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US Restores Some Aid to C. America     06/18 06:28

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Trump administration said Monday it is easing 
previously announced cuts in hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the 
Central American nations of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala but will not 
allow new funding until those countries do more to reduce migrant flows to the 
United States.

   The State Department said that after a review of more than $615 million in 
assistance that President Donald Trump ordered in March to be cut entirely, it 
would go ahead with $432 million in projects and grants that had been 
previously approved. The remaining amount will be held in escrow pending 
consultations with Congress, it said.

   That $432 million, which comes from the 2017 budget, is being spent on 
health, education and poverty alleviation programs as well as anti-crime 
efforts that many believe help reduce migrant outflows from the impoverished 
Northern Triangle region. About $370 million in money from the 2018 budget will 
not be spent and instead will be moved to other projects, the State Department 
said.

   "Previously awarded grants and contracts will continue with current 
funding," department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said. She added that assistance 
"to help the Northern Triangle governments take actions that will protect the 
U.S. border and counter transnational organized crime will also continue."

   U.S. officials said the review looked at roughly 700 projects funded with 
fiscal 2017 money by the United States in the three countries and concluded 
that a significant number were too far advanced to end them.

   Trump's decision in March to cut all direct aid to El Salvador, Honduras and 
Guatemala over the migration issue elicited harsh criticism from Congress where 
lawmakers from both parties said the assistance was key to helping improve 
conditions in the three countries that have contributed to the people leaving.

   Lawmakers are also expected to object to the latest announcement, which 
comes as Trump has ratcheted up pressure on Mexico and its southern neighbors 
to drastically reduce the numbers of migrants heading to the U.S.

   Ortagus told reporters the administration was leaving the door open to 
future funding but would first have to see progress on migration.

   "We will not provide new funds for programs in those countries until we are 
satisfied that the Northern Triangle governments are taking concrete actions to 
reduce the number of migrants coming to the U.S. border, she said. "This is 
consistent with the president's direction and with the recognition that it is 
critical that there be sufficient political will in these countries to address 
the problem at its source."


(KA)

 
 
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