The United States announced Tuesday several government and private sector initiatives meant to boost development and safety in Central America as part of a program designed to address the root causes of why people migrate to the U.S.
Vice President Kamala Harris has been leading the initiative, which included meeting with business leaders late Monday ahead of announcing $1.9 billion in new private projects from 10 businesses and organizations.
The announcements come as the United States hosts leaders for the Summit of the Americas this week in Los Angeles, but with notable exceptions.
The United States did not invite Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela to participate, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre telling reporters Monday, “We do not believe that dictators should be invited.”
In response, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he would not attend, sending his foreign minister instead. Honduran President Xiomara Castro is also staying home after saying she would only attend the summit “if all the countries of the Americas are invited without exception.”
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said he would be focusing on work in Guatemala instead of taking part in the summit.
Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, along with El Salvador, are key U.S. partners in the effort to address migration. A senior U.S. administration official told reporters Monday that even if their leaders do not attend, those countries “will fully participate in the summit,” and that the absences do not undermine the U.S. approach to the region.
Among the new efforts Harris announced Tuesday, which follow $1.2 billion in similar commitments made public in December, are clothing company GAP’s move to source an additional $50 million in products from Central America and auto components producer Yazaki’s announcement of $110 million to hire 14,000 workers in the region.
Digital service firm COATL is investing $35 million to expand high speed internet access in El Salvador, while Millicom is launching a $700 million expansion and maintenance program for its network in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
“Taken together, these investments are creating an ecosystem of opportunity and helping to provide hope for people in the region to build safe and prosperous lives at home,” the White House said in a statement.
Tuesday’s announcement also includes a separate private sector program to “empower, train and protect women in Central America,” the White House said.
Its components include support for small and medium enterprises led by women, boosting women’s participation in the agricultural industry, job training, and the creation of “digital community centers” to provide internet access, digital skills, education and mentoring.
In addition to those private efforts, the U.S. Agency for International Development is launching a program aimed at preventing sexual, gender-based and domestic violence, with components providing services for victims and holding perpetrators accountable.
USAID is also putting $50 million toward what the White House called the Central American Service Corps to pay young people in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for community service work, and to provide them with mentoring opportunities and a path to a job.
“By supporting life and job skills, offering hope, and building confidence and a sense of belonging for youth, the CASC initiative will generate leadership potential and help foster optimism among youth in Central America that a better future is possible for themselves and for their communities,” the White House said.