Vice President Kamala Harris will attend the inauguration of President-elect Xiomara Castro in Honduras next week, the White House said Tuesday, signaling a potential shift in relations with the Central American country as Harris continues efforts to deter migration.
“The vice president’s visit will further the commitment she and President-elect Castro made … to deepen the partnership between the United States and Honduras and work together to advance economic growth, combat corruption, and address the root causes of migration,” Harris’ deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh wrote in a statement announcing attendance at the Jan. 27 ceremony.
Until speaking with Castro on Dec. 10 in a phone call, Harris had not had direct contact with any Honduran leaders, despite leading American efforts to curb migration from the region. The number of people stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border last year reached record levels, with many migrants beginning their journeys in Central America.
The Biden administration has shunned Honduras’ president, Juan Orlando Hernández, whose brother was sentenced last year to life in prison for drug trafficking by a federal judge in Manhattan in a case that implicated the Honduran president.
The administration has been desperate to find a Central American partner to work with. El Salvador and Guatemala, the other two countries in what is known as the Northern Triangle, have taken authoritarian turns.
Harris was tapped by Biden in March to address the root causes of migration from the three countries. Foreign policy experts say the spike in migration has been fueled by natural disasters, corruption, poverty, crime and climate disruption. The lack of reliable partners has made it difficult to design aid programs and make deals to deter migration. Harris has been working with the private sector to spur investment but those efforts have been hampered by corruption in the three nations.
Biden administration officials have signaled for weeks that they see Castro as a potential partner, despite the risks.
Castro was married to the former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, a populist whose government was overthrown in 2009 by the Honduran military and business elite. The United States, despite its considerable influence in the country, failed to stop the coup. At the time, Castro was seen to being more leftist in her politics than her husband but is said to have become more pragmatic in recent years.
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