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US halting aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras

The United States will no longer provide foreign assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. 

A State Department spokesperson told The Hill in a statement Saturday that the agency was directed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE to halt aid to the so-called Northern Triangle countries.

"At the Secretary’s instruction, we are carrying out the President’s direction and ending FY 2017 and FY 2018 foreign assistance programs for the Northern Triangle," the statement said. "We will be engaging Congress as part of this process."

The Hill has contacted the White House for comment. 

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Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenBiden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security Judge says acting DHS secretary appointment unlawful, invalidates DACA suspension Biden's hard stand on foreign election interference signals funding fight MORE said in a statement Friday that she signed a "historic" regional compact this week with representatives of the Northern Triangle countries. She said the countries agreed to "combat human smuggling and trafficking, crack down on transnational criminals fueling the crisis, and strengthen border security to prevent irregular migration."

President Trump on Friday said that the countries "set up" migrant caravans, according to CNN

"We were paying them tremendous amounts of money. And we're not paying them anymore. Because they haven't done a thing for us. They set up these caravans," he reportedly said. 

Trump previously threatened to cut off aid to the countries in December over alleged caravans, accusing them of "doing nothing for the United States but taking our money."

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Trump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency MORE (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released a statement denouncing the move. 

"If carried out, President Trump’s irresponsible decision to cut off our assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras would undermine American interests and put our national security at risk," he said.

"U.S. foreign assistance is not charity; it advances our strategic interests and funds initiatives that protect American citizens. This latest reported move shows the Administration still does not understand that the United States cuts foreign aid to Central America at our own peril," he added.