Media CenterCRS Expert to Congress: Cutting U.S. Foreign Aid to Central America is Counterproductive

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Tom Zolper
Catholic Relief Services
(410) 951-7110
[email protected]


WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPTEMBER 26, 2019 – The U.S. administration’s cuts to foreign aid for Central America will exacerbate human suffering in the region, an expert for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) told Congress this week.

“Cutting foreign assistance is counterproductive to addressing issues of security, governance and prosperity and will create a vacuum for increased instability, poverty and migration,” stated Rick Jones, a senior technical advisor for CRS in Latin America and the Caribbean, in written testimony submitted Wednesday to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Jones spoke Wednesday afternoon before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security and Trade. The hearing, “Assessing the Impact of Cutting Foreign Assistance to Central America,” featured Jones; Stephen McFarland, a former U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala; and Juan González, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

The administration announced this summer its intent to suspend or reprogram over $560 million in congressionally approved funds for Central America from fiscal years 2017 and 2018. It also suspended all future humanitarian and development programming in the region.

According to Jones, humanitarian and development aid programs have helped mitigate poverty, violence and food insecurity. They’ve also helped vulnerable farmers cope with worsening impacts of climate change. Ultimately, the programs are helping Central Americans thrive in their home communities instead of migrating north to the U.S. border.

“The questions we must ask ourselves today is not if the U.S. should engage or if the U.S. should invest in humanitarian and development programs, but how can we, the U.S. government, civil society organizations such as CRS, and the private sector engage more productively and effectively in Central American to address the root causes of migration to provide opportunities for families to thrive in their home communities, and to uphold the human dignity of each and every person so that they are not forced to migrate,” Jones said.

Through robust humanitarian and development programming in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, CRS has played a critical role in addressing the root causes that are pushing people to leave their homes and countries in the first place.

However, according to Jones, the administration’s recent funding cuts are directly threatening aspects of CRS’ Central America programming. For example, a particular CRS program that has been funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will not be extended after this month, following the administration’s recent decision. This program had provided food and training to rural residents of Eastern Guatemala, an area that’s been hit hard by five years of drought, including acutely malnourished children.

“This is precisely the kind of program that helped communities build resilience to drought and poverty. Turning our backs on them will exacerbate human suffering and contribute to thousands of residents’ despair and possible migration north,” he stated.


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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