The following article was originally posted in Fortune on August 24, 2019.
The roots of the humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border are found in the tragic circumstances facing the poorest and most vulnerable citizens of the Northern Triangle countries of Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. A poisonous and ruinous combination of poverty, unemployment, rampant corruption, weak judicial and law enforcement institutions, absence of the rule of law, and violence has forced many Northern Triangle citizens to seek safety and asylum in neighboring countries or as far away as the U.S.
In my foreign policy speech earlier this year at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, I called for launching Plan Central America with the same holistic approach that the U.S. brought to Plan Colombia. Plan Colombia, which ran from 2000 to 2015, was successful in helping the Colombian government counter FARC and other extremist groups with a whole-of-government focus on counternarcotics, counterterrorism, sustainable development, human rights, regional security, and trade. Violence was reduced, which encouraged investment to return and the economy to flourish.
It is time to bring that same approach to improve the conditions giving rise to the violence and instability that is sending so many Central Americans to our border.