Formulate clear goals for CARSI. CARSI was originally designed as a supplement to the Mexico-focused Mérida Initiative. Regional security issues and threats have evolved since then. CARSI should reflect these changing dynamics.
Lift congressional withholdings that undermine U.S. security efforts. Current withholdings against Guatemala and Honduras continue to weaken U.S. regional counternarcotics efforts. Increasing levels of U.S.-bound drug trafficking and accompanying violence will continue to destabilize Central America, and Congress should recognize the need for continued engagement.
Recognize the importance of supporting civil society in Central America. In the U.S. and other Western democracies, civil society functions as the intermediary between the government and the public. Democratic and governance institutions in many of these countries are weak and in many cases corrupt. The U.S. should support groups and organizations that hold regional governments accountable.I'm all for recommendations one and two. However, with regards to point number two, which mostly corresponds to the Leahy act tying military assistance to human rights improvements, I clearly do not support lifting the conditions. However, instead of removing them, the US needs to move forward with our Central American partners (Guatemala and Honduras) to double down on programs that will help them qualify for the removal of such conditions. Because their militaries do not meet human rights standards is not a reason to remove the conditions. However, at the current rate, neither military is going to meet the standards anytime soon.
[Does this sound like US policy towards Central America during the Reagan administration to anyone else?]
The same goes for economic assistance. Only El Salvador qualifies for a large Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact. Neither Guatemala nor Honduras meet the necessary democratic and economic conditions for a compact but they do for a threshold program. While the US has told them what they need to do to receive one hundred million dollar-plus compacts, they need more assistance to get there.
How much more and how to deliver that assistance, I don't know.