September 9, 2018 / 6:21 PM / 2 months ago

U.S. cancels security meeting with Central American countries, El Salvador says

SAN SALVADOR/TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - The United States suspended a meeting with Central American officials that was to take place this week, the government of El Salvador said, as the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump test relations in the region.

In a statement issued late Saturday, the El Salvadoran government said it regretted that U.S. officials had called off the meeting scheduled in Washington among members of the Alliance for Prosperity, a U.S.-led group that seeks to boost economic growth in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

El Salvadoran officials said they were notified of the meeting’s cancellation on Friday and would be willing to meet in the future.

“El Salvador is ready to participate and waiting for this conference to be rescheduled,” officials said in the statement.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

José Isaías Barahona, Honduras’ deputy foreign minister, said the meeting was cancelled due to scheduling conflicts.

“Surely when schedules line up, El Salvador, along with Honduras and Guatemala, will attend the meetings of the Alliance for Prosperity,” he said in an interview.

Marta Larra, a spokeswoman for the Guatemalan foreign ministry, said she had been informed that the meeting had been postponed because the dates did not work well for the Central American countries.

Citing U.S. officials, the Washington Post reported on Saturday that the meeting was cancelled after representatives from El Salvador and Guatemala said they would not send envoys. But El Salvador said it was planning to attend and did not know why the meeting had been halted.

“We reiterate our willingness to strengthen the Alliance for Prosperity,” the government said.

Launched in 2014, the Alliance for Prosperity was a U.S. bid to curb migration from the “Northern Triangle” of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras by strengthening economic growth and funding security programs.

But U.S. and Central American officials have clashed in recent months. Many Central American families were affected by the U.S. government’s policy earlier this year of separating migrant children and parents at the border, and governments in the region have demanded information from the United States as they seek to reunite families.

On Friday, the United States said it had recalled its top diplomats in El Salvador, along with the Dominican Republic and Panama, over those countries’ decisions to no longer recognize Taiwan.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria in San Salvador and Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa; Additional reporting by Jorge Pineda in Santo Domingo, Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City and Mary Milliken in Washington; Writing by Julia Love; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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