The Plan Marshall For Central America, the cooperation and development project promoted by the Government of Mexico to tackle the structural causes of migration, already has a roadmap landed on the ground and a great challenge to put it into operation: to collect 45,000 million in five years of dollars from public and private hands. That is the calculation of ECLAC, the UN economic body for Latin America, which has sponsored a project born of a first agreement in 2018 with the then still interim government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
“This is not a plan of ECLAC, but of the governments. We are only accompanying ”, stressed this Friday the secretary of the organization, Alicia Bárcena, after the official presentation of the program. It was in Mexico City during the prelude to the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and before a representation of senior officials from the three participating countries, Guatemala, Salvador and Honduras, as well as Mexico. The great absentee has been the US, another important partner in the germ of the project and that has not even been mentioned during the presentation of the roadmap.
The initial commitment of the López Obrador government, still during the term of Donald Trump, was to promote a paradigm shift through new investment channels on its southern border with the support of the United States, which would also increase aid to the countries of the northern triangle of Central America. The ambitious goal three years ago was for the deal to start delivering tangible results in 2020.
For now, the plan presented this Friday draws a “financing ecosystem” to develop 114 programs based on investment in infrastructure, trade and the job market. With the participation of 19 UN agencies, the agreed agenda is to use the organization’s platform to obtain funding sources. From funds of the governments themselves involved to multilateral cooperation mechanisms, development banks, donors and other private agents.
The unknown about the role of the United States
Before the official presentation of the plan, Mexico had already begun to move. At the end of 2018, the López Obrador Executive committed to investing 25,000 million dollars in the southern border of the country within a period of five years. In addition to extending some of its social programs to neighboring countries, such as its commitment to subsidized reforestation and a bag of job grants for young people. Washington, for its part, then offered another 5.8 billion to improve governance and promote institutional reforms in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The change in the White House forced to reopen the negotiations with the advantage of a, in theory, greater ideological harmony. Biden came to power committed to recapturing Obama’s spirit of diplomacy. A commitment to international cooperation to address poverty, violence and corruption, assumed as the main causes of migration and institutional weakness in the region.
Within the framework of the new negotiations, López Obrador proposed a work visa scheme for Central Americans who participate in his reforestation program. The offer was rejected and in reply, Washington took action by opening the checkbook on his own. Vice President Kamala Harris promised in late April an aid of 310 million dollars to Alejandro Giammattei, the president of Guatemala.
Harris has made clear during successive diplomatic meetings the will of the United States to work “bilaterally” with Mexico and “multilaterally” with the rest of the affected countries to try to solve the reasons for migration from Central America. But their participation in the joint project presented this Friday in Mexico City is not yet clear. In March, Washington decided to promote its own plan to invest up to 4,000 million in four years in the region. An initiative subject, in any case, to the fight against corruption of the beneficiary governments and which provides for direct allocations to NGOs with the aim of preventing resources from being diverted.
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