Skip to content


Luis Labor

The New Alliance for Prosperity

- The priority objective of the Alliance for Prosperity was to create an environment conducive to economic opportunities in the short term.

The New Alliance for Prosperity

On Thursday, January 29, 2015, the New York Times published in its traditional opinion column a collaboration titled [_Joe Biden: A Plan For Central America_]( /joe-biden-a-plan-for-central-america.html) where the then Vice President of the United States and former Democratic Senator, Joseph Biden, shared his worldview on the challenges of Central America.

Biden emphasized that the Northern Triangle countries could not overcome entrenched problems such as rampant crime or institutional corruption on their own, let alone fund sufficient programs to address them. The consequences of the omission, he reiterated, would be felt throughout the hemisphere.

The materialization of this analysis would be the Plan Alianza para la Prosperidad (PAPTN), an innovative strategy for Central America that promised to address the structural causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras through two axes: ** economic revitalization and the strengthening of safety**.

The formula, however, was essentially the same used by the now US president as a senator for Plan Colombia; and most certainly the same as Joe Bien's next big strategy for the Northern Triangle.

Of course: a dialogue with pragmatism focused on governance marks the dynamics with their Central American counterparts to the sound of the loss of leadership and the undermining of the rule of law.


The priority objective of the Alliance for Prosperity was to create an environment conducive to economic opportunities in the short term.

In this, despite the fact that the wording was entrusted to the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, they miserably failed to negotiate the inclusion of key issues for the well-being of their populations.

In fact, the critics highlight1 that, regardless of the diplomatic rhetoric, in practice the Alliance for Prosperity did not address the true causes of migration: inequality in the distribution of wealth, high levels of violence or Central American climate vulnerability.

For its part, the allocation of $750 million for its execution and the budgetary robustness in the economic axes (invigoration, development of human capital, attraction of investments2) support that the United States was clear about at least three issues with its implementation:

  1. Address the slow economic growth of the three countries (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala) through infrastructure development and increased private investment.
  2. Reduce the high rate of crime and public insecurity in the region quickly by strengthening justice and security institutions.
  3. Disseminate political responsibilities of the Obama administration regarding the 2014 crisis of migrant minors and the failed results of the CARSI (Central American Regional Security Initiative).

While the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras observed a new support for cooperation to promote their internal policies.

It is logical, therefore, to infer that the PAPTN did not address the structural conditions of Central American migration because neither party -neither the United States nor the Northern Triangle- really sought this end.

Deja vu

In this sense, the Alliance for Prosperity is best understood as a centralized flanker of Plan Colombia (PC).

Plan Colombia was a key strategy for the geopolitics of the United States in South America developed from 1999 to the present that has not achieved one of its main objectives either: reducing the flow of narcotics in the region.

“The region -Latin America- has seen this type of transformation before. In 1999, we launched Plan Colombia to combat drug trafficking, absolute poverty, and institutional corruption (…) As one of the architects of Plan Colombia in the United States Senate, I saw that the key ingredient was political will on the ground .”

With mixed reviews, there are some analysts such as Angélica Durán Martinez who consider that the PC "was a late counterinsurgency success but a failure of antinarcotics policy."

This was reaffirmed in the December 20 report of the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission of the US Congress where, with nuances, the commission recognized that [Plan Colombia failed in its anti-narcotics policy.]( /failure-of-the-plan-colombia-according-to-official-report-united-states/)

Joe Biden served as a Delaware senator from 1972 to 2002. His weight in the Upper House was decisive for the approval of Plan Colombia in 1999.

UNSTAT figures show that some key elements for the success of the PAPTN, such as foreign direct investment (IEA), did not find the expected results in the Central American case either.

In the two years of the Alliance, the IEA in the Northern Triangle barely reached a peak of 4% improvement over the year before the plan was formulated, after two consecutive deficits and an uneven trend in the three countries.

Source: Own elaboration based on data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)[3]( (accessed 02-20-2021 ).

Subsequently, the arrival of Donald Trump in the Oval Office and the personified focus of his foreign policy towards Central America (immigration cooperation in exchange for impunity) concluded the development of the PAPTN, leaving a narrow margin of evaluation of two and a half years.

New Alliance for Prosperity or Northern Triangle Plan?

However, many things have changed since then: in addition to the pandemic; The state's inability to respond to social demands occurs at a time when regional integration processes and confidence in democracy are going through their worst moment4.

The irregular process of electing magistrates for the Constitutional Court in Guatemala or the analysis of constitutional reforms related to the political system in El Salvador are just a few examples of the democratic deformation in process.

Defending the rule of law, therefore, will be a new axis for the United States. In this, the Biden administration has shown signs of keeping in mind at least four lessons from the first PAPTN:

  1. Investment and political will is insufficient if institutional corruption prevails. This will be the center of decisions and US foreign policy towards Central America. A pivot commission and the embassies (in the absence of CICIG and MACCIH) will orbit this point.
  2. Exploit existing tools. The United States will not stop at creating new economic and trade tools. The demand for DR-CAFTA commitments, the release of investment barriers, and the role of the IDB together with the IMF will repeat.
  3. Strategic results must be measurable and verifiable. No tangible results; publicly diagnosing and defending the "success" of the plan both abroad and in the US Congress is impossible.
  4. Dialogue with other international actors is paramount. To avoid further dismantling of the Central American rule of law, the United States looks to the press and civil society organizations as executive alternatives for governance.

The American dichotomy then goes through forms. Resuming a short-term strategy maybe contain bad democratic practices and guarantee a faster economic recoverya; but it will not address -again- the immigration problem (New Alliance for Prosperity).

On the other hand, the design of a new medium-term plan may not justify -in principle- the commitment in Central America, but, if carried out with transparency and inclusion, it will substantially change the course of a region sunk in improvisation (Plan Triángulo Norte).

In both cases, the economic-commercial element and the support of Congress will play a preponderant role. The Central American international actors -not only the foreign ministries- will have to negotiate as allies to meet the needs of their populations: the high indices of inequality, the even deeper poverty, and the high climatic vulnerability.

The 2014 unaccompanied migrant minor crisis led to the development of the PAPTN. This sought to create economic opportunities in the short term. Source: UNICEF Mexico

Until now, officials and advisors such as WHA Undersecretary Julie Chung or Juan González from the NSC have shown a dialogue surrounded by pragmatism5 more typical of the "New Alliance" than of the "Plan" :

"The president has promised to help Central America with a 4 billion dollar project during the four years of his term, but that will not have any impact without the political will of governments to take action (.. .) The leader who is ready to take serious action on this issue will have an ally in Joe Biden".

Juan González, senior adviser to the National Security Council

In fact, environmental topics, even after the US return to the Paris Agreement and the profound impact of the Hurricanes Eta and Iota in two Guatemala and Honduras have not found any link in official communications to date.

Only in the case of Honduras, both storms represented more than $10,000 million in damages, adding to the $2,500 in losses due to the pandemic or 10% of the Honduran GDP, according to the impact study of [CEPAL](https://honduras.un .org/es/105947-informe-de-cepal-eta-e-iota-had-an-impact-of-more-than-45-billion-lempiras-in).


Based on a more inclusive agenda, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will have to coordinate their foreign policy to strengthen their common position: Mexico, due to proximity and market, represents the second most important relationship for the three countries .

In addition to the affectionate and historical relations that unite them, Mexico is an important part of the multilateral discussion of the migration issue and of the Central American trade dynamics, placing itself among the first four trading partners of the three countries[6]. (http://6).

In this sense, the countries of the Northern Triangle find a natural ally with whom to promote their own agendas and those of common interest while reciprocally reintegrating into the world economy.

For their part, civil societies will have privileged communication with the US Congress.

Representatives and senators in key positions in the Foreign Relations and Appropriations Committees of Congress (keys for the approval of cooperation) such as Jeff Merkley, Norma Torres or Patrick Leahy have shown that they go beyond diplomatic rhetoric:

In just three months, the Democratic wing has achieved the suspension of military financing to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala; the approval of the Engel list for the revocation of visas; and the proposed [_Honduran Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Law of 2021_]( 23/4f146a5c-7618-11eb-9489-8f7dacd51e75_story.html)

The New Alliance for Prosperity represents a mutual challenge. Both the United States and El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras have to work together for a policy that meets the harsh economic and social realities of their populations in the new international scenario.

Achieving it takes a colossal effort; but not discussing it will certainly imply another decade of crisis and irrelevance for the hemisphere.


    1. Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Financieros (ICEFI), «Centroamérica: Icefi expresa preocupación por la efectividad, legitimidad y transparencia del Plan Alianza para la Prosperidad del Triángulo Norte», ICEFI, (consultado el 22-02-2021) y The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), «The Alliance for Prosperity Plan: A Failed Effort for Stemming Migration», COHA, (consultado el 22-02-2021) .

    2. Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo; «Ejes estratégicos y líneas de acción», BID, (consultado el 22-02-2021)

    3. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development,»Foreign direct investment: Inward and outward flows and stock, annual,” UNCTAD, (consultado el 22-02-2021)

    4. The Economist, «global democracy has a very bad year», The Economist, (consultado el 28-02-2021).

    5. José Luis Sanz, «El líder que no esté dispuesto a combatir la corrupción no será un aliado para Estados Unidos», El Faro, 29 de enero de 2021 (consultado el 20-02-2021)

    6. Martha Cordero, «Relaciones Comerciales entre México y Centroamérica (México: Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe, 2019) 40.

The best content in your inbox

Join our newsletter with the best of CEMERI

Related articles

Labor, Luis. “La Nueva Alianza para la Prosperidad.” CEMERI, 9 sept. 2022,