WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States, hoping to stem migration, said on Tuesday (Dec 18) that it was ready to support US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) in investment in Central America and southern Mexico.
The US promised to back new Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's push for development in Central America, the primary source of migrants whose unauthorised entry into the US has become a central focus for President Donald Trump.
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which offers government-backed favourable financing to US businesses, is prepared to support US$2.5 billion in new investment in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras "if commercially viable projects are identified", the State Department said.
OPIC is also looking to mobilise US$2 billion more for southern Mexico, the country's poorest region, a statement said.
The State Department said that OPIC already has US$2.8 billion worth of projects in the pipeline in Mexico as well as US$1 billion since last year in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras - the so-called "Northern Triangle".
The US welcomes the "historic commitment" of Mexico to development and is also "committed to promoting a safer and more prosperous Central America", the State Department said in a statement.
Economic progress "can create greater opportunities and benefits for the people of the region and help us jointly address the shared challenges of migration, narcotics trafficking and the activities of trans-national criminal organisations", it said.
The funding offers, made in a low-key written statement, come in stark contrast to Mr Trump's years of rallies demanding that Mexico pay for a vast wall on the border.
The US government is teetering on the brink of a shutdown, with Mr Trump demanding that Congress provide US$5 billion for the wall.
But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials have acknowledged that development is a longer-term solution to migration from the Northern Triangle countries, which are among the region's most violent.
In new government funding, the State Department said it was requesting an additional US$180 million for the Northern Triangle in its request to Congress for the 2019 fiscal year.