THE PRESIDENT'S TRIP TO CENTRAL AMERICA
The President travels to Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to reaffirm U.S. support for relief and reconstruction efforts in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, and to help the Central Americans maintain the momentum in their historic transformation towards peace, democracy, human rights, and free markets. Central America's full recovery and continued transformation is clearly in the U.S. national interest. A region of strong, stable, and prosperous democracies serves as a vital partner in trade and investment, and in combating common problems such as drug trafficking, corruption, illegal migration, and environmental damage.
The President's trip charts the process of recovery from Hurricane Mitch - from relief, to reconstruction, to the long-term transformation of the region. In Nicaragua, he will survey the devastation, meet with survivors, honor the victims, and praise relief workers. In Honduras, he will visit a bridge installed by U.S. Marines and participate in a roundtable on reconstruction with civil society leaders. In El Salvador, the President will address the National Assembly, and in Guatemala, he will participate in a regional leaders summit.
A Friend In Need. The United States has led international efforts to assist in Central America's recovery from Hurricane Mitch, and has launched reconstruction efforts aimed at restoring the roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, and homes destroyed by the storm. To date, the United States has provided $312 million in aid, including:
- $150 million to deploy 5,300 U.S. military personnel and 60 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to clear roads, install bridges, and distribute 3.2 million pounds of food and over 500,000 gallons of water
- $122 million to provide over 325,000 metric tons of food assistance and emergency loans
- $35 million to provide health care, repair water and sanitation systems, restore agriculture production, rehabilitate roads, and build temporary shelters
- $5 million to revitalize small businesses impacted by the hurricane
Partners in Progress. U.S.-led relief and reconstruction efforts will help Central American nations continue on the path to peace, democracy, and economic growth -- by promoting transparency and broad local participation in the allocation of resources. The United States has played a critical role in the region's recent progress: assisting in landmark peace agreements in Guatemala, ending decades of conflict; supporting democracy in El Salvador, which is holding its second Presidential election since its bloody civil war ended in the early 1990s, with broad political participation; and expanding trade and investment throughout region. At a summit of regional leaders in Guatemala, President Clinton will reaffirm his commitment to continue this progress, and discuss with his Central American counterparts additional steps we can take towards reducing trade and investment barriers, promoting microenterprise, improving environmental protection, and controlling illegal migration.
A Call to Action. The President has asked Congress to pass the Central American Emergency Budget Supplemental, which provides nearly $650 million in new disaster assistance. This measure would infuse new resources into the reconstruction effort and provide those nations hardest hit by the storm with critical debt relief. He has also proposed an enhanced Caribbean Basin Initiative program, which provides temporary trade benefits to Central American countries to assist them in recovering from Hurricane Mitch. A bipartisan coalition in both the House and Senate has indicated support for these important bills.