1. U.S. Government cuts aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador

What's going on
Following President Trump's direction, the State Department confirmed last Saturday that the U.S. government will be halting humanitarian aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. In 2016 the U.S. provided about $131 million in aid to Guatemala, $98 million to Honduras and $68 million to El Salvador. Those numbers dropped in 2017 to about $69 million for Guatemala, $66 million for Honduras and $46 million for El Salvador.
What Ambassadors are saying
"There are no easy answers to the problems in Central America; we cannot offer an off-the-shelf prescription for the difficulties in these countries. We can, however, accept the fact that support to these nations is in our national interest. Our support to these countries in the ‘80s was based on national security concerns driven by Cold War geopolitics. The concept of national security cannot be confined to proxy conflicts with a strategic advisory. National-security concerns extend to the consequences of failed or failing states as havens for threats against U.S. interests." (Ambassador Richard Holwill, former U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, American Ambassadors Live! )
2. NATO turns 70

What's going on
 The North Atlantic Treaty Organization marked its 70th anniversary this week. Foreign ministers from NATO countries met in Washington, DC to show solidarity in the midst of tensions with Russia and a stalemate in Afghanistan.
What Ambassadors are saying
"Looking ahead to the next decade, we cannot be sure what new threats might emerge, or how the current landscape might shift. We need a strategy to deal with uncertainty, and as the Secretary General told Congress today, that strategy is NATO. But even as NATO evolves we need to remind ourselves that the alliance has never defined its purpose in terms of what we are against. From the very beginning we have described our common agenda in positive terms to safeguard freedom, promote stability, uphold principles of democracy and extend the rule of law. Recently, we’ve talked more and more about needing to spend 2 percent for defense. But we have always been and have to remain 100 percent for democracy." (Secretary Madeleine Albright, 64th Secretary of State, NATO Engages: The Alliance at 70 )

3. Dealing with the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi

What's going on
Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi are struggling to recover in the wake of Cyclone Idai. The cyclone, which made landfall on March 14, left behind damaged critical infrastructure, 50 percent of Mozambique's annual crops destroyed, and a rapid cholera outbreak among communities affected by flooding. More than 500 people were killed and 1.85 million people in Mozambique need urgent humanitarian assistance, including 1 million children.
What Ambassadors are saying
“As Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi continue struggling to cope with  the aftermath  of Cyclone Idai, it’s worth noting while the storm was exceptional in its destructive power, the risk of flooding in and around Beira is a chronic problem. As the climate warms, rising sea levels are likely to cause serious ongoing problems for important coastal hubs like Beira even without the increasing frequency of dramatic storms. Of course the immediate humanitarian crisis is where the international community must focus first. But the destruction of infrastructure that was built with climate change adaptation in mind is also worrying, and has implications not just for Mozambique, but also for landlocked states that rely on its ports." (Ambassador Michelle Gavin, former U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, Council on Foreign Relations )

Last summer, Ambassador Richard Holwill responded to President Trump's proposed funding cut to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. With the Central American countries' lack of economic opportunity and extreme gang violence, Ambassador Holwill suggested the way to solve the United States' southwestern border problem is not by cutting aid, but actually furthering support to economic programs in these countries. Read former U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Richard Holwill's analysis of the "border problem beyond the border" here .

T he time is right now to renew our vows and to engage in a new generation of freedom’s cause. 

Secretary Madeleine Albright at NATO Engages: The Alliance at 70 .
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