During a visit to the area on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken encouraged Central American nations to do more to combat illegal immigration and expressed worries about the health of local democracy and human rights.
Blinken said the US wanted to hear from its regional allies about their shared commitment to addressing migratory pressures at a joint press conference with Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado.
“We convene at a time when democracy and human rights are being undermined in many parts of the region, and yet good governance is important for facing the difficulties and grasping the potential of this moment,” Blinken told reporters.
Blinken cited erosion of judicial independence, crackdowns on independent media and NGOs, as well as the suppression of anti-corruption efforts to illustrate his point, noting that the United States had also suffered its own setbacks.
U.S. President Joe Biden has been under pressure to reduce a sharp increase in undocumented immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border since taking office in January.
Regional cooperation to address the issue was now more important than ever, said Blinken, who traveled to Costa Rica, to hold talks with leaders from Central America and Mexico.
Many immigrants stopped at the U.S. border are from three violent and impoverished Central American countries, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, which Washington has pledged aid in return for commitments to improve local governance.
That drive has been clouded by concern about graft, cronyism, signs of authoritarianism and efforts to block the appointment of judges with track records of tackling corruption.