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The Latest: VP Pence lauds officers who defended congressman

Posted June 15

— The Latest on U.S. and Central American officials meeting as President Trump signals a policy shift (all times local):

1:15 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence started a speech to a Central American security conference by expressing gratitude for the Capitol police officers who defended members of Congress in a shooting that wounded several lawmakers and their aides at a baseball field outside Washington.

The agents were among those wounded in the attack.

Pence noted that he served in Congress with some of the people who came under attack Wednesday and that he is friends with Rep. Steve Scalise, who is recovering from wounds suffered in the shooting. He then singled out the two U.S. Capitol police agents, Crystal Griner and David Bailey.

Before delivering a speech to leaders and senior officials of Central America nations and Mexico, the vice president said: "The American people are grateful for these courageous police officers."

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11:35 a.m.

American and development bank officials are laying out their strategy for dealing with problems in Central America.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly, along with Luis Alberto Moreno of the Inter-American Development Bank, explained their ideas in an op-ed published on Thursday in the Miami Herald to coincide with a meeting of U.S. and Central American officials in the city.

They said that a surge of immigration from the three Central American countries that make up the "Northern Triangle" — Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — could be eased through aid invested directly in those nations to encourage local investment "and create a virtuous cycle that will provide opportunities for their children to thrive at home."

The op-ed says: "Creating an environment that accelerates private sector investment in the Northern Triangle countries benefits all involved - the United States and Mexico will see a decrease in the number of economic migrants illegally entering, and the Northern Triangle countries will benefit from increased economic prosperity and domestic cohesion."

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11 a.m.

Leaders of three Central American nations say they share the United States' interest in reducing illegal immigration and drug trafficking but need help to do it.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said in Miami on Thursday that "irregular" migration contributes to a brain drain in his country and divides families. He also says the use of his country as a transit point for drugs bound for the U.S. and Europe are responsible for high rates of crime in his country. But he warns that his country needs financial and technological help to address both issues. He praised an aid package that began under President Barack Obama called the Alliance for Prosperity.

The Trump administration has proposed cutting that budget by 30 percent and believes it can help support the countries even as it spend less money.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said improving security and economic opportunity in Central America is in the U.S. interest.

Hernandez laid out that view at the opening session of the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, saying: "A convulsing Central America, faced with a lack of opportunities and with violence, is a tremendous risk for the United States, Mexico and the region."

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10 a.m.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that the U.S. wants to help Central America solve the security and economic problems that have caused turmoil in the region in recent years.

Tillerson tells officials from the three countries of the Northern Triangle and Mexico that stronger economies in their homelands will improve security in the U.S. and throughout the hemisphere. He also said the U.S. wants to secure its borders to "bolster U.S. national security" as part of the agenda of President Donald Trump.

He says the goal of the U.S. in the region is to "create the prosperity we all want." He said that must include ways to reduce the number of people working in the informal sector and make it easier for people to start new business in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Tillerson says, "What happens in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala directly affects the security and economic interests of the United States and other countries in the region," he said.

He spoke at the opening session of the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America

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9:30 a.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is meeting with leaders of Central America and senior officials from Mexico as President Donald Trump signals a policy shift toward the region.

Tillerson is taking part in discussions in Miami aimed at improving the economies of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Vice President Mike Pence was expected to address the conference later Thursday at Florida International University.

The conference will shift to a focus on security Friday.

The conference comes as the Trump administration has dismayed experts on the region with a proposed 30 percent cut in foreign assistance to the three countries. His administration is also taking a harder line on illegal immigration and weighing whether to end temporary protected status for around 200,000 Central Americans in the U.S.

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