State Department Announces New Public-Private Foreign Assistance Partnership for Southern Mexico and Central America

Will it be effective and taint-free?

By Dan Cadman on December 19, 2018

The U.S. Department of State announced billions in new aid and development for southern Mexico and the nations of the Northern Triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) that it hopes will bring jobs and change that will persuade many would-be migrants to not take the trek northward to the U.S..

Picking up on this theme, the Associated Press published an article about the generally positive reaction to the announcement. For instance, it quotes newly inaugurated Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ("AMLO") saying: "I have a dream that I want to see become a reality ... that nobody will want to go work in the United States anymore."

The announcement is potentially good news, and will certainly help bolster AMLO's public profile at home, and hopefully ensure that there is no substantive domestic resistance to his announced plan to beef up military and border security resources at Mexico's own southern border. Although after the recent unruly acts of Central Americans participating in caravans there and elsewhere in Mexico, including Tijuana, gateway to the United States, Mexico's people seem decidedly much cooler about the trespasses of southern neighbors into their sovereign territory while en route to the United States.

But the age-old question, as it always has been with foreign development aid, is this: Will it be effective? Or, because money is always fungible, will it simply be sponged up and used ineffectively — or worse, corruptly — by the host governments and a variety of nongovernmental agencies, some of which are well-intended but inept, and some of which are nothing more than parasites created to siphon off the handouts, often into politicians' pockets?

Keep in mind it was mere weeks ago that President Trump, reacting to the nearly unimpeded flow of caravan migrants into and through Mexico, was railing about the tens of millions of dollars of aid that we've given to Mexico and Central American governments, while getting nothing in return (see, e.g., here and here).

There is reason to be concerned. Corruption is endemic. Several Mexican state-level politicians have been indicted for conspiracy with the criminal cartels that control drug and migrant smuggling through Mexico, as have various military and police officials; some have simply disappeared. Similarly, the Honduran president's brother was recently arrested in Miami on drug-related charges.

The question we must ask, and which hasn't been addressed publicly, is exactly how the United States will monitor, oversee, and, if necessary, control access to, the funds to be sure that they are used as intended, and as effectively as is possible. Only then might such assistance result in diminishing the grinding poverty and desperation that drives people north. Given that it is American taxpayer dollars underwriting the effort, we have a right to know how robust the integrity controls will be.