Challenges & Opportunities in Central America’s Northern Triangle Region

Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (The Northern Triangle) are experiencing a historic diaspora to the southern border of the United States. The precipitants of this migration are an unprecedented economic contraction occurring after back-to-back major hurricanes compounded by a pandemic and further complicated by heightened crime, violence and corruption. The United States, particularly California, is the primary destination for Central American migrants, making this a regional issue of immediacy to Californians and to the Institute of the Americas. The Northern Triangle diaspora is also regional, affecting neighboring nations in Central America and in Mexico. The search for solutions and/or relief is now multi-national and increasingly urgent.

Collapsing rule of law, collapsing economies, insecurity, declining government revenues concurrent with rising public needs and a myriad of related complications are not likely treatable by strictly internal adjustments. A consensus is developing that only a regional multi-pronged strategy to strengthen both democracy and the economies of Central American countries provides plausible hope for relief. The expectation is that a multi-pronged strategy could help diminish the extent to which these problems reach the U.S. southern border. How to best achieve this multi-pronged, multi-national strategy is where the debate can get tangled.

Central America’s ability to attract U.S. financial aid is hampered by the increased appeal in the U.S. of zero-sum politics, i.e., the idea that mutual prosperity is not achievable because countries prosper at each other’s expense. Nonetheless, President Biden’s comprehensive four-year regional strategy for Central America creates a significant opening of the dialogue on how the U.S. can best address some of the root causes of Central American migration. Ultimately, badly needed job creating foreign investment and tourism will not be attracted to the area until Central American citizens feel they can live in peace and safety in their native countries. The objective of this two-day forum is to discuss ideas on how to get from here to there.

This Forum is presented by the Institute of the Americas and features Norma Torres (CA-35), Juan Vargas (CA-51) and Scott Peters (CA-52). They address corruption, security and economic factors in the region and what can be done.

Watch Challenges & Opportunities in Central America’s Northern Triangle Region.