If you listen to the radio or watch TV in El Salvador you will hear the ads -- warning Salvadorans that the path of migration towards the US is fraught with danger and will not result in the "American dream." Those ads are part of an effort by the US government to reduce the flow of Central Americans towards the north.
As one of its series of articles on Central Americans migrating to the US, the Texas Tribune reports this week on the US-funded programs which are trying to reduce the factors which push people out of the country:
Policymakers are hoping that anti-gang initiatives like the one playing out in Yaritza’s high-risk school in tiny Caserio El Pital, located in one of the country's most violent regions, will help reduce crime by stopping kids from joining the street gangs that rule huge swaths of territory here.
The materials and instruction she receives — courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer — are part of a major foreign assistance effort. This particular program, called GREAT, for Gang Resistance Education And Training, was developed for gang prevention in the United States and is now being used abroad.
Other U.S.-funded programs aimed at helping Central Americans help themselves cover areas such as job training, youth activity centers and a variety of law enforcement training and infrastructure improvement initiatives.
It’s essentially nation building in the United States' own hemisphere, aimed at longtime allies experiencing orgies of gang violence and deep poverty — particularly in the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Immigrants from those three countries are pushing apprehensions of non-Mexicans at the southern U.S. border into uncharted statistical territory.The US aid is needed and appreciated in El Salvador, but it is having little visible impact. The number of people migrating is not declining. Although the US programs might benefit various communities scattered throughout the country, it is hard to see any sustainable benefits. Gangs relocate to other communities when there are law enforcement pushes, and local development programs rarely last the term of a current mayor. The economy remains sluggish and under-employment remains high. El Salvador probably needs some major structural reform, and it is a country highly resistant to reforming anything.