President Trump said on Friday that there would be a “very good likelihood” that he would seal off the United States border with Mexico next week, even as he moved to punish Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador for migrant caravans by cutting off all foreign aid to the countries.
The moves escalated a sustained berating of countries he blames for being unable to stop the flow of migrants trying to make their way north.
Mr. Trump’s decision to end the aid to the Central American countries is likely to anger members of Congress from both parties, who have supported spending money to try to address the root causes of the violence that has caused migrants to flee those countries to come to the United States.
Currently, the United States spends about $620 million a year for gang prevention programs and other initiatives aimed at helping support civil society in the three countries. Advocates say that cutting the funds will only accelerate the migrant flows into the United States. [Continue reading…]
Guatemala is the most unequal country in Central America with 59% of the population living in poverty without access to basic rights such as health, education, housing and justice, said Jorge Santos from Udefegua, an organisation which monitors attacks against activists, journalists and community leaders. The country’s politicians meanwhile, have been mired in a string of corruption scandals.
“There’s a growing feeling that there is little possibility of a dignified life in Guatemala which is producing the increased flow of migrants and refugees,” said Santos.
In November, Guatemalans overtook Mexicans as the largest nationality taken into CBP custody – an incredible figure considering that the population of Mexico is seven times larger than that of its southern neighbour.
In the fiscal year so far (October 2018 to February 2019), 12,576 unaccompanied Guatemalan children were apprehended at the southern border compared with a total of 13,726 from Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras.
Hondurans have also surpassed the number of Mexicans attempting to cross the border: in the first five months of the fiscal year, almost 52,000 Hondurans travelling in family groups were apprehended at the US border compared with 39,439 in the whole of 2018.
Migration from Honduras has accelerated amid a dire political, economic and security situation triggered by the 2009 coup which ushered in the pro-business and pro-military rightwing National party. An upsurge in human rights violations including high profile cases like the murder of the indigenous leader Berta Cáceres triggered international condemnation but failed to stop the bloodshed or stem US aid.
Central Americans are not just heading to the US: many are seeking safety in Mexico, where asylum requests by Guatemalans were up 333% in the first two months of 2019 compared with the same period last year. [Continue reading…]