There is an old joke that goes: “—Why has there never been a coup in the US? —Because there is no US Embassy in the US.”
The meaning behind the joke is the historical intervention that the US have had in Latin America and elsewhere. Honduras, Bolivia and Venezuela are recent examples of US backed coups and coup attempts. The newly inaugurated Biden administration has renewed the discussion about US foreign policy in Central America, which has been viewed by some as an opportunity to undue many of the Trump administration’s destructive policies. Despite this, it is important to note that the US government, under...
The meaning behind the joke is the historical intervention that the US have had in Latin America and elsewhere. Honduras, Bolivia and Venezuela are recent examples of US backed coups and coup attempts. The newly inaugurated Biden administration has renewed the discussion about US foreign policy in Central America, which has been viewed by some as an opportunity to undue many of the Trump administration’s destructive policies. Despite this, it is important to note that the US government, under both Democrats and Republicans, has historically worked in favor of Guatemalan statu quo, which sustains the interests of oligarchs, military and neoliberal businesses that maintain a corrupt political system.
During the Obama administration, then Vice-President Biden was involved in creating the Alliance for Prosperity, which was based on the three pillars: security, good governance and international investment as a way to deter migration. The Alliance for Prosperity has been an abject failure in curbing migration and has only contributed to further the militarization of the region and human rights abuses. The US continue dehumanizing and criminalizing migrant children and families at the US-Mexico border through harsh immigration policies. They pressure Mexico and Guatemala to repress Central American migrants and caravans. Despite promising to end family detention, Biden continues to imprison children and families in inhumane conditions. The US continue to support corrupt Central American presidents, such as Honduran Juan Orlando Hernandez, who has been implicated in narcotrafficking. Former Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales used military vehicles donated by the US Department of Defense to intimidate human rights activists and Cicig workers. Today Biden wants to continue the Alliance for Prosperity through a 4-billion-dollar aid package to Central America to combat the “root causes” of migration through security, international investment and the rule of law.
During discussions of the root causes of migration, the US government deliberately and strategically avoids discussing issues such as state-sponsored violence, the persecution of human rights defenders and activists, US intervention, the negative effects of neoliberalism and megaprojects, and historical land inequality, among others. Biden wants to shamelessly finance the Honduran armed forces even after it was found that those involved in the planning and killing of Berta Cáceres were US-trained Honduran military. In wanting to tackle poverty, the US have promoted more international investment and neoliberal policies, which translates into more destructive extractivist industries and sweatshops with harsh labor conditions. Foreign corporations have been implicated in engaging in corruption, in persecuting land defenders and in human rights abuses.
In discussing the root causes of migration, we must remember that it was the US which orchestrated the coup against the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz (after he passed a much needed land reform) and subsequently supported military dictatorships. In the 1960s, John F. Kennedy created the Alliance for Progress and provided Central American governments with military aid that would contribute to counterinsurgency, massacres and disappearances throughout Latin America. The US condoned genocide and contributed to it during the war. This atrocious history led Bill Clinton to apologize in 1999 for the US role in the violence in Guatemala.
Today the US government is repeating history by promoting further militarization and support for corrupt and violent Central American governments. Militarization and neoliberal policies will not bring about much needed structural changes to Guatemala and instead will work towards preserving the statu quo that forces many to migrate. US intervention and foreign policy are some of the root causes of displacement and migration.
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