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Harris to unveil more private investment in Central America to try to deter migration

Vice President Kamala Harris
Vice President Kamala Harris hosts a roundtable with faith leaders in Los Angeles Monday ahead of the Summit of the Americas conference.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
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Vice President Kamala Harris plans to announce Tuesday nearly $2 billion in private investment directed to three Central American countries as part of the Biden administration’s strategy to reduce migration, more than doubling previously announced commitments.

The new investments from private industry bring the total pledged to about $3.2 billion since Harris began soliciting businesses last year and comes as the administration has faced increased challenges in dealing with the governments of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and as migrants from those countries continue to head north.

Harris is trying to show progress in her highest-profile foreign assignment — stemming migration from northern Central America by addressing its root causes — during this week’s Summit of the Americas conference in Los Angeles. But the summit has been upended by a boycott, led by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, over the decision to exclude the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

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A senior administration official expressed uncertainty Monday over whether leaders of Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala would join the boycott but insisted the U.S. could work effectively with lower-level delegations.

“That’s a call for them to make,” said the official, who briefed reporters on Harris’ work on the condition of anonymity. “Some of them have said that they aren’t going to come, but they also have said they will be sending delegations. So we consider them participants in the summit.”

Kamala Harris’ biggest assignment is in Latin America. But she hasn’t gone there much. She has a big assignment coming up representing the U.S. at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

June 6, 2022

Harris began soliciting private investments last year under the belief that people will not attempt to leave their country if they have jobs, security and safety. All three countries face problems with government corruption, poverty, gang violence, natural disasters and the pandemic.

The newest commitments are from 10 companies, including clothing manufacturers such as Gap Inc. and telecommunications companies such as Millicom, which says it will spend $700 million to maintain and expand mobile and broadband networks in the three countries.

Harris also plans to announce a women’s empowerment program aimed at connecting 1.4 million women to the financial system and the digital economy and to train 500,000 women and girls in job skills. She will also announce a $50-million “Central American Service Corps” funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to offer paid community service jobs to young people.

Harris’ role in addressing the root causes of migration from Central America has been challenging, both politically at home and in the countries involved. She has visited only two of the three countries and some observers see that sporadic engagement as a sign of ambivalence.

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