Vice President Kamala Harris unveiled an additional $310 million in U.S. aid to Central America after a virtual meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday, as the two countries agreed to work together to control migration.
President Joe Biden gave Harris the job of leading U.S. efforts with Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle countries – Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – to stop a growing number of migrants from crossing into the United States.
“We want to work with you … in a way that will bring hope to the people of Guatemala, that there will be an opportunity for them if they stay at home,” Harris said, adding she would visit the region in June.
In a statement, her office said the funds would come from USAID, along with the Departments of State, Defense and Agriculture.
The U.S. Defense Department will provide $26 million to increase partnership activities in the region aimed at health, education and disaster relief services, according to the vice president’s office.
Back-to-back hurricanes and the economic impact of the pandemic in 2020 have increased the number of people facing hunger this year in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to 7.8 million, according to the World Food Programme.
Following the Harris-Giammattei meeting, Guatemalan Foreign Minister Pedro Brolo told a news conference that Guatemala and the United States agreed “to establish a new joint border protection task force,” including a small number of officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Under former U.S. President Donald Trump, a small group of DHS officials also operated in Guatemala for a time.
Brolo said Harris also spoke of helping build centers for deportees and beefing up security at Guatemala’s ports. Guatemala will send a team to the United States to help reunify unaccompanied Guatemalan minors with their parents, he said
In March, Mexico said more than unaccompanied 18,000 Central American children crossed its territory en route to the United States.