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.

The world is at a turning point. Help shape our future by taking this one-minute survey from the United Nations. To mark its 75th anniversary, the UN is capturing people's priorities for the future, and crowdsourcing solutions to global challenges. The results will shape the UN's work to recover better from COVID-19, and ensure its plans reflect the views of the global public. Take the survey here.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. To understand what that means for the country's politics and public health policy, GZERO sat down with Christopher Garman, top Brazil expert at our parent company, Eurasia Group. The exchange has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.

More Show less

The Trump administration sent shockwaves through universities this week when it announced that international students in the US could be forced to return to their home countries if courses are not held in classrooms this fall. Around 1 million foreign students are now in limbo as they wait for institutions to formalize plans for the upcoming semester. But it's not only foreign students themselves who stand to lose out: International students infuse cash into American universities and contributed around $41 billion to the US economy in the 2018-19 academic year. So, where do most of these foreign students come from? We take a look here.

For years, the Philippines has struggled with domestic terrorism. Last Friday, Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a sweeping new anti-terror bill that has the opposition on edge, as the tough-talking president gears up to make broader constitutional changes. Here's a look at what the law does, and what it means for the country less than two years away from the next presidential election.

The legislation grants authorities broad powers to prosecute domestic terrorism, including arrests without a warrant and up to 24 days detention without charges. It also carries harsh penalties for those convicted of terror-related offenses, with a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. Simply threatening to commit an act of terror on social media can now be punished with 12 years behind bars.

More Show less

16,000: Amid a deepening economic crisis in Lebanon that has wiped out people's savings and cratered the value of the currency, more than 16,000 people have joined a new Facebook group that enables people to secure staple goods and food through barter.

More Show less