About the Central America Monitor Project
El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras consistently rank among the most violent countries in the world. High levels of violence, corruption and impunity have undermined the states’ capacities to address the deep insecurity many of their citizens face.
Over the past several years, the arrival of thousands of Central American migrants and asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border has brought renewed attention to the region and its challenges. Many of these families, children, and teenagers fled violent neighborhoods and a lack of economic opportunities in their home countries, as well as weak governments unable to protect them.
The United States’ response to this crisis has shifted considerably, particularly as it relates to the provision of aid targeted at strengthening rule of law and security. Under the Obama administration, efforts to address the underlying conditions spurring migration took form as considerable increases in foreign assistance to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. In 2015, the U.S. Congress approved a US$750 million aid package to the region, most of which began to be implemented in 2017. That same year, Congress approved an additional $655 million aid package for the Northern Triangle. The funds came with a set of requirements that recipient countries must meet in order to obtain the aid, concerning improvements in accountability and transparency, reforms of public institutions, anti-corruption, and human rights.
Yet, in March 2019, President Trump ordered a freeze on $400 million worth of aid to the Northern Triangle, citing a lack of progress in keeping asylum seekers and migrants from fleeing the region. Though a portion of that frozen aid was restarted in 2019, it came at the expense of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras signing agreements committing to accept asylum seekers who’d originally petitioned for protection at the U.S. southern border. These policies formed part of the Trump administration’s broader efforts to essentially end the right to asylum in the United States.
In the context of shifting strategies towards addressing key governance and institutional issues in Central America, the Central America Monitor is working to ensure that U.S. assistance is strategically targeted, wisely invested, and properly implemented, and that the governments of Central America are doing their part to meet key progress indicators for accountability and reform. We are doing this in two ways:
- Monitoring U.S. assistance programs that aim to reduce violence, strengthen law enforcement and the rule of law, combat corruption, and increase accountability and transparency through analytical reports and visual and user-friendly maps and graphs that make it easy to understand where the money is going, for what kinds of programs, and whether they are having an impact.
- Evaluating the progress that Central America is making in eight critical indicators that measure progress in security and justice reforms, improving transparency, and reducing violence through extensive data gathering, in-depth reports, and data visualizations.