Vice President Kamala Harris took a step in the right direction last Thursday when she enlisted a dozen corporations to help address the “push factors” that are driving Central Americans to leave their homes and flee north.

Companies like Microsoft and Mastercard are agreeing to make various investments in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Microsoft, for instance, has agreed to offer internet access to as many as 3 million people in the region by July 2022. Mastercard hopes to gain 5 million customers who currently lack banking services and offer electronic banking to 1 million micro and small businesses, according to reporting from Reuters.

These are worthy projects in a part of the world where violence is common and opportunity isn’t. At a panel discussion hosted by the George W. Bush Presidential Center two days before Harris’ announcement, policy analysts from all three nations said people are fleeing because of violence, especially from drug traffickers. That problem is amplified because people there have little confidence that their governments will protect them or uphold the rule of law.

Harris is walking a fine line between addressing push factors on behalf of desperate Central Americans and propping up the very governments that make them desperate. Last month, the U.S. State Department released a list of 17 Central American officials suspected of corruption. That list included Honduran and Guatemalan legislators and a close aide to El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele. In April, Guatemalan lawmakers refused to install a judge known for fighting corruption. In March, a U.S. court sentenced the brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez to life in prison for drug trafficking.

The task here is a difficult one, but we suspect it will help to have global brands involved. There’s not much prestige on offer when developing countries receive aid from the U.S. government, but there is when a company such as Mastercard opens operations there.

This effort has to be profitable for the companies. Microsoft might be agreeing to build community centers, but they also want to sell software. Finding the nexus where business expansion meets regional stability is smart.

Harris’ approach doesn’t replace much-needed improvement to U.S. border systems where the Biden administration has struggled, but it’s a welcome shift from the wall-it-off-and-forget-it policy of the Trump administration.

In a speech about this issue to the Council of Americas in May, Harris said, “We have to think beyond government.” That’s a surprising line coming from an administration that has proposed the most expansive government intervention in generations. It’s a philosophy we would encourage Harris to consider for domestic challenges, as well.

We would also like to see this administration take a similar step with nonprofit and faith-based agencies, many of which are well equipped and already working in the region.

Copyright 2021 Tribune Content Agency.

0
0
0
0
0

Recommended for you