President Trump just sent shockwaves through Central America.
ABC News reported that in a stunning about-face, State Department officials said that President Donald Trump is cutting off all direct assistance to the so-called Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
“At the Secretary’s instruction, we are carrying out the President’s direction and ending FY [fiscal year] 2017 and FY 2018 foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle,” a State Department spokesperson told ABC News, referring to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “We will be engaging Congress as part of this process.”
President Trump has also threatened to close the southern border.
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President Trump said on Friday that there would be a “very good likelihood” that he would seal off the United States border with Mexico next week, even as he moved to punish Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador for migrant caravans by cutting off all foreign aid to the countries.
The moves escalated a sustained berating of countries he blames for being unable to stop the flow of migrants trying to make their way north.
“I will close the border if Mexico doesn’t get with it,” Mr. Trump said to reporters who had gathered at Mar-a-Lago, his winter retreat in Florida. “If Mexico doesn’t stop it.”
At Mr. Trump’s direction, the State Department on Friday began the process of informing Congress that it intended to end the foreign aid. A person with knowledge of the decision said that Mr. Trump met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday, after which diplomats were directed to begin the process of cutting off the funds by drafting letters to lawmakers. Mr. Trump publicly said as much on Friday in comments to reporters.
“No money goes there anymore,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re giving them tremendous aid. We stopped payment.”
The State Department issued a statement late on Friday saying: “At the secretary’s instruction, we are carrying out the president’s direction and ending FY 2017 and FY 2018 foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle. We will be engaging Congress as part of this process.”
Mr. Trump has threatened to close off the border and cut off aid to the three countries — known as the Northern Triangle — several times before and has not followed through.