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The Best Hope for Slowing Central American Migration


Photo: wbur.org

By RICARDO CASTILLO   

Wherefore art thou, Donald Trump? In reelection limbo, it seems.

Over the past two days, the president of the United States has been directing his same old capricious criticism at Mexico, alleging that the United States’ southern neighbor “is doing nothing” to stop the now very dangerous northern flow of desperate migrants from Central American countries.

And POTUS adds: “Mexico’s attitude is that people from other countries, including Mexico, should have the right to move to the United States, and U.S. taxpayers should be responsible for the tremendous costs associated with this illegal migration. Mexico is wrong, and I will soon be offering a response!”

The problem is that Trump is not paying attention to several key factors. In the first place, he hasn’t the slightest idea about the relationship between Mexico and the six Central American nations, all of which were under 300 years of Spanish rule as part of New Spain. The Central American nations opted to go their own way once Mexico City gained independence from Spain. But still, a sense of brotherhood and shared comradery remains to the day. Hence, Mexico’s open border with Guatemala.

Second, in the abovementioned quote — tweeted by Trump on Monday, May 20 – there is no mention of the announcement made by Mexico in tandem with the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which was presented on Monday at the National Palace.

Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena – with the flags of Mexico and the UN in the background – jointly presented the Plan for Integral Development for Southern Mexico and Central America, drafted by the ECLAC with close participation by officials from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, but directed by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who’s bent on developing the southern Mexican states of Guerrero and Oaxaca, along with the southeastern ones of Chiapas and Tabasco.

AMLO called the plan the United States’ best option for stemming the flow of Central American immigrants.

The presentation of the plan at the National Palace was attended by the ambassadors of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The regional plan – quickly labeled as a “Marshall Plan” by the Mexican press – is aimed at focusing on the real causes of migration. Those causes were identified as a lack of opportunities to make a decent living and violence. In order to tackle these two general phenomena, the plan will concentrate on economic development, social wellbeing, environmental sustainability and integral management of the migratory cycle.

During the presentation, AMLO said that in order to establish a “successful application stage,” the nations involved must “do a lot of diplomacy, of convincing and of persuading, mainly, the United States government, because this plan is good for us all.” AMLO warned that this plan could only be successful with economic help from the United States.

“We have advanced on this and U.S. officials need to pay attention, as does President Donald Trump, in order to launch this plan and follow up on it,” he said.

Thus far, the Trump administration has pledged an initial sum of $10 billion to get to the root cause of the mostly Central American migrants who keep pouring through Mexico toward the United States by the thousands on a daily basis.

Last December, Washington committed the $10 billion “investment” in Central America and enforced 30 different policies aimed at preventing migration by offer those who are fleeing their nations a sense of security without disturbing the national security of Mexico and the United States, as it is doing right now.

According to AMLO, “it will not be through violence or the use of force that migration will be stopped, but through development and opportunities.”

AMLO added that the four previously mentioned Mexican states are a part of that solution because they are the most backward and underdeveloped regions in the country.

The problem, however, at the moment, is a lack of political momentum and a debate over how the allocated money will be distributed and used. There is deep mistrust among the Central American presidents because all of their countries have long histories of misappropriating funds that were allotted in the past to carry out economic and social development.

Also, there are organized criminal groups in each of the three Central American nations that would no doubt like to get control of the funding and are keen to keep disrupting political and social stability so that the poor are forced to migrate to the United States and send back dollar remittances.

At least for now, AMLO, Ebrard and Bárcena have devised what is being viewed in Mexico as a “well-intended Marshall Plan” for the region.

Now it is in Trump’s court and that of the eternally warring Democrat and Republican factions of the U.S. Congress, to decide to shell out the dough, or not.

 

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Categories: Mexican politics, Mexico, Mexico-U.S. relations, OpinionTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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