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U.S. VP Harris touts $4.2b private sector investment in Central America


U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks at the DNC 2023 Winter Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., February 3, 2023. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

Private companies have committed to invest $4.2 billion in northern Central America as part of an effort by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to reduce migration, the White House said on Monday.

The latest figures, up from $3.2 billion announced in June 2022, stem from pledges by 47 companies and organizations, including the retailer Target (TGT.N) and the Columbia Sportswear Company (COLM.O). In the new announcements on Monday, Target committed to increase its spending in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras by $300 million this year while Columbia said it would purchase $200 million in products in the region, creating more than 6,900 jobs over five years.

U.S. President Joe Biden, who will deliver the annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, tapped Harris in March 2021 to lead efforts to reduce migration at the U.S.-Mexico border as crossings began to spike at the beginning of his administration. Harris focused her efforts on addressing the factors that led migrants to leave the three countries, known as the northern triangle, including a lack of economic opportunity.

Corruption and governance concerns in the three nations have limited the effectiveness of the Harris push, leading to the cancellation or suspension of projects likely worth millions of dollars.

Harris, who will meet with U.S. government officials and corporate leaders at her office in Washington on Monday, plans to launch a new phase of the effort called Central America Forward, which will include more focus on broader economic development and labor rights, as well as a push to tackle corruption, an administration official said on a call with reporters.

Arrivals from northern Central America have steadily declined since mid-2021. During that time, hundreds of thousands of migrants from the region have been rapidly expelled back to Mexico without the chance to seek U.S. asylum under a COVID order known as Title 42.