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President Biden is considering creating an anti-corruption task force to address mass migration coming from Central America, a top U.S. official announced Thursday.
Special Envoy to the Triangle Nations, Ricardo Zuniga, told reporters the task force would help local prosecutors manage corruption contributing to human rights abuses.
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“Governance addressing corruption is at the center of what the Biden administration is focusing on,” Zuniga said.
Illegal immigration at the U.S. southern border has risen steeply this year, with migrants coming predominately from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Biden has said he will take on the immigration crisis by reversing Trump-era policies and addressing the “root causes” contributing to migrants fleeing the Northern Triangle countries in Central America.
Zuniga told reporters Thursday the White House will release a proposal next month to disperse $4 billion over a four-year period. The plan is set to focus on promoting governance and transparency, economic development and security.
Biden tasked Vice President Kamala Harris with taking on the complex immigration crisis, and she is set to travel to Mexico and Guatemala “soon,” the administration announced last week.
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“We’re also addressing structural problems [that have] infected so many lives and Central America, whether they regard insecurity or lack of opportunities,” Zuniga said, applauding Harris’ “leadership.”
The United States will also be imposing sanctions on Central American officials involved in corruption by barring their travel to the U.S., and assessing financial penalties.
“We have a mandate from the U.S. Congress to develop lists of officials who are involved in corruption and to propose actions against them,” Zuniga said.
The Special Envoy traveled to Guatemala and El Salvador earlier this month, but was refused a meeting by Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele, who accused the administration of ill-treatment—signaling a tough road ahead for officials in charge of combating mass migration.
Zuniga also said that Mexico “has been our key partner in efforts to manage migration.”
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“We have really focused on countries that are at center of movement of people,” he explained Thursday, adding that the U.S. is developing “working groups” in El Salvador and Honduras.
Harris is set to hold a virtual meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei Monday.
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