Aug 5, 2019
The Trump administration announced at the end of July that it had reached a deal with Guatemala to stop the hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing Honduras and El Salvador from applying for asylum in the U.S. They are to be sent to Guatemala, a so-called “safe third country,” to apply for asylum there.
But no one who knows anything about Guatemala would call it a “safe third country.” More people have been fleeing Guatemala itself than anywhere else in Central America!
In fact, Trump is continuing a long-standing U.S. policy of using Central American police and militaries to control these populations. From the 1970s through the mid-1990s, the Guatemalan military – funded, directed, and trained by the U.S. – murdered 200,000 people to protect the interests of U.S. corporations and the Guatemalan business class. This kept a tiny wealthy class linked to the U.S. in power, and kept the bulk of the population in poverty.
The gangs which brutalize the population came out of this civil war, and are linked top to bottom with the police and the army. Now the corrupt Guatemalan state is again carrying out increasing repression against its own population. According to the human rights group Global Witness, Guatemala last year saw the biggest increase in murders of people defending their land from takeover and pollution by mining and plantation companies.
Yet even this Guatemalan government did not want to sign Trump’s deal because it feared the consequences of having tens of thousands more desperate people in their country. Trump had to use the weight of U.S. power to force Guatemala into it, threatening them with high tariffs, a travel ban, and high taxes on money sent back to Guatemala by immigrants living in the U.S.
With this cynical deal, Trump wants to play to his base, to make it seem like he is “protecting” people in the U.S. from these desperate migrants, who are in fact fleeing the consequences of U.S. imperialism. But if the U.S. actually starts sending hundreds of thousands of migrants to Guatemala, the consequence can only be even more brutal concentration camps to mirror those on the U.S.-Mexico border today.