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Guatemala: News & Updates

Guatemala had the longest and bloodiest civil war in Central American history: 36 years (1960-96). The US-backed military was responsible for a genocide (“scorched earth policy”) that wiped out 200,000 mostly Maya indigenous civilians.  War criminals are still being tried in the courts.

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Three countries—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—received more than 90 per cent of the deportations from the United States. Many of these deportees were members of the 18th Street and Salvatrucha gangs who had arrived in the United States as children but had never secured legal residency or citizenship; they had joined the gangs as a way to feel included in a receiving country that often actively impeded their integration. On being sent back to countries of origin that they barely knew, deportees reproduced the structures and behaviour patterns that had provided them with support and security in the United States. They swiftly founded local clikas, or chapters, of their gang in their communities of origin; in turn, these clikas rapidly attracted local youths and either supplanted or absorbed pandillas [local gangs].
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The rampant violence that afflicts the Northern Triangle, must be understood as a permutation of both preceding civil wars and US imperialism...The United States bears responsibility for instilling right-wing forces with a virulent anticommunism through both mobile and School of the Americas training programs...Sara Diamond argues, “Anticommunism became the American Right’s dominant motif not just because it justified the enforcement of US dominion internationally but also because it wove together disparate threads of right-wing ideology.” The Reagan foreign policy doctrine conveyed a project to “roll back revolution” and to undo gains made by struggles for decolonization. Reagan's wars in Central America followed a 100-year tradition of US military intervention. Starting in the 19th century, the US military invaded Nicaragua 3 times (1894, 1896, 1910) and occupied the nation for 20 years (1912-1933). The US sent troops to Honduras 5 times from 1903 to 1924. In Guatemala, the CIA overthrew its democratically elected president Jacobo Arbenz in 1954, laying the conditions for 30 years of civil war, and the massacre of 200,000 mostly indigenous people. In tandem with US militarization,...fruit companies restructured the region's economies toward monoculture. [Instituted was] a near-permanent open door for corporate intervention in matters of national sovereignty.
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"The Central America region, especially El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, known as the CA-4 group, have very high levels of corruption similar to those in sub-Saharan Africa," said the executive director of the Seattle International Foundation, Arturo Aguilar. "Given these disturbing trends, it’s no wonder people have very little trust in government. In fact, 65 percent of respondents think their government is run by and for a few private interests," the body said in their report.
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U.S. immigration authorities apprehended 76,020 minors, most of them from Central America, traveling without their parents in the fiscal year that ended in September — 52 percent more than during the last fiscal year, according to United States Customs and Border Protection. Mexico, under pressure from the Trump administration, stepped up immigration enforcement and detained about 40,500 underage migrants traveling north without their parents in the same period. That's a total of 115,000.
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Although mostly centered on migration, talk of Latin American foreign policy has increased as the presidential primaries near. Presidential hopefuls have ripped into President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, especially focusing on his “zero tolerance” policy. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has called it “dead wrong” and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro has vowed to decriminalize migration and admit climate refugees who ask for asylum. But the truth is that even in a crowded pool of candidates fighting for the 2020 nomination, many have failed to address how they would work with Latin American countries to address the root causes that push Latin American and Caribbean migrants to seek a better life in the United States. As candidates gear up for the fourth presidential debate...here is what some Democratic presidential hopefuls (and former contenders) have said about Latin American foreign policy so far.
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Outgoing Department of Homeland Security head Kevin McAleenan plans to announce during a trip to Central America this week the reinstatement of foreign aid that President Trump previously demanded be withheld, according to government documents obtained by the Washington Examiner. McAleenan, the acting secretary of DHS, is slated to formally announce the United States is reinstating roughly $150 million in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The forthcoming aid is primarily through Defense and State Department programs that support newly signed agreements McAleenan has recently entered with leaders from each of the three countries. The deals focus on addressing surges in recent years in the number of people from countries other than Mexico arriving at the southern border, as well as the underlying causes prompting hundreds of thousands to leave since last October.
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Hundreds of migrants from Africa, the Caribbean and Central America found themselves corralled in a migrant detention facility in southern Mexico on Sunday after a futile attempt to head north as part of a caravan aiming to reach the United States. Just before dusk, after having trudged more than 20 miles north, they were surrounded by hundreds of National Guard agents and police who persuaded the exhausted migrants to board vans back to Tapachula. Children cried, and women complained angrily about waiting months for papers. It was unclear if any would be deported.
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The government of the president of the United States, Donald Trump, declared in 2018 a “zero tolerance” policy on the border with Mexico before the growing arrival of undocumented immigrants, most of them from Central America. In July, the United States signed an immigration agreement with Guatemala and subsequently inked agreements with El Salvador and Honduras. US authorities said they also sought an understanding with Panama. Although the three governments reject that they are “safe third country” pacts — which would allow asylum seekers to be sent to another country to wait while their status is being processed — human rights associations claim the agreements do fall under that category.
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Combat drug trafficking and climate change simultaneously: Drug trafficking and organized crime are fuelling deforestation in protected tropical forests and national parks across Central America, causing substantial economic losses. Traffickers are cutting down trees to build roads and airstrips to transport cocaine and are encroaching ever further into more remote forest areas to evade anti-narcotics operations, according to two separate studies on the problem. Environmental degradation caused by drug trafficking leads to losses of about $215 million annually in natural and cultural resources across Central America’s protected forest areas, showed estimates by report co-author Bernardo Aguilar-Gonzalez. Areas that are managed by communities record “very low forest losses”, they added. “Investing in community land rights and participatory governance in protected areas is a key strategy to combat drug trafficking and climate change simultaneously,” Aguilar-Gonzalez said in a statement.

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