A State Department spokesperson confirmed to CNN Wednesday that the State Department is looking to redirect some funding originally designated for the Northern Triangle – Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – to embattled Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
“Working with Congress, we are exploring reprogramming some of the funding towards promoting democracy in Venezuela, including supporting the interim Guaido government and National Assembly,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The United States and dozens of other nations have backed Guaido in his bid to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. However, almost six months after the US recognized the opposition leader, Maduro remains in power.
“Our programming, existing and planned, is targeted to address the Venezuela crisis. We are investing in good governance, human rights, technical assistance for the Guaido government, independent media, and civil society,” they said. “The principle objective of our funding for Venezuela aligns with our principle policy objective: to restore democracy to Venezuela.”
The spokesperson said that none of the funding being reprogrammed is humanitarian assistance; it all falls under development assistance. They noted that the State Department “regularly adjusts funding as priorities evolve” and that it is “technical process tied to our strategic planning so that we spend taxpayer dollars responsibly and in line with Administration priorities.”
“This decision is consistent with the President’s direction that the United States will not provide new funds for programs in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras,” they said.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday that the administration planned to divert $41.9M in FY18 funding. According to that report, a USAID memo said the money sent to Guiado and his team would “pay for their salaries, airfare, ‘good governance’ training, propaganda, technical assistance for holding elections and other ‘democracy-building’ projects.”
After repeated threats to do so by President Donald Trump, the administration announced in late March it was cutting all funding to the three countries. According to the State Department, $400 million in FY18 funding will be reprogrammed and $164M in FY17 funding would be withheld “until the Department is satisfied the Northern Triangle countries are taking concrete actions to reduce the number of migrants coming to the US border.” More than $450 million in previously awarded money for FY17 was allowed to continue.
A State Department official told CNN Tuesday that they regularly work with Congress to reprogram funds at the end of fiscal years.
Ahead of a trip to El Salvador later this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the funding cuts to the region.
“It’s the case that for years and years and years we’ve provided hundreds of millions of dollars – taxpayer, US taxpayer dollars – to these countries and it, as you can see, hasn’t delivered the outcome we’re looking for with respect to American security and security along our southern border,” Pompeo told KCMO Radio Wednesday. “So President Trump’s made the decision that, with respect to the three countries in the Northern Triangle, we would turn off that assistance and frankly demand that they do the things that they’re capable of doing. They’ve now expressed some willingness. We need to work alongside them to deliver on this outcome.”