publicidad
Central American migrants climb on a train during their journey toward the US-Mexico border, in Ixtepec.

Central America must make nice with Trump administration

Central America must make nice with Trump administration

Security issues in Central America are expected to dominate a conference in Miami this week attended by top Trump administration officials. While business groups were invited civil society leaders were excluded, raising complaints that the administration is taking a superficial approach to the region that ignores deep rooted social and economic problems.

Central American migrants climb on a train during their journey toward t...
Central American migrants climb on a train during their journey toward the US-Mexico border, in Ixtepec.

MANAGUA, Nicaragua—For the past five months, Central American leaders have been trying to figure out what to make of Donald Trump and his administration.

On Thursday, they get a chance for a close-up look. The U.S. government in partnership with Mexico is hosting a two-day Conference in Miami on Prosperity and Security in Central America. The summit will bring together the presidents of the "Northern Triangle" countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, plus foreign ministers and business leaders from the southern half of Central America.

The United States will be represented by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence.

The Central Americans are not so much interested in Trump's strange celebrity appeal, rather in trying to make nice with his erratic, America-first government that seems to have misplaced the United States' old list of friends and foes.

Central America depends on the United States for its economic survival. The United States is Central America's main trade partner and a vital source of remittances. That makes it a personal relationship for many Central Americans who have family and neighbors living in the United States. Many are scared: Central Americans outnumber Mexicans 3:1 in U.S. deportation proceedings.

So when Trump talks tough on border security, drug-trafficking, and MS-13 gang crime, many Central Americans are listening. When he proposes budget cuts for foreign aid programs and talks about mass deportation and renegotiating free-trade deals, many tremble.

publicidad

But so far, it's all words. Despite Trump's talk, the relationship between the United States and Central America remains pretty status quo so far. That makes it hard to know where the rubber meets the road—or, more accurately, when a tweet may become policy.

"His administration is incapable of being coherent," said one former Central American diplomat with close ties to Washington who requested not to be named. "Trump probably doesn't even know where Central America is."

In reality, Trump hasn't really said anything about Central America so far. That leaves the region trying to extrapolate meaning from his statements about Mexico, security, and immigration.

"In some ways, Mexico is the test case, since it has been so central to Trump’s agenda on trade and immigration," says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. "Central Americans are closely following developments between the U.S. and Mexico, but they also tend to see themselves as unconnected to Mexico."

As a result, Shifter adds, "Central America, like the rest of the world, is trying to read the tea leaves about what the Trump administration’s foreign policy is, and where it may be headed."

A first encounter

The Trump tea leaves might start to settle into a more meaningful pattern this week.

In typical Trump bravado, the Central America summit appears to be heavy on promises and light on details.

Homeland Security is making it seem like Central America's myriad problems are a simple two-day fix. "Participants will dedicate the first day of the conference to advancing prosperity and economic growth in the region and the second day to achieving a stable and secure Central America," reads the agency's website.

publicidad

But confusion and frustration over the planning of the event is already dampening some people's expectations.

"There's still no agenda for this meeting," a Nicaraguan private sector delegate told Univision News prior to leaving for the Miami summit. "This is going to be a blind date."

At least the private sector was invited on the blind date. Civil society organizations that do the daily work of addressing the humanitarian crisis in Central America have been excluded entirely from the meeting.

"Unfortunately, civil society groups like ours, which have been on the frontlines of helping the region’s most vulnerable people, are not invited to [this] week’s conference," says Jossie Flor Sapunar, of Catholic Relief Services. "And programs that help stem migration by generating opportunity and stability are at risk of being cut under the proposed reduction in foreign aid."

A return to the failed policies of the past?

Some fear the exclusion of civil society groups signals that the Trump administration is preparing to double-down on the heavy-handed repressive policies that have failed in the past and made the Northern Triangle one the most violent places on earth.

The Trump administration's consistent lack of interest in championing human rights and liberal democracy overseas could also reverberate with powerful silence in certain corners of a region with a long history of brutal authoritarian rulers.

“The Prosperity and Security Conference on Central America should be a moment for the Trump Administration to show that it is serious about addressing the root causes to the refugee crisis in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America," said Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Senior Associate at the Latin America Working Group. "Human rights protection, including the right to seek asylum, should be the cornerstone of any U.S. policy to the region—sidelining these issues and excluding civil society organizations from the conference is a mistake."

publicidad

Critics think the organizational role of Homeland Security chief Kelly, a retired general who used to lead U.S. Southern Command, is another bad omen.

“I anticipate that U.S.-Central America assistance will become even more security-oriented and that security programs will become even more militarized," says Alexander Main, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and coauthor of two investigative reports on the DEA-related killings in Ahuas, Honduras.

"This conference unfortunately signals a recommitment to some of the worst policies the U.S. has implemented in Central America in the past several decades," Main adds. "From the failed drug war, to apprehending and sending back women and children fleeing horrific violence, there is little here that suggests the root causes of these problems will be addressed.”

The Two Central Americas

There's also little evidence that the Trump administration will shift from the Obama government's policy of focusing on the Northern Triangle at the expense of the three southern countries that are actually generating some of the prosperity and security that the U.S. wants in the region.

Nicaragua and Panama are two of the three fastest growing economies in the hemisphere, while Costa Rica has long been a regional leader in democracy. But instead of asking those countries to take a leadership role or looking for ways to duplicate some of that success in the Northern Triangle, the U.S. is relegating the southern half of Central America to back-of-the-room seating during this week's meeting in Miami.

publicidad

The “two Central Americas approach” is clearly a U.S. attempt to prioritize its efforts and resources in the region. But it may turn out to be short-term thinking from a country that's been getting Central America wrong for 200 years.

"There is no doubt the security issues in the Northern Triangle are more intense and will remain so for the foreseeable future," says Eric Farnsworth, of the Council of the Americas and the Americas Society. "But real economic growth and sustainable development will require a more fully integrated region up and down the isthmus so someone is going to have to find a way to cut this particular Gordian knot."

publicidad
Contenidos Relacionados
publicidad
Latino millennials account for almost half the 27.3 million eligible Latino voters in this election. But Latino turn out is traditionally far lower than black and Anglo voters. J.P. Dominguez asks “when are we going to wake up?”
A study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic policy found that undocumented immigrants pay $11.64 billion a year in state and local taxes. The undocumented pay on average 8% of their income on taxes while the wealthiest 1% pay only 5.4%. J.P Dominguez says that's "trumped up."
During the first presidential debate, the candidates took a chance to bring up each others past mistakes to affect their performance.
After the "Taco trucks on every corner" comment from the co-founder of Latinos for Trump, part of his immigration past emerged. This is JP Domínguez's take on the issue.
Donald Trump's wife and aspiring First Lady is an immigrant who says she always "went by the law" - but her story is a little 'SUS'.
Viaje feliz y tranquilo: consejos para tener un vuelo placentero y relajado
¡Que el estrés del Día de Acción de Gracias no te alcance en las alturas! Escucha los consejos de la terapeuta Juliet Araujo para tener el vuelo más calmado, placentero y relajado de todos.
Danell Leyva estuvo cerca de llevarse el oro en Mira Quién Baila
El gimnasta sorprendió en la competencia con su talento para bailar y llegó hasta la final, participando con dos reinas de belleza.
Conozca a la escritora que Disney eligió para hacer su libro basado en la película Coco
Roni Capin Rivera es escritora de libros para niños en inglés y español, en ellos plasma las tradiciones de la cultura mexicana. Junto a su hijo escribieron ‘Miguel y los maravillosos alebrijes’, libro construido a partir de los personajes de Coco, la cinta de Disney y Pixar.
Acusan a médico del equipo de gimnasia olímpica de EEUU por abuso sexual y posesión de pornografía infantil
Larry Nassar fue el galeno que por más de 30 años estuvo a cargo del equipo. Él enfrenta no solo acusaciones de abuso sexual de menores, sino que ahora está siendo señalado de poseer pornografía infantil. El escándalo que se originó en la Universidad Estatal de Míchigan involucra a más de 20 deportistas que han salido de las sombras para denunciar como fueron tocadas inapropiadamente por Nassar.
publicidad
Te explicamos en qué consiste Paradise Papers
Una nueva filtración de documentos pone luces en cómo los superricos y empresas multimillonarias esconden sus ganancias para reducir el pago de impuestos.
La ACLU de Arizona demanda a la Policía de Phoenix por abuso de autoridad durante la visita de Trump
La Policía utilizó gases lacrimógenos durante la visita del presidente Trump a Phoenix en agosto por lo que la organización está exigiendo que se revelen los documentos de lo que sucedió en dicha fecha.
How to get through to white supremacists
Angela King went from being a Neonazi skinhead to working to lure people out of hate groups. Today, King says she’s worried about what she sees as an increase of hate and a U.S. president who refuses to publicly denounce it. She has a unique insight into the most effective ways to respond to incidences of hate and extremism, and why people are in the life in the first place.
El extraño asteroide de otro sistema solar que la NASA detectó en la Vía Láctea
Los científicos han concluido con certeza la naturaleza extra estelar de este asteroide porque su órbita no puede tener su origen dentro de nuestro sistema solar. La potencia del brillo del objeto varía hasta diez veces en la medida en que completa un giro sobre sí mismo cada 7.3 horas.
Los otros protagonistas que han superado el cancer con el futbol
Con la noticia de Eduardo Berizzo, el deporte sufre de otra mala noticia. Pero afortunadamente, hay varios jugadores que han superado la enfermedad.
De eliminar a Italia y clasificar al Mundial a anotar para Seattle en playoffs, la gran semana del sueco Gustav Svensson
El mediocampista de los Sounders cerró una semana de ensueño asegurando su sueño mundialista con Suecia y dándole un importante triunfo a su club en los Playoffs de la MLS.
Manda el Real: once jugadores madridistas entre los nominados al equipo del año de la UEFA
Este miércoles se abrió el plazo para que los aficionados escojan su equipo ideal en uefa.com hasta el próximo 9 de enero.
Cristiano Ronaldo y Real Madrid mandan entre los nominados al Equipo del Año de la UEFA
Con 11 jugadores del cuadro merengue y una nueva nominación para el portugués, no hay duda sobre cuál ha sido el mejor equipo del año en Europa.