Barr praises Central American countries for anti-gang work

Barr praises Central American countries for anti-gang work
© Greg Nash

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFeehery: Impeachment fever bad for Democratic governing vision Trump awards Yankees legend Mariano Rivera the Medal of Freedom Supreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration MORE vowed Tuesday to maintain multilateral law enforcement cooperation in Central America despite President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE's calls to end foreign aid to the region.

Speaking in El Salvador with his counterparts from the Northern Triangle countries — Raúl Melara of El Salvador, Óscar Chinchilla of Honduras and María Consuelo Porras of Guatemala — Barr lauded the three countries’ success in combating criminal gangs.

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“I was so impressed with those results that I decided I wanted to show my support and commitment for our cooperative efforts by making this my first trip since becoming attorney general,” Barr said at the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in San Salvador.

ILEAs are police academies run by the Department of State to help partner countries improve their law enforcement capabilities. The other ILEAs worldwide are in Thailand, Hungary and Botswana.

Barr said he discussed the trip with Trump, who “supported my coming down here and making clear we remain committed to this effort and we remain committed to the funding that has been supporting these law enforcement efforts.”

Barr said that Operation Shield, a multilateral effort between the United States and the Northern Triangle countries to combat MS-13 and the 18th Street gang in Central America, “struck a hard blow on these criminal organizations.”

Trump last month had threatened to cut aid to Central American countries unless they stopped the northward flow of migrants. 

Central American migrants composed a large majority of the nearly 100,000 people apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in March and April and have made up the bulk of unauthorized entries into the United States since 2016.

The White House budget proposal for 2020 slashes State Department and international program spending by 23 percent, risking the continuity of programs like Operation Shield and ILEAs.

Barr said the anti-gang collaboration “will continue” as a result of operations that yielded the arrest of more than 7,000 MS-13 and 18th Street gang members in the region.

“Gang members who otherwise might have come to the United States,” Barr said.