Donald Trump has announced the end of more than $500 million (£383 million) in annual US aid to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in the face of a growing migrant crisis which could see the closure of America’s southern border this week.
In retaliation for what he sees as a lack of progress in halting the exodus of illegal immigrants from Central America who have been seeking asylum in the US, Mr Trump, the US president, has ordered the State Department to halt funding.
The US has historically given hundreds of millions of dollars each year to fund programmes in the so-called Northern Triangle to improve life for those in the poverty stricken and increasingly violent countries as a way of stopping the exodus.
But the money has seemingly had little effect with tens of thousands forming human caravans and crossing the border illegally every month.
Speaking from Mar-a-Lago on Friday, the president said: “We were giving them $500 million. We were giving them tremendous aid.
“We were paying them tremendous amounts of money, and we’re not paying them anymore because they haven’t done a thing for us.”
Although the State Department has declined to give figures, US media estimated the amount at stake was between $500 and $700 million.
In 2017 alone, Guatemala received over $248 million, Honduras received $175 million and El Salvador $115 million.
“We are carrying out the President’s direction and ending [fiscal year] 2017 and [fiscal year] 2018 foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle,” a State Department spokesman said in a statement. “We will be engaging Congress as part of this process.”
The move was criticised yesterday by both Democrats and Republicans as short-sighted.
On Sunday, Kellyanne Conway, a close aide to Mr Trump, said the US leader was not bluffing on Friday when he said he would close the US border this week if Mexico did not take action to stem the flow of migrants.
"You can take the president seriously," she told Fox News.