The first details of the new Marshall plan for Central America have come to light. The Mexican government and the White House have announced on Tuesday the guidelines for a package of joint investments so that southern Mexico and the Central American countries can face the migratory crisis that plagues the region. The United States has committed to earmarking $ 4.8 billion in cooperation and development for its southern neighbor, according to a joint statement issued by Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard. The Administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has also promised an investment of 25,000 million dollars for the next five years in the southern region of the country. Washington will offer, aside, 5.800 million dollars to improve governance and promote institutional reforms in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The announcement comes after the negotiations that have supported the teams of López Obrador and Donald Trump for several months. The then president-elect of Mexico sent a letter last July to the US president asking for a “relationship of respect, cooperation and common interests.” EL PAÍS announced at the end of November that López Obrador promoted a change in immigration policy in the bilateral relationship, while Trump had adopted a belligerent attitude with the advance of Central American migrants’ caravans without Enrique Peña Nieto’s government being able to manage the crisis.
Several points remain to be clarified about the implementation of the new strategy, such as which projects will be benefited, which areas will receive the funding and the aid distribution schedule. The investment programs for Mexico will receive funds through the Corporation for Private Investment Abroad (OPIC), an institution of the US Government to support development projects, sources from the Mexican Foreign Ministry have explained. It is expected that a meeting of cabinets and high-level groups from both countries will be held in January to define the next steps of the plan. There will also be a summit with businessmen from both countries before the end of the first quarter of 2019.
“This is good news for Mexico,” Ebrard said, after presenting the new plan as “the biggest commitment in decades” with the promise of doubling foreign direct investment in southern Mexico in 2019. Of the 4,800 million dollars that the United States will contribute, 2,000 million will be for projects in that region, according to the statement. The bet is that the investments of both countries generate more employment and better paid positions.
The cornerstone of the 5,000 million dollars that Mexico has pledged to invest each year in the south is the new Mayan Train. The new government has asked for 6,000 million pesos (about 300 million dollars) of the budgets to start its construction, which was launched last weekend. The Sembrando Vida reforestation plan is also included in the project package, which will begin next year in the states of Veracruz, Chiapas, Tabasco and Campeche. The Government has requested 15,000 million pesos (750 million dollars) to start it. Others are the new refinery in Tabasco and a new commercial corridor in the isthmus of Tehuantepec, government sources explain.
As for the 5.8 billion dollars of public and private funds that Washington will invest in Central America, the State Department has detailed that its international development agency will manage 1,800 million. The OPIC will channel up to 3,500 million for infrastructure, energy and job creation, if a series of productive projects is specified. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a government agency of international support, will give $ 320 million to improve governance and education. The White House will ask for another 180 million for new support in the next fiscal year to consolidate a strategy of three axes: more security, better management of Central American governments and a boost to economic growth, according to an official statement.
With the change of government, the message of Mexico is that shared responsibilities be assumed, not only as a first filter for Central American migration, but through productive programs that mitigate the underlying causes of the migratory phenomenon and that translate into resources to attack the crisis south of the Rio Grande. Mexico has launched this week, in the framework of the adoption of the Marrakesh Migration Pact, the Comprehensive Development Plan in partnership with the three countries of the northern triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) as the roadmap for action is that he will undertake in the region.
In the last chapter of the approaches of both leaders, Lopez Obrador had conditioned a meeting with Trump to reach an immigration agreement, after a telephone conversation last week. The US president publicly maintained a hard line against migration and told his base of supporters that Mexico was “already paying the wall” after the signing of the new Free Trade Agreement, the renamed T-MEC.
At the center of the discourse of the new Government of Mexico is to create “zones of prosperity”, seek the support of regional partners and international organizations, as well as recognize itself as a hinge that offers a migratory brake to the north and a notion of shared destiny towards the south. The objective, said Mexican officials, is to amass 20,000 million dollars of the United States in the six years of the government of López Obrador. “We are very optimistic,” Ebrard said, awaiting new details of the Marshall plan for Central America and southern Mexico in January.