A Marshall Plan For Central America

A Marshall Plan For Central America

Mexico's newly-inaugurated president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), may have just scored a big political victory after a rocky start to his tenure.


The US State Department announced yesterday its intention to deliver $5.8 billion in aid and investment to Central America to stem the tide of migrants flocking toward the US border. While much of the support falls under existing commitments, Mexico's foreign minister welcomed it as "good news for Mexico."

AMLO has worked energetically since taking office to sell the White House on a "Marshall Plan" of support to address the region's growing migrant crisis. The US commitment is a preliminary sign that he's at least being heard.

The big picture: Upon taking office, the Mexican president was caught between an irresistible force and an immovable object. To his south, people fleeing poverty and violence in Central America have been crossing Mexico's porous southern border on their way to the United States. To his north, President Trump has made tightening border security his number one domestic political issue. AMLO didn't want to antagonize Mexico's main trading partner by letting more migrants pass through.

The domestic picture: AMLO, who is grappling with a high crime rate and strained resources at home, also recognizes that taking in migrants creates its own set of political headaches. Asylum requests in Mexico have skyrocketed over the past five years, reaching 14,544 in 2018. Those numbers were expected to rise after AMLO's administration committed to take in asylum seekers with cases currently pending in the US. While he campaigned as a compassionate voice on immigration, Mexico's new left-wing leader spied the need for a grand solution. The US funding will contribute to a $30 billion of aid package envisioned by AMLO.

The global picture: AMLO even dangled the prospect of Chinese investment to bring Trump to the table, according to the NY Times – reasoning that the US might be more willing to pay up if it feared that China might try to expand its influence in the region by opening its wallet. For context, Beijing is already a big investor and trading partner in the more prosperous parts of Latin America. While a quixotic idea to build a canal through Nicaragua hasn't really gone anywhere, China has been investing in infrastructure in some smaller Central American markets. It's also offered carrots to regional governments to get them to drop diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favor of Beijing.

Whatever the motivation for the US decision, the support for Mexico's investment and aid program is an important political reprieve for Lopez Obrador just a few weeks into his term.

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, Delta variant woes, and Lebanon one year after the Beirut blast.

An Olympian refuses to return home to Belarus and an anti-Lukashenko activist has been found dead in Ukraine. What's going on?

Yeah. That anti-Lukashenko activist was found hanged in a park in Kiev. Once again, not exactly likely a suicide. These anti-Lukashenko activists have a way of turning up injured or dead. It's a horrible regime. Their friends are limited largely to the Russians. That's about it. The economic pressure is growing from Europe, from the United States, very coordinated. But the problem is a very hard to do much to Lukashenko when he has not only support of his military, but also the support of most of the workers in the country who aren't prepared to strike because they want to ensure they still have jobs. I expect this is going to continue, but human rights abuses are stacking up. It is nice to see that the Americans and the Europeans are coordinating policy as well as they have been.

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Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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The flurry of activity comes after earlier concerns that President Joe Biden was neglecting Southeast Asia, the region where US-China rivalry is the most intense. To understand better what Austin's visit meant, and what comes next, Eurasia Group's lead Southeast Asia analyst Peter Mumford spoke to us from Singapore.

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