Dec 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Harris: Companies committing to Central America investment

Vice President Kamala Harris is seen speaking from behind a lectern.
Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris will announce Monday that seven companies have committed to investing in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, senior White House officials said.

Why it matters: The commitments will push administration-led private sector investments in Central America to over $1.2 billion, as Harris doubles down on a multi-pronged effort to address the root causes of migration from the region to the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • The administration announced a first round of $750 million in investment in May.
  • Harris will discuss the ongoing task during a meeting Monday with chief executives from companies including Microsoft, the parent company of Peet's Coffee, PepsiCo Latin America and Nespresso.

Between the lines: President Biden assigned the vice president the complex task of addressing economic, health and political causes that have helped drive a surge of migration to the border.

  • Harris visited Guatemala and Mexico in early June, where she announced initiatives to address corruption and human trafficking in Central America.
  • Along the way, the issue has threatened to become a political liability for the vice president.
  • The challenge has been magnified amid turnover in her office, and as critics have parsed her every move.

What we're watching: A growing coalition of private, nongovernmental and foundation leaders is announcing plans for significant investments aimed at vulnerable populations in the region.

  • Parkdale Mills will build a new yarn spinning facility in Honduras.
  • Grupo Mariposa, a Guatemalan company, will provide more than 70,000 neighborhood stores access to credit and digital tools.
  • CARE International is announcing a $50 million Center for Gender Equity.
  • Additionally, Mastercard, Microsoft and Nespresso — part of the group that announced initial commitments in May — are increasing their involvement.

But, but, but: In a region strife with corruption, violence and weak governance, it's unclear whether the cash infusion will translate into stronger democratic institutions.

  • A senior White House official told Axios the vice president has challenged U.S. agencies involved with regional activity to have more rigorous monitoring and oversight.
  • "We've also been very clear with the governments in order to make these work, [they're] going to have to implement certain elements of reform, whether that's on the tax regulation, whether it's how shipping has been done," the official said.
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