We assess that high crime rates and weak job markets will spur additional U.S.-bound migrants from the Northern Triangle — El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Illicit migration northward from the region shows no signs of abating, despite increased messaging by governments to dissuade potential migrants and stepped-up immigration enforcement by Mexico. Many migrants apparently perceive that traveling in caravans on the journey north affords a certain level of security, and the decision to do so appears to result from a combination of individual motivation, encouragement from social media postings, and politically motivated efforts by some individuals and organizations.
- 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community
Guatemala's 36-year civil war sparked persistent, widespread corruption. Since 2007, the United States has played a central role in supporting - both diplomatically and financially - the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which is supervised by the United Nations. The CICIG was established to fight corruption and has been effective, successfully prosecuting hundreds of corrupt politicians and business executives, as well as drug traffickers.
Then came the Trump administration. For some asinine reason, the administration has taken the side of those who believe the CICIG violates Guatemala's sovereignty. Unsurprising, most of the Guatemalans who think this have been in the crosshairs of the commission, including outgoing Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales who was investigated for campaign-finance violations (Mr. Morales cannot constitutionally run for a second four-year term).
We gave up long ago trying to figure out what goes on in this administration's head, but we do know that Mr. Morales knows exactly how to handle Donald Trump. For example, when the United States moved our Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, do did Guatemala. To Donald Trump, that show of support ranks up there with a gigantic billboard with his face plastered on it.
Mr. Morales' loyalty to Donald Trump paid off, because he seemed to have free-reign to do whatever the heck he wanted to do in his last months as president. In addition to trying to shut-down the CICIG, the best example is the treatment of Thelma Aldana, who was Guatemala's attorney general from 2014 to 2018. In that role, she uncovered a massive scandal that led to the resignation of the Guatemalan president, Otto Pérez Molina. During her tenure, Ms. Aldana sent over 250 people to jail, which resulted in powerful enemies determined to get revenge. Revenge reached a peak when, in March 2019, a judge issued a warrant for Ms. Aldana's arrest for embezzlement and tax fraud. At the time, she was a candidate in the Guatemalan presidential race.
There are several issues to work through with Guatemala, particularly around our immigration policy. Here are three things to get us started: