The private sector increases its investment in Central America to curb migration to the US
Honduran migrants walk on a highway towards the border with Mexico in San Pedro Cadenas, Guatemala, in October 2020.
Honduran migrants walk on a highway towards the border with Mexico in San Pedro Cadenas, Guatemala, in October 2020.LUIS ECHEVERRIA (Reuters)

Washington changes speed in a summit weighed down by absences. The host country will unveil this Tuesday new investments for 1,900 million dollars from US companies in the Northern Triangle of Central America. The amount is added to other commitments advanced a few months ago by Vice President Kamala Harris as a way of showing the commitment of the Democratic government to combat the root problems of migration. Since the arrival of President Joe Biden to the White House, the United States has made investments in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador for 3.9 billion dollars. None of the leaders of these countries, vital for the migratory passage to North America, will be in Los Angeles this week.

The vice president will announce this Tuesday ten new companies that are committed to making investments in the three countries in the coming years. The companies represent different industries: agriculture, telecommunications, the textile, financial, energy and automotive sectors. Each of them has promised to increase the number of employees and investments in the coming years.

This Monday, a senior official from the Administration stated that the objective of these investments goes beyond the creation of jobs. “Support for individuals will be given in different facets. Not only in having a job, but also in connectivity, access to financial services and the empowerment of women”, said an adviser to the vice president.

Visa will invest 270 million dollars over the next five years to expand financial services in the region. The objective is to add some 6.5 million people and one million small businesses to the formal sector with their incorporation into the digital payment network. The telecommunications company Millicom will also join this same objective. Located in Luxembourg, the company will invest 700 million over the next two years to increase broadband access in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Gap, which already has 8,200 people employed in its garment factories in the region, has committed to creating another 5,000 jobs, increasing its investment at a rate of 50 million dollars a year until 2025. SanMar, another manufacturing giant textile with more than 60,000 clients, will increase purchases from the region to 500 million dollars. This will produce, according to the US government, some 4,000 jobs in its main factory, in the Honduran department of Cortés.

A mirror reflects the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, during her participation in the Summit of the Americas, in Los Angeles, on June 6, 2022.
A mirror reflects the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, during her participation in the Summit of the Americas, in Los Angeles, on June 6, 2022.Jae C. Hong (AP)

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Vice President Harris has been responsible for addressing the illegal immigration crisis that broke out in the Biden government after arriving in Washington. The management began in June 2021 with a setback. On her first international tour, precisely to Central America, the veteran politician sent a clear message to the migrants who were preparing the trip to the north: “don’t come.” The words caused stinging in the most progressive sectors of the party and the Administration.

Despite the controversy generated by the phrase, Harris had already been knocking on the doors of large American companies for a month, adding support (and resources) to slow down the exodus of the inhabitants of the region, affected by misery, violence, climate change and corrupt governments. Companies like Microsoft or MasterCard were among the first to respond to the call. Others followed in December: the agricultural giant, Cargill; PepsiCo; Peet’s Coffee and the Parkdale textile company, among others. In total, there are 40 who have given their support to the call from the White House.

The effort of the vice president has put the accent on the development of women. In the afternoon, Harris will present the program En sus manos, with which it is intended to train 1.4 million Latin American women to occupy jobs in the sectors of agribusiness, code programming and the development of micro and small businesses. “When women are successful, the whole society advances,” said a member of the Government. The Government is also preparing to launch a scholarship program, with resources of 50 million dollars, for young people from the three countries in the area.

lack of leadership

The Government has minimized the absence of the heads of state of the countries that are supposed to benefit from these investments. “All these countries have sent delegations, so we consider that they will participate in the summit. His absence does not undermine the rapprochement with the region”, a White House official has confided. Harris’ adviser maintains that the vice president continues to maintain a “very good relationship” with the president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro. The two had a phone call at the end of May in which they talked about “expanding economic opportunities in the region.” The Honduran president, in office since last January, assured that she would not attend Los Angeles if she was not invited to Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Not all the absences respond to the lack of an invitation from the most controversial governments in the region. Others, like the case of Guatemala, have preferred to avoid the summit for other reasons. “We should not be ashamed of our anti-corruption principles. That is the reason why some do not come”, said an official close to Harris, referring to the cancellation of Alejandro Giammattei.

In May, the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, reported the imposition of sanctions on the Guatemalan prosecutor, María Porras, for her “involvement in significant acts of corruption.” The punishment imposed by Washington prevents the State attorney from entering US territory. Shortly after the announcement, the Central American government extended Porras’ mandate for another four-year term. Porras is accused of having obstructed a series of investigations initiated by the office against impunity on President Giammattei and his close circle of businessmen.

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