Central America plan foresees infrastructure, energy projects-draft

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 24, 2014 1:53 PM

By Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA (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 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.

The infrastructure projects planned for Honduras alone would be worth "hundreds of millions of dollars," a Honduran government official said, speaking condition of anonymity.

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)