This article is a joint publication of TheNation.com and Foreign Policy In Focus.
When the crisis of unaccompanied minors migrating to the United States burst onto the front pages last summer, it seemed that at last the US government would come to grips with its legacy of disaster amid the current havoc in Central America.
The United Nations documented that most of the children were fleeing violence—violence caused in part by the failure to restore constitutional order following the Honduran coup of 2009 and the unfinished peace processes after the dirty wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, where Washington propped up right-wing dictatorships for years.
The governments of those three countries—known as the Northern Triangle—certainly share some of the blame for the mass exodus, which is not as new or unprecedented as the press made out when it sounded the alarm.
But in the end, the problem isn’t one of assigning blame, but rather helping children in conditions of extreme vulnerability, right?
Less than a year later, Washington has come up with its policy response to the children’s plight. Unfortunately, while purporting to address the root causes of migration, it mirrors—and in many ways intensifies—the causes that forced so many to flee.
Tucked into the administration’s 2016 budget request, the plan has been christened “Biden’s Billion” for its major promoter and the amount he expects US taxpayers to put up to support it. It divides aid into three “lines of action”: security, economic development and governance.
Yet in every one of these areas, the response repeats errors of the past. Rather than focusing on a response to the humanitarian crisis of child refugees, it serves as a vehicle for deepening the drug war and “free trade” agendas that have contributed to the crisis.
Rewarding Human Rights Violators
The plan requests $300 million for security assistance, a considerable increase over previous regional collaborations like the Merida Initiative and the Central American Regional Security Initiative. The increase goes mainly to the region’s police forces.