May 16, 2019 / 7:56 PM / 9 days ago

Trump will not cut police aid to Central America, Barr says

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump will not cut aid to police forces in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, his attorney general said on Thursday, softening a previous order to cut foreign assistance to the so-called Northern Triangle nations.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr participates in a news conference after a meeting with Attorney Generals of Northern Triangle of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

William Barr made the announcement during a meeting in El Salvador with his counterparts in the region, during which the four countries signed an agreement aimed at tackling drug trafficking and gangs.

The U.S. State Department said in March it would cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras after Trump blasted the countries because thousands of their citizens had sought asylum at the border.

The tone was different on Thursday.

“In the United States, we are very grateful for your efforts, so I am very happy to announce that this close cooperation will continue,” Barr said in San Salvador, praising recent progress in the fight against gangs like the MS-13, and adding that Trump supported the announcement.

“He gave his backing to me coming here, and that I make clear that we will maintain our commitment” to funding that has supported those police efforts, Barr said.

Ahead of the meeting of attorneys general, Honduran and Salvadoran police carried out dozens of arrests, raids and asset seizures against local gang members, drug traffickers and other figures from the criminal underworld.

The bulk of migrants apprehended trying to enter the United States illegally come from the three troubled countries. Many migrants making the journey north are seeking to escape the violence and poverty that prevail in their homelands.

Barr and his counterparts from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras signed an agreement to establish information exchange mechanisms in the fight against human trafficking and other crimes.

The agreement also aims to set up teams to detect migrant flows and identify key players encouraging the phenomenon.

Reporting by Nelson Rentaria; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Peter Cooney

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