When Donald Trump began criminalizing and discriminating against citizens and immigrants from Mexico, millions of Mexicans mobilized to oppose this xenophobic electoral strategy. They awaited for their president to defend their dignity with honor.
Unfortunately, a series of disastrous events followed in Mexico before this occurred.
At the end of last August, the Mexican foreign ministry influenced the president in extending Trump an invitation to Mexico City. The intention behind this unpopular executive initiative was to establish a diplomatic dialogue about the future relationship between their neighboring countries. President Enrique Pena Nieto shamefully failed to provide any concrete solutions in regards to assisting anticipated deportees and quietly implied he would not be financially contributing to the construction of a Republican fantasized wall.
Five days after being inaugurated, President Donald Trump decreed the executive order titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements”. The order for the southwestern border reconstruction and militarization finally provoked Pena Nieto to break his silence and televise a national address to his fellow citizens. He declared his opposition to the threats this policy’s content makes to Mexicans within and outside of the United States. Even declaring Mexican consulates as “authentic defenders for migrants rights”.
However, in light of the growing hostility expressed between these two governments, what is being taken very lightly by Central American heads of states is the fact that Trump has also explicitly revealed the stereotypical notions he has of the Central American community within and outside of the states.
In TIME’s Person of the Year article, Trump comments on the reporting of a surge in local crime by foreign-born people by saying “They come from Central America… They’re killing and raping everybody out there. They’re illegal. And they are finished.” This prompted no immediate reaction from any Central American presidents, not even from those governing in what is labeled as the Northern Triangle.
The presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have casted a violent indifferent silence in response to what is being said about their own citizens fleeing from some of the most dangerous countries in the world. For example, last year El Salvador gained the unfortunate recognition of being the most deadly country outside of a war zone, with Honduras occupying this position in the previous years.
Migrants coming from these three countries are emigrating from their government’s brutal war on drugs and gangs, marginalization of rural communities, and ethnic discrimination. Despite their small comments to the media, Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales, El Salvador’s President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, and Honduras’ President Juan Orlando Hernández have not articulated a fierce rebuttal to the discriminatory comments being made by the president of the United States.
On one hand, for refusing to cooperate with Trump’s immigration policies regarding the physical appearance of the US-Mexico border, the Mexican president continues to be demonized. On the other hand, President Obama applauded the Mexican government’s commitment to suppressing Central American migration and Trump’s administration is expected to continue the support.
As for Venezuela, speaking out against Trump’s continuous aggression towards Mexico and Venezuela has resulted in President Nicolas Maduro having his vice president sanctioned by the Treasury Department for drug trafficking charges.
And yet, for the Central American presidents in the Northern Triangle, none have been verbally punished by Trump’s administration because none have had the courage to confront Donald Trump on his dehumanizing claims of the Central American community.
A reason for why they have yet to verbally denounce the new president of the United States is because they simply do not want any attention drawn to their means of governing regional unrest. This position in the new geopolitical relations will be established between Trump’s administration and the rest of the Americas by heads of states desiring for their allegations of corruption, unchecked anti-narcotic policies, and anti-gang practices to not concern the White House.
Let’s analyze what some of these three presidents have said in regards to this matter:
In Guatemala, President Morales’ statements of Trump have been revealed through a series of interviews, not a direct verbal denunciation. He claimed that his new North American counterpart is “committing a grave error” in speculating on the correlation between violence and Central American migrants. He recently apologized about joking in a New York Times interview where he claimed he would offer Trump cheap labor for the border reconstruction. And in January, his brother, Sammy Morales, was “accused of being involved in a fraud operation that siphoned off some $400,00 from the country’s Property Registry”, with his own son being a suspect. As someone who campaigned with a slogan “Not corrupt, not a thief,” this draws his commitment to institutional change into question.
In El Salvador, President Sanchez Ceren has pledged the will to defend the rights of Salvadorans living in the states but also sent a congratulatory letter to the president that criminalized his citizens nationality. Back in August, he stated that these four countries “have united efforts as a region to combat against transnational crime, there are compromises that we are going to begin and implement…in September”. Refusing to recognize these massive departures of Salvadorans as a refugee crisis easily allows counternarcotics measures to be prioritized over designing refugee resettlement and deportee relief programs. A couple of days ago, ElFaro reported that his vice president, Oscar Ortiz, has maintained commercial ties with Jose Adan Salazar Umana, alias Chepe Diablo, former leader of the Texis Cartel.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was recently received in Washington D.C. by Vice President Mike Pence and dozens of protesters against his environmental privatization and militarization of the state. In response to Trump’s comments on Central Americans, Orlando Hernandez has spoken in defense of migrant rights without proposing any immigration reforms. When the Honduran first lady, Ana Garcia de Hernandez, visited Texas to discuss the issue of unaccompanied minors almost three years ago, she recommended Honduran parents to save their money and not spend any on human smugglers known as “coyotes.” This is despicable, considering the elitist privileges she maintains in a country where the World Bank reported that in 2016 “more than 66 percent of the population live in poverty.”
The so-called “alliance for prosperity” these countries sought to create succeeded in only militarizing a grave humanitarian crisis without holding these presidents more accountable. Instead a coalition of human right repression has manifested through Mexico’s militarization of their border with Guatemala. The lack of migrant protection provided by these Latin American governments makes this journey extremely vulnerable to being intercepted by ruthless drug cartel members, corrupt immigration officers, and being forced into sexual labor.
By all means, the United States and Central America deserve to enjoy a positive diplomatic relationship. However, an aggressive defense of the Central Americans migrating or living illegally in the United States would not jeopardize international peace, but rather morally uphold the dignity of their struggles against oppression.
The Central American presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have yet to address their nations in regards to Trump’s criminalizing generalizations. I exclude the presidents of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama because they have not been meeting frequently with the Department of State and Homeland Security of the United States in regards to this humanitarian crisis. The exclusion of Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in meetings that pertain to Alliance for Prosperity emphasize just how much more congressional funds are located to the countries within the Northern Triangle.
Mexico’s unpopular president took months to establish an affirmative defense before the administration’s oversimplified border agenda. It may not have an international impact, but standing up to this level of bigotry prevents these Central American identities from being easily devalued. Central American presidents can no longer afford any time to allow this new administration get away with vilifying migrants.