.
Honduras’ murder rate has declined in recent years but it still had the fourth-highest rate among Latin American nations in 2017 at 42.8 per 100,000 residents, according to Insight Crime.
Only Venezuela, El Salvador and Jamaica suffered more murders in the region that year.
According to the World Bank, 66 percent of Hondurans live in poverty and about one out of five Hondurans in rural areas live on less than $1.90 a day.
Long before Trump took office, the United States had a checkered history of involvement in Central America – and some say American foreign policy in the region caused the instability and inequality at the root of the current crisis.
There was the CIA’s covert operation to overthrow Guatemala’s democratically elected president in 1954, and America’s intervention in El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s.
And the Obama administration’s refusal in 2009 to label the ouster of Honduras’ president a military coup – even though soldiers dragged him out of bed in the middle of the night and sent him into exile in his pajamas.
Jeff Faux, a distinguished fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, said the decades-long history of American intervention has left Central American governments weak and fragile while empowering oligarchs and drug cartels, which has, in turn, fueled the corruption and gang violence that drives residents to flee.