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Defending Hope Against Fear And Repression In Honduras

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President Morales and his cronies are now counting on the Trump administration to save their skin. They supported Mr. Trump’s candidacy; Guatemalan congressmen even attended Republican fund-raising events and the Republican National Convention.

Since Mr. Trump’s election, they have gone to great lengths to curry favor in Washington. Guatemala was one of three countries to follow the American lead in deciding to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Representatives of the Guatemalan government and its embassy regularly join congressmen at prayer breakfasts. Members of the old guard are even falsely alleging that the Kremlin has infiltrated the commission.

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For now, American policy, at least officially, remains supportive of the United Nations commission. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate continue to speak out in support of the rule of law in Central America. They privately nudge officials in the region to press their attack on corruption. They issue public warnings through communiques, they defend the commissioner and the commission’s work, they condition development assistance on progress made in combating corruption and strengthening democracy, and they cancel the visas of corrupt officials.

American politicians must remain attentive in the weeks to come, as Guatemalan officials seem on the verge of pushing their confrontation with the commission to the next level. On Friday, Álvaro Arzú, the mayor of Guatemala City and a leader in the fight against the commission, died of a heart attack, which his henchmen claims was provoked by the stress of the fight. And President Morales is about to nominate a new attorney general, who will determine the extent to which the country continues its reforms and cooperation with the commission.

If anything, American politicians and their allies should become more strident — say, by calling for the seizure and forfeiting of assets belonging to corrupt Guatemalan officials held in American banks.

A crackdown on the commission or its commissioner would be catastrophic. It would endanger security and democracy in Guatemala. It would empower organized crime, spark protests and provoke government repression. The costs will be felt beyond Guatemalan borders, as organized crime spreads its tentacles and new waves of migrants make their way north, fleeing a country where they have lost all hope of living in freedom and security.

It would be ironic if the Trump administration, in trying to protect America’s borders, instead made it easier to undermine that same goal.


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Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/02/opinion/cold-war-central-america.html

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