Central America has long faced challenges. Add Covid, climate change and politics. – NBC News

Central America has long faced challenges. Add Covid, climate change and politics. – NBC News

As the Biden administration sharpens its focus on Central America in its quest to stem migration, it is facing a region that has seen democratic and economic deterioration compounding long-term challenges.

Back-to-back hurricanes, an outbreak of coffee leaf rust, drought, and the Covid-19 pandemic have aggravated conditions in an area that already had some of the highest homicide rates in the world, forcing many to leave their families and seek opportunities in the United States. An estimated 311,000 people have left El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, known as the Northern Triangle, annually in recent years.

The three countries are among the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, and in 2019 ranked near the bottom for GDP per capita among Latin American and Caribbean countries. The pandemic has exacerbated the inequality and extreme poverty there.

President Joe Biden has tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to work with the Northern Triangle countries where most of the adults, children and families trying to cross the border are originally from. It’s a job Biden had as vice president, but conditions in the region have worsened since then.

In the next few years it will be a delicate balance for the Biden administration, which has put anticorruption, democracy and human rights at the heart of its foreign policy, while aiming to help the governments curb migration to the U.S. In Guatemala, Harris said that the U.S. Treasury, State and Justice Departments will be working
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