Sun, Apr 21, 2019 - Page 6 News List

US aid and its effects on Taiwan

By Juan Fernando Herrera Ramos

At the end of last month, US President Donald Trump directed his administration to suspend the payment of aid to three countries: Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The decision to cancel the foreign assistance programs, which are estimated to be valued at US$500 million — plus the funds that are left over from the previous year — came as a pressure mechanism to push the governments of those nations to do more to tackle the constant flow of immigrants from that region to the US.

Trump made the announcement to reporters saying: “I’ve ended payments to Guatemala, to Honduras and El Salvador,” adding: “No money goes there anymore... We were giving them US$500 million. We were paying them tremendous amounts of money, and we’re not paying them anymore because they haven’t done a thing for us.”

After he made the announcement, he also threatened to close down parts of the Mexican border, a move that could have negative repercussions for the US economy by disrupting commerce and tourism between the two countries.

The decision to suspend the aid has already caused a backlash from members of the US Democratic Party and aid advocates who think that reducing violence and stimulating economic development in developing countries is the best way to reduce migration in those regions.

It is still unclear whether the decision will be challenged in court, but many experts, including former US ambassador to Honduras Jim Nealon, have said that the money that the US provides to those countries does not go directly to foreign governments, but “to programs designed and implemented by the US, with the cooperation of governments and civil society,” with much of the aid being administered by nonprofit organizations.

Authorities in the region have said that they are taking what measures they can under their laws to tackle the migration problem. Mexico, for example, has offered thousands of temporary humanitarian visas to migrants, permitting them to stay and work in the country.

The suspension of aid will definitely have consequences for Central America, and as evidence of how much the dynamics could change once the cuts are enabled, Honduran newspaper La Tribuna on March 31 published an article saying that Russian Ambassador to Guatemala Alexander Khokholikov has openly voiced the interest that his country has in strengthening cooperation in the region.

The announcement came at a meeting between Khokholikov, Central American Integration System (SICA) Secretary-General Vinicio Cerezo and Central American Parliament President Irma Amaya.

Khokholikov has said that his country would look to improve cooperation, political dialogue, investment and trade, and develop social programs to improve the quality life of the citizens living in SICA countries.

However, the countries are not the only ones that would be influenced by the decision — this action has the potential to disrupt the diplomatic relationship between Taiwan and its Central American allies by pushing Honduras and Guatemala to fill the void left by the lack of US financial support by turning to China to keep the much-needed foreign aid coming in.

There were rumors circulating last year about which nation might be the next to follow El Salvador and switch ties from Taipei to Beijing, with Honduras and Nicaragua among the top candidates, but after a loan of US$100 million that Taiwan has given the administration of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, it seems like the relationship with Managua became more stable.

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