{"code":"24941","sect":"Columnas","sect_slug":"columnas","hits":"788","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/en\/202010\/columnas\/24941","link_edit":"","name":"Trump and Central America: Less Democracy for Less Migration","slug":"trump-and-central-america-less-democracy-for-less-migration","info":"","mtag":"Politics","noun":{"html":"H\u00e9ctor Silva \u00c1valos","data":{"hector-silva-avalos":{"sort":"","slug":"hector-silva-avalos","path":"hector_silva_avalos","name":"H\u00e9ctor Silva \u00c1valos","edge":"0","init":"0"}}},"view":"788","pict":{"cms-image-000025141-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"25141","name":"cms-image-000025141.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000025141.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000025141.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000025141-jpg","text":"<p>H\u00e9ctor Silva \u00c1valos is a Salvadoran journalist. Spanish editor and senior researcher at Insightcrime.org, he is also a former research fellow at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University.\u00a0Photo: Fred Ramos<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EH\u00e9ctor Silva \u00c1valos is a Salvadoran journalist. Spanish editor and senior researcher at Insightcrime.org, he is also a former research fellow at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University.\u00a0Photo: Fred Ramos\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000032679-jpg":{"feat":"1","sort":"32679","name":"cms-image-000032679.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000032679.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000032679.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000032679-jpg","text":"<p>Donald Trump en su \u00faltimo mit\u00edn de 2019 en Battle Creek, Michigan. Photo de Brendan Smialowski \/ AFP.<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EDonald Trump en su \u00faltimo mit\u00edn de 2019 en Battle Creek, Michigan. Photo de Brendan Smialowski \/ AFP.\u003C\/p\u003E"}},"pict_main__sort":32679,"date":{"live":"2020\/10\/29"},"data_post_dateLive_YY":"2020","data_post_dateLive_MM":"10","data_post_dateLive_DD":"29","text":"\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWith each new journalistic or judicial investigation into high-level corruption and crime, Central American leaders have found a lifeline in U.S. ambassadors willing to scrub their public image. By dint of blackmail, the Trump administration has demanded an end to unauthorized immigration, promising in return the label of \u201creliable partner\u201d and issuing blank checks to the presidents of the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America which have underwritten their attacks against the fragile democratic orders they lead.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAs U.S. journalist Jon Lee Anderson recently \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/newsweekespanol.com\/2020\/10\/america-latina-politicos-mediocres-anderson\/\"\u003Eobserved\u003C\/a\u003E in Newsweek, the turn of the decade has left the Americas with \u201cthugs like Bolsonaro, Trump, and Bukele, spurning their countries\u2019 democratic institutions, and undermining their societies with their tweets, vulgarity, and everyday decrees.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe Trump administration, in its complicity and silence, has offered an enabling hand to these thugs in Central America.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWould the relationship change if Joe Biden wins the presidency on November 3? Maybe so. Thus far, former Obama diplomats advising Biden have stated that a Biden White House would be much more attuned to and strident in its stance toward authoritarianism in Central America. Maybe so.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003ETrumpism in Central America\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ETake El Salvador, where Trump appointee Ronald Johnson has publicly and privately stood by Nayib Bukele in his thorniest predicaments. Ambassador Johnson\u2019s strategy is, at times, subtle: he stays quiet when the press, international human rights organizations, and even U.S. legislators of both major parties have demanded answers from Bukele for attacking journalists, flouting Constitutional Court rulings, or concealing public information. With the passing of each storm, Johnson cues up a tweet to reassert his good relationship with Bukele. Examples abound.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EBukele faced one of the gravest threats to his image thus far on September 3 when El Faro published an extensive investigation into \u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202009\/el_salvador\/24785\/Bukele-Has-Been-Negotiating-with-MS-13-for-a-Reduction-in-Homicides-and-Electoral-Support.htm\"\u003Ethe administration\u2019s backchannel negotiating with MS-13 in search of electoral support for Nuevas Ideas\u003C\/a\u003E, the president\u2019s party, as well as a drop in the homicide rate. The investigation hinged on official documents that Bukele and his acolytes have failed to debunk.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAmbassador Johnson, meanwhile, carefully tip-toed around the events before dutifully showering praise on the administration. \u201cSalvadoran and U.S. institutions are cooperating like never before, especially in the fight against the gangs,\u201d he \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/USAmbSV\/status\/1302048191215538176?s=20\"\u003Etweeted\u003C\/a\u003E, one day after the publication of El Faro\u2019s investigation.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ECornered by questions bolstered by the international press about the gang negotiations, Bukele lunged at El Faro and other journalists and outlets who had uncovered inconsistencies, corruption, and potential illicit associations within his administration. In response to the president\u2019s counterattack against the press, he received a flurry of signed letters of bipartisan condemnation from the United States Congress.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOn September 23, six Republican members of Congress\u2014some of them Trump-friendly\u2014sent a letter to Bukele expressing concern at the \u201cslow but steady abandonment of the rule of law and democratic norms.\u201d The next day, Bukele leveraged a \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.facebook.com\/watch\/live\/?v=3515055318578267&ref=search\"\u003Enational broadcast\u003C\/a\u003E to smear journalists and critics of his government and announced that the Treasury Ministry would investigate allegations of money laundering by El Faro. He then shrugged off the letter, along with another signed days before by 12 congressional Democrats. \u201cAnyone can get a signature from Congress,\u201d he said.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe ambassador, as before, held his peace. To date, Johnson has said little about Bukele\u2019s attacks against the Salvadoran press, whereas even his boss, Undersecretary of State Michael Kozak, \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/WHAAsstSecty\/status\/1304132121439674373?s=20\"\u003Eweighed in\u003C\/a\u003E.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWhen Bukele marked the start of his flirtations with authoritarianism on February 9 by storming into the Legislative Assembly with the military and police, Ambassador Johnson only managed to ask that the branches of the Salvadoran state try to work out their differences.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EEven as Bukele\u2019s international image appears to have faltered, the Trump administration represented by Johnson remains a pillar of support for the Salvadoran administration.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EHonduras and Guatemala have followed the same pattern.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.nytimes.com\/2017\/12\/19\/opinion\/america-honduras-hernandez-trump.html\"\u003Ecase of Honduras\u003C\/a\u003E is perhaps the most brazen. U.S. prosecutors and former diplomats have named the president, Juan Orlando Hern\u00e1ndez (JOH), as an unindicted co-conspirator in a drug trafficking case condemning his brother, Tony Hern\u00e1ndez. The case also implicated his sister, his former private secretary, and his minister of security.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EEven as revelations of JOH\u2019s potential collusion in drug trafficking surfaced in Tony\u2019s trial in Manhattan federal court, Trump diplomats in Tegucigalpa hurried to upload pictures of them together with the president and other administration officials to their social media, touting their strong alliance along a number of issues including the fight against drug trafficking.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe affinity between Trumpism and JOH began in earnest upon Hern\u00e1ndez\u2019s 2017 reelection following a deeply controversial constitutional interpretation allowing him to run for a second consecutive term. International organizations with even an iota of credibility noted were marred by fraud, yet Washington signed off on it all.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ETwo days after the disputed elections, while the international community had yet to certify Hern\u00e1ndez\u2019s victory, the State Department touted Honduras\u2019s progress in the fight against organized crime and corruption. This blank check not only validated the election, but gave the president, his political party, and the army political room to maneuver.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn the case of Guatemala, the Trump administration stood by and watched the collapse of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (\u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/nomada.gt\/pais\/actualidad\/the-quid-pro-quo-in-guatemala-trump-wielding-in-central-america-same-tactics-he-used-in-ukraine\/\"\u003ECICIG\u003C\/a\u003E), perhaps the most successful multilateral experiment in supporting high-impact investigations and criminal prosecutions in the history of Latin America.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EFormer president Jimmy Morales and his entourage, similarly besieged by investigations into corruption, illicit election financing, and fraud, made the expulsion of the CICIG their top priority.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EFlanked by an important sector of the Guatemalan business elite that the CICIG had investigated and taken to court for embezzlement, Morales wielded the state apparatus to spy on international investigators and the local prosecutors supporting the work of the commission, as part of a smear campaign and lobbying effort to convince Washington conservatives to retract political support for the CICIG. In one of his most infamous authoritarian episodes, Morales \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/es.insightcrime.org\/noticias\/analisis\/guatemala-uso-recursos-antidrogas-para-vigilancia-politica\/\"\u003Edispatched\u003C\/a\u003E armed military vehicles donated by the United States to encircle the commission\u2019s headquarters in Ciudad de Guatemala.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe Trump administration, undaunted, watched the CICIG crumble. \u201cBarring 100 percent support for the CICIG from Washington, Morales was going to expel it from the country,\u201d noted Stephen McFarland, U.S. ambassador to Guatemala from 2008 to 2011.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn a \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.menendez.senate.gov\/newsroom\/press\/menendez-publishes-new-report-cataloging-trumps-foreign-policy-legacy-of-chaos-neglect-and-diplomatic-failures\"\u003Ereport\u003C\/a\u003E issued on October 21, Ranking Member Bob Menendez of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote: \u201cCommittee staff heard from former US diplomats who served in the Trump administration that US diplomats on the ground saw first-hand how President Trump's action undermined the US Government ability to promote democracy.\u201d \u201c[Find original English quote].\u201d\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe Trump administration\u2019s envoys and actions have enabled the antidemocratic tendencies of the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, thereby normalizing a president\u2019s entry into the Legislative Assembly flanked by the military, electoral fraud, and the destruction of the few mechanisms for criminal prosecution of corruption.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn exchange for the blank checks, these leaders met Trump\u2019s only requirement: unwavering submission to his immigration agenda, which for some Trump allies is a matter of ideology\u2014if not theology, former ambassador McFarland told me\u2014and, for Trump himself, an axis of his campaign rhetoric. From July to September 2019, all three northern Central American governments signed binding asylum cooperation agreements requiring them to receive those traveling to the United States to legally request asylum. El Salvador even created its own border patrol. Less democracy in exchange for less migration.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EBidenism in Central America?\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ETo return to the question: Would this all change if Joe Biden wins the presidency on November 3?\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe Democrats\u2019 record in Central America, at least that of Obama and Biden, is better than that of Trump. During the Obama administration, Washington conditioned some international aid on countries\u2019 democratic records, at least on paper. On one hand, they gave Guatemala and CICIG decisive political support. On the other, in its first years the Obama administration upheld the coup d\u2019\u00e9tat in Honduras that paved the way for Juan Orlando Hern\u00e1ndez\u2019s ascent.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EGiven Biden\u2019s track record, though, it seems fair to conclude that the foreign policy of a Biden administration would not look as kindly upon quid pro quos or the issuing of blank checks. But if a potential Biden administration were to prove unable to promote democracy and rein in Central American authoritarianism, Washington could yet again be an accomplice in the destruction of the region\u2019s ever fragile democracy.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=1200&ImageHeight=800&ImageId=25141\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"H\u00e9ctor Silva \u00c1valos is a Salvadoran journalist. Spanish editor and senior researcher at Insightcrime.org, he is also a former research fellow at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University.\u00a0Photo: Fred Ramos\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003EH\u00e9ctor Silva \u00c1valos is a Salvadoran journalist. Spanish editor and senior researcher at Insightcrime.org, he is also a former research fellow at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University.\u00a0Photo: Fred Ramos\u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E"}