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Trump Threatens Guatemala With Tariffs Over Migrants

Declaring that “Guatemala has not been good,” President Trump threatened on Tuesday to retaliate against the country for not signing an immigration deal. He said his administration was considering imposing tariffs on Guatemalan exports or taxing money sent home by migrants.

The deal, called a “safe third country” agreement, would have required migrants who pass through Guatemala to seek asylum there, instead of continuing to the United States.

“Guatemala, which has been forming Caravans and sending large numbers of people, some with criminal records, to the United States, has decided to break the deal they had with us on signing a necessary Safe Third Agreement,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

“Now we are looking at the BAN, Tariffs, Remittance Fees, or all of the above,” the president wrote.

The president’s early-morning Twitter post roiled Guatemala’s already turbulent politics less than three weeks ahead of the country’s Aug. 11 presidential election. Critics pointed to it as another reason to condemn the departing government of Jimmy Morales, which has courted the Trump administration.

“Look where Morales’ personal alliance with Trump ended up,” Manfredo Marroquín, an anti-corruption activist and former presidential candidate, wrote on Twitter. “In a fiasco that will cost the country dearly in the face of the threat of taxes on remittances and additional tariffs on exports to the United States.”
Accusing the magistrates of harboring “personal political interests,” Mr. Morales said in a statement that his government posted on Twitter that the judges’ decisions had “endangered the excellent bilateral relationship with our principal economic partner.”

He accused the magistrates of political activism and of ceding to those “who seek to destabilize our country.”

Mr. Morales, who is limited by law to one term, is deeply unpopular. He successfully lobbied Washington to reverse its longstanding support for a United Nations-backed anti-corruption panel that has accused him of campaign finance violations and members of his family of fraud.

As the number of migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras reaching the southern United States border has soared, the Trump Administration has put pressure on Central American governments to stop them. The Guatemalan interior minister acknowledged a couple of months ago that the government was negotiating a deal with Washington.

Two weeks ago, when it appeared the two countries were on the verge of signing an agreement, opposition surged across the political spectrum. The constitutional court then issued its ruling.

The court was responding to petitions filed by Mr. Marroquín, as well as by several former foreign ministers and the country’s human rights ombudsman.

Although the Department of Homeland Security and the Guatemalan government announced on Monday that they were continuing to negotiate initiatives “to reduce the flow of irregular migration,” Mr. Trump weighed in with his threats on Tuesday morning. He repeated them later in a speech.

“They were supposed to sign what’s called a safe third — that’s a good thing for us, that’s all I have to tell you — and they went back,” Mr. Trump said in a speech to young conservatives in Washington. “So we’re going to do either tariffs, or we’re going to do a form of tax, or we’re going to use our ban,” he said.