Why Trump Needs to Clean House in Central America

by Steven Hecht

Taxpayers are on the hook for $750 million annually for five years to Central America, but under current circumstances, US foreign officials will squander the money.

The goal of this “Alliance for Prosperity” is to stabilize the Northern Triangle —  Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras — and reduce the need for residents to illegally immigrate to the United States.


However, three successive Guatemalan administrations under pressure from the Barack Obama State Department, led by Secretaries Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, have allowed the progeny of collectivist guerrillas to terrorize the country. The situation is worsening, not improving; some rural residents are fleeing for their lives.

Instead of following the stated intent of the Alliance for Prosperity, the Obama administration has used the funds as leverage to extend a corrupt UN commission. It is a tool to consolidate power in Central America and advance Obama’s ideological agenda.


On January 11, just blocks from the White House, the taxpayer-funded Wilson Center will host a forum, “The Northern Triangle of Central America: Violence, Security, and Migration.” Considering the participants, especially former Guatemala Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz (2010-2014), the panel will likely praise the Obama administration policy toward the region and push for the Trump administration to follow or at least not review or reverse it.  


That would be terribly ill advised.


Last week, Fox News reported that the Department of Homeland Security arrested 530,250 illegal immigrants in fiscal year 2016, an increase of nearly 70,000 from 2015. According to the report, US Border Patrol arrests alone were up 23 percent year to year, and the majority of those arrested hail from Northern Triangle countries.  


With a 530-mile border and many crossing points into Mexico, which offers a relatively unimpeded transit, Guatemala is the gateway to the United States for illegal immigrants from Central America and around the world, including the Middle East. Given almost no presence from the Guatemalan government in the nation’s rural areas, particularly those that border Mexico, the pathway to the United States is wide open.


Paz y Paz has been pivotal in this breakdown of the rule of law, and she acquired her position after the Obama administration pressured Guatemala’s highest court to illegally remove her predecessor. She then protected the violent collectivist groups descended from guerrillas and persecuted legitimate authority, spreading conflict from a small area in southwest Guatemala throughout the country by the end of her term in 2014. Even after Clinton’s term had expired as Secretary of State, she took the unusual step of calling Guatemala’s then-president to urge him to re-appoint her protégé.  


The nominating commission, comprised mostly of the country’s law-school deans, provided six names to the president from which to choose the attorney general. They did not include Paz y Paz on their list, and that denied her the second term Clinton, Obama, and their collectivist allies wanted.

However, the Obama administration was not done yet.


With Paz y Paz no longer in control of criminal prosecution, the Obama administration obtained the funds for the Alliance for Prosperity and then used them as a club to extend the mandate of the UN-named Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Obama’s people then had a lever to intimidate government officials and threaten to imprison them. They have succeeded in putting political enemies in jail and allies into the three branches of government, all in the name of fighting corruption and impunity.


In carrying out Obama’s collectivist agenda, the current US ambassador, Todd Robinson, has overtly and aggressively meddled in Guatemala’s internal affairs, by itself grounds for his immediate removal.  


To make matters worse, the Alliance for Prosperity grant creates a supervisory commission that includes the US ambassador for the execution of objectives. However, because of the Obama State Department, along with two previous ambassadors and now Robinson, armed gangs rule rural Guatemala. These groups have been blocking the very development projects throughout the country called for by the terms of the grant.  


Besides the resentment toward Ambassador Robinson in Guatemala, it is imperative for President-elect Donald Trump’s own goals that the new administration remove him from his post. His successor could then work with and support the Guatemalan government to establish the rule of law and protect its citizens, especially in the rural areas. That is what their constitution and laws demand, as does the Alliance for Prosperity mandate.

Until that happens and there is new diplomatic leadership in Guatemala, the United States should halt further investments in the Northern Triangle and the Alliance for Prosperity program.

The countries of the Northern Triangle, along with Mexico, have formed a coalition of consulates called the Tricamex Initiative. Their goal is to engage the Trump Administration, and when they do, they should see across the table a US administration committed to helping establish the rule of law, so productive investment can then occur. For this the United States will need ambassadors who follow the rules and have the necessary knowledge and orientation to carry out stated policy goals, unlike Robinson.



Steve Hecht, a graduate of Columbia University, is a businessman who has lived in Guatemala since 1972. He has written widely about the country’s politics and produced the mini-documentary “From Hillary With Love” that details the Clinton-Obama role in imposing a collectivist regime on Guatemala.