U.S. should not undermine progress it helped propel in Central America | Opinion
Central America is at a crossroads — as is the United States when it comes to our own hemisphere. We’ve seen this movie before and should heed its lessons. Two decades ago, it was Colombia. Today, it is Venezuela. Tomorrow, the list could grow. Most important, outcomes are not preordained.
During 15 years of sustained partnership, Colombia transitioned from a violence-ridden subsidiary of drug cartels to an important regional security partner and market for American goods and services.
With the growing crisis at the border, some have called for the suspension of aid to Central America, saying it’s not working. But that’s a false narrative: American aid has improved the very conditions that drive migration in the Northern Triangle. Violence and lack of economic opportunity are certainly far from solved, but to pull back now would make the migration crisis worse and hurt American interests.
Start with lessons learned from Plan Colombia, an initiative supported by Republican and Democratic administrations. At its core was Colombian commitment. But it also took active American diplomacy combined with sustained assistance. The United States invested $10 billion in security and economic assistance over a decade to combat illegal narcotics and promote economic growth. We trained farmers to grow crops and bring their goods to market and delivered American private-sector partners. Violence and poverty receded and today American exports to Colombia have quadrupled.