The US Vice President has praised progress made in the multilateral security plan for Central America’s Northern Triangle countries after meeting with regional leaders, but on the ground the picture is far murkier than his diplomatic platitudes suggest.
Vice President Joe Biden met with Presidents Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador, Jimmy Morales of Guatemala, and Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras in the White House on May 3 to discuss progress in the Plan for the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle — an initiative designed to improve security and economic conditions in Central America in order to stem migration to the United States. According to the White House, President Barack Obama also joined part of the meeting.
According to the White House press release, Biden noted advances made in each country, praising anti-corruption measures in Honduras and Guatemala and El Salvador for its recent citizen security measures. The Vice President called for more action to increase government revenues, combat corruption, protect human rights defenders, and implement a plan to professionalize the police force and reduce the role of the military in internal policing, it added.
US Congress has approved $750 million for the Plan (pdf), but there are preconditions for much of the funds, requiring the Central American governments to show progress in border security, human rights, and the fight against corruption, among other issues.
Each country — including the US –has specific plans of action that they must attempt to carry out in 2016. For El Salvador, the 2016 commitments include establishing a joint police-military committee to define a human rights protocol during law enforcement operations. Guatemala’s commitments include increasing human smuggling investigations and prosecutions. Finally, Honduras committed to providing “necessary” support to its new anti-corruption body, the OAS Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Misión de Apoyo Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras – MACCIH).
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While the bland public announcement on the meeting revealed little of what happened behind closed doors, an examination of each countries’ progress reveals mixed results so far for the much vaunted Alliance for Prosperity.
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Guatemala has made great progress in cracking down on corruption through the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG) but there is little sign — at least publically — of delivering on its promises over human smuggling.
El Salvador may be introducing a host of new security measures in an attempt to tackle rampant violence and insecurity, but far from improving human rights, concerns over abuses are growing, especially with evidence mounting of extrajudicial killings and death squads.
Meanwhile, although Honduras’ MACCIH has made ambitious pledges, there are still concerns over how local institutions in the country will support the internationally-backed commission.