TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Honduras said on Friday it wants to use U.S. aid aimed at reducing migratory pressures in Central America to help rebuild areas battered by hurricanes last year, as officials from the two countries met in Washington.
U.S. President Joe Biden has earmarked $4 billion for Central America, where Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans have helped spur a jump in unlawful immigration to the United States, creating a major challenge for his administration.
Honduras was hard hit by two major hurricanes that struck Central America late last year, and its government said in a statement that 95% of its citizens involved in the recent pick-up in migration were from areas affected by the storms.
The Honduran delegation in Washington told U.S. officials that they want aid reaching their country from the United States to go toward the reconstruction efforts, it added.
Honduran Foreign Minister Lisandro Rosales also spoke to Ricardo Zuniga, a U.S. special envoy to Central America, who made a visit to Guatemala and El Salvador this week as part of an effort to address the uptick in migration.
Speaking in a conference call with reporters, Zuniga said that the United States does not want to impose itself on Central America, but he stressed that tackling corruption is important to getting a grip on migration from the region.
“What we’re doing in each country,” Zuniga said, “is supporting those who are trying to consolidate the rule of law.”
The Honduran delegation also pledged to address corruption, an issue of growing concern since President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras was linked to drug cartels in a U.S. trial that led to the conviction of his younger brother. Hernandez, who has not been charged with any crimes, has denied any wrongdoing and labeled the allegations smears.
(Reporting by Nelson Renteria Raul Cortes and Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Will Dunham)