Biden plays the (Central American) Triangle

Biden plays the (Central American) Triangle

In recent months, large numbers of men, women, and children from the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America – Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador – have left their countries in hopes of applying for asylum in the United States. This wave of desperate people has created a crisis at the US border and a political headache for President Joe Biden. US border officials now face the highest number of migrants they've seen in 20 years.


Biden has a plan to manage this emergency. The idea is to invest $4 billion in these three countries over four years to help create the political and economic conditions that can make them more prosperous, and more secure. The goal is to persuade Honduras, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans that they and their children can thrive where they are.

The Triangle countries need the help. The people who live there have taken hits from poverty, crime, gang violence, drought, COVID-19, and two category 5 hurricanes in November 2020. In recent years, the US has directed money toward training and technical assistance to help farmers grow more food, the physical infrastructure needed to expand trade, and better nutrition for women, children, and babies. The difference this time is that Biden is offering much more money, nearly double the amount the US approved for these countries over the past four years.

But the Triangle countries have long been plagued with government corruption. In fact, earlier this week, Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA) published a State Department list of 16 public officials from these three countries that are subject to "credible information or allegations" of corrupt acts. The list includes current Honduran and Guatemalan lawmakers, a senior aide to El Salvador's president, and former state officials from all three governments. The accusations include financial crimes and drug trafficking.

How can the Biden plan produce the broad benefits Washington hopes will stabilize these countries if state officials steal a lot of the money? The text of the plan offers several answers. To receive US help, the governments of these countries must "allocate a substantial amount of their own resources and undertake significant, concrete, and verifiable reforms," show "verifiable progress to ensure that U.S. taxpayer funds are used effectively," and "combat corruption." The Biden plan also directs some of the investment into "civil society organizations that are on the frontlines of addressing root causes" Lending from the International Monetary Fund comes with similar strings attached.

Yet, the Triangle governments have other financial options. El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele dismissed the latest corruption allegations from Washington as "geopolitics," and thanked China for providing his country with 500,000 doses of a Chinese-made COVID vaccines and $500 million in investment "without conditions."

Bukele may be inflating the size of that investment, and his comments are partly political bravado and negotiating strategy. But later that evening, El Salvador's Congress ratified a deal with China, signed in 2019 after the Salvadoran government dropped diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, that would invest about $62 million in port infrastructure along El Salvador's coast, a water purification plant, a library, and a soccer stadium.

Honduras and Guatemala don't yet have formal ties with China, but that might change soon.

So, there's the Biden dilemma. You can't ease the flow of desperate people toward the border without investing in better economic conditions in the Northern Triangle. You can't be sure your investments will reach their target without political reforms that reduce corruption. You can't always use money to try to force these governments to reform when they can turn to China and other sources for investment.

On the other hand, isn't Chinese infrastructure investment in these countries a good thing? Maybe Washington can get the development and stability it wants in Central America without having to spend so many US taxpayer dollars to get it. The true answer to this question depends, of course, on what China chooses to invest in.

What do you think, Signal readers? What's the most effective way to solve this dilemma? Let us know.

Okuafo Pa means good farmer in the Twi language of West Africa. Hence, the naming of the project reflects the value of good farming and the rewards it brings to the people of Ghana. The Okuafo Pa Project will support Ghana's sustainable development by promoting socio-economic growth and sustainable business models.

Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent policy developments:

With the Supreme Court's recent decision, is the Affordable Care Act here to stay?

Yes, this was the Court's third ruling on the Affordable Care Act upholding its constitutionality. This challenge was brought by Republican attorneys general who argued that the repeal of the individual mandate tax undermined the court's previous justification for allowing the law to stand. They were unsuccessful, yet again. And the political salience of the Affordable Care Act has really diminished in the last several years, with Republicans moving on to fight other issues and the Court signaling very strongly they don't want to get involved in overturning this piece of legislation. The Affordable Care Act will be here at least until Congress wants to legislate on it again.

More Show less

Iranians head to the polls on June 18, in what's widely perceived to be a foregone outcome. Analysts predict that popular disillusionment with Iran's political class will make this one of the lowest turnout elections in Iran's post-revolution history. According to one poll taken by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, as few as 42 percent of the eligible voting population is expected to show up. We take a look at contemporary Iran's demographics, and how this year's vote turnout might compare to previous elections.

Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, shut out from COVAX because of payment problems.

More Show less

3: China has launched three astronauts into orbit in its first space mission since 2016. The astronauts will spend three months aboard the country's new space station, demonstrating China's resolve to become a space power following successful earlier missions to collect soil samples on the Moon and land a wheeled robot on Mars.

More Show less

In 2019, Ethiopia's fresh Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a peace treaty with neighbor and longtime foe Eritrea. At the time, Abiy was hailed by the Western media as a reformist who was steering Ethiopia, long dominated by ethnic strife and dictatorial rule, into a new democratic era.

But barely two years later, Abiy stands accused of overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern Tigray region, putting the country on the brink of civil war.

It's against this backdrop that Ethiopians will head to the polls on June 21 for a parliamentary election now regarded as a referendum on Abiy's leadership. But will the vote be free and fair, and will the outcome actually reflect the will of the people? Most analysts say the answer is a resounding "no" on both fronts.

More Show less

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Cyber issues took center stage at the G7 summit. Is there a consensus among world leaders on how to handle cyberweapons?

Well, depending on who is included, there is a growing consensus that the escalations of conflict in cyberspace must stop. And G7 leaders that are now all representing democracies did call on Russia to hold perpetrators of cybercrime that operate from within its borders to account. So, I guess hope dies last because laws in Russia prevents the extradition of suspects to the US, even if Vladimir Putin answered positively when Joe Biden asked for cooperation on that front. And when it comes to limiting the spread of tools that are used for hacking, surveillance and infiltration, the EU has just moved ahead and adopted new dual use regulations which reflect the concerns for human rights violations when journalists are targeted the way that Jamal Khashoggi was. So ending the proliferation of systems that are used to attack would be an urgent but also obvious step for democratic nations to agree on.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World Podcast

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World Podcast

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal