Back in March, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered cuts in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras because he felt they weren’t doing enough to curb migration to the United States.
Some in Congress are fighting to restore the funds, but their success is anything but certain. CGTN’s Franc Contreras reports on the impact the cuts could have on El Salvador.
Youth programs in the town of Usulutan, located in southeastern El Salvador, face the possibility of being cut along with the aid.
The region suffered terrible violence during this Central American nation’s civil war in the 1980s. Criminal gangs continue to take lives and wreak havoc here.
Entrenched poverty spurs mass migration to the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered a halt – to some 500 million dollars in U.S. financial assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Trump sees it as a penalty for failing to curb the exodus.
A local music group – known as the Philharmonic of Usulutan — provides young Salvadorans with one option to avoid gangs and immigration. It’s funded by the United States Agency for International Development or USAID.
Eighteen-year-old trumpet player Juan Carlos Paniagua, told CGTN his mother recently left him and his sibling, and migrated to the United States.
“Before this, I knew very little about music. USAID gives us this help, which we really needed,” Paniagua said.
An after-school youth recreation center was also made possible by U.S. government funds. High school students who participate in these programs, said things changed dramatically after it was remodeled: they now have a safe place in the shade where they can practice football.
Usulutan’s Mayor, Jose Mauricio Zelaya said without U.S. funding, the recreation center and music group will cease to exist.
“This program funded by USAID helps us by minimizing violence because it is a distraction for young people, who might otherwise join gangs. It would be very damaging for us if the U.S. cuts this assistance,” Zelaya said.
USAIDis also used to fund a Salvadoran prison reform program called Yo Cambio – or ‘I Change.’ It too is slated to disappear without new investment.
The warden said rival gang members, more likely to kill each other on the outside, learn to work together and learn from one another here. They envision new possibilities of what could be a bright future in their nation – if the prison reform program is funded.