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Honduras will keep fighting gangs despite Trump threat - minister

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TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Honduras will continue to fight the scourge of gangs whether or not the United States decides to cut off aid, the country’s security minister said Thursday, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened such cuts.

Trump announced on Wednesday that he is working on a plan to reduce U.S. aid to countries he accuses of doing nothing to stop MS-13 gang members from crossing into the United States illegally.

The U.S. leader did not provide details on the plan but said it would “radically” change the way U.S. foreign aid is structured.

Security Minister Julian Pacheco told reporters that the Honduran government is working “incessantly” to break up gangs and otherwise stem the tide of migrants fleeing the violence for better prospects in the United States.

“No one can say Honduras is giving up on this struggle. We’re almost alone as we fight it and we’re doing so with our own resources,” said Pacheco.

“International aid is very important, but if there isn’t aid we can’t just lay down and cry,” he added.

The violent MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs operate in Honduras, just as they do in neighbouring El Salvador and Guatemala, where they engage in extortion, drug trafficking, assassinations and the recruitment of children.

In recent years, Honduras has received annual disbursements of U.S. aid of between $30 million (22.39 million pounds)and $60 million.

At the start of 2017, the United States provided the Central American nation $125 million, part of $750 million package U.S. officials have pledged to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the western hemisphere and has recently been convulsed by protests following a contested presidential election.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced it will end temporary protections for immigrants in the United States from Honduras by early 2020, leaving potentially 57,000 people vulnerable to deportation.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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