US Halts Foreign Aid To Central American 'Caravan' Countries; Guatemala, Honduras And El Salvador Cut Off

The Trump administration has cut off all foreign aid to the Central American nations of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras - known as the Northern Triangle countries. 

"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," reads a statement to The Hill from a State Department spokesperson. 

The sudden move comes after a Friday statement by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen - who said she signed a "historic" regional compact last week with the Northern Triangle to "combat human smuggling and trafficking, crack down on transnational criminals fueling the crisis, and strengthen border security to prevent irregular migration." 

Later Friday, President Trump said that said countries "set up" migrant caravans, per CNN

"We were paying them tremendous amounts of money. And we're not paying them anymore. Because they haven't done a thing for us. They set up these caravans," Trump reportedly said. 

"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," said a State Department spokesperson. "We will be engaging Congress as part of this process."

The move comes after disputed reports of the "mother of all caravans" assembling in Honduras. On Wednesday Mexico's Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero warned "We have information that a new caravan is forming in Honduras, that they’re calling ‘the mother of all caravans,’ and they are thinking it could have more than 20,000 people."

Trump, meanwhile, did not mince words on Friday - threatening to close the border with Mexico if they don't stop the latest caravans.

In December, Trump threatened to cut off aid to countries from which the caravans originate, and are "doing nothing for the United States but taking our money."

While Trump's supporters have praised the move, others have suggested that cutting foreign aid will further destabilize the region and cause larger problems - including more migration.  

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) - ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, denounced the move. 

"If carried out, President Trump’s irresponsible decision to cut off our assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras would undermine American interests and put our national security at risk," he said. 

"U.S. foreign assistance is not charity; it advances our strategic interests and funds initiatives that protect American citizens. This latest reported move shows the Administration still does not understand that the United States cuts foreign aid to Central America at our own peril."