September 24, 2014 / 6:22 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 3-Central America plan foresees infrastructure, energy projects-draft

(Adds detail from Honduran official)
    By Gustavo Palencia
    TEGUCIGALPA, Sept 24 (Reuters) - A plan by Central American
governments to boost economic growth in the region and cut
illegal immigration to the United States foresees major spending
on infrastructure and energy projects, a draft of the proposal
showed on Wednesday.
    The "Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern
Triangle" aims to renovate highways, city bypasses and border
crossings in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, as well as
carry out improvements to other infrastructure in the region.
    Including projects that have already been announced, the
planned works are worth well over $1 billion dollars.
 
    A surge in unaccompanied children arriving this year at the
U.S. border has pushed the United States, Mexico and Central
American nations to seek new strategies to reduce the number of
children and families trying to get into U.S. territory.
    The flood of migrants has stretched U.S. resources on its
southwest border and revealed the hardships many migrants face
on the journey.
    The development plan, a copy of which was seen by Reuters,
proposes doubling the capacity of the shared Central American
network of power grids known as SIEPAC as well as supplying
natural gas from southern Mexico to Central America.
    The infrastructure projects planned for Honduras alone would
be worth "hundreds of millions of dollars," a Honduran
government official said, speaking condition of anonymity.
    Given that the U.S. marketplace was the main destination of
drugs trafficked through Central America, the United States
ought to shoulder the cost of over 80 percent of the aid
authorized by the plan, the same Honduran official said.
    The plan for the region, which suffers from high murder
rates and widespread poverty, was developed with the help of the
Inter-American Development Bank. It also includes proposals to
improve several airports, including in Belize and Nicaragua.
    It mentions a regional investment plan from 2015 to 2019,
but that section of the document was blank in a copy reviewed by
Reuters. It was not clear how the projects would be financed.
    Foreign ministers from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador
presented the plan to U.S. and Mexican officials on the
sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday,
without giving details of what it involved. 
    The draft did not detail how much money would be needed to
carry out the works mentioned, some of which have already been
announced such as a $1.2 billion planned pipeline between Salina
Cruz in Mexico and Escuintla in southern Guatemala.
    Mexican lawmakers say boosting economic development in the
region is crucial to stop the flow of migrants north. The
projects listed could provide lucrative contracts to
construction firms in Mexico, the United States and elsewhere.

 (Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Simon Gardner and Cynthia
Osterman)
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