March 19, 2019

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Guatemala Cautious on Young Migrants’ Deaths, Wary of Angering U.S.

Guatemala Cautious on Young Migrants’ Deaths, Wary of Angering U.S.
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This is a marked break with precedent: For years, the United States unequivocally supported the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, the United Nations-backed panel known as Cicig, which has been working alongside Guatemalan prosecutors to bring corruption cases since 2007. Americans saw in its efforts a way to combat the corruption that has crippled Guatemala’s political and economic development — and, in part, fueled the migration of its citizens.

But the Trump administration has remained supportive of Mr. Morales even as his actions to shut down Cicig have taken Guatemala to the brink of a constitutional crisis. Now, with migration becoming a growing irritant in that relationship, Mr. Morales is anxious to smooth over the tensions.

When a caravan of thousands of mostly Honduran migrants crossed through Guatemala on its way to Mexico in October, the exodus angered President Trump, who fired off messages on Twitter blaming Guatemala and Honduras for allowing them to move north, said Fernando Carrera, a former foreign minister in Guatemala.

Despite the deaths of the two children, “the government of Guatemala doesn’t want to give more ammunition to that argument,” Mr. Carrera said. “They stay quiet and they don’t react.”

The Guatemalan government’s solicitous approach may not be enough to deter Mr. Trump’s anger, though, given his single-minded focus on migration. On Friday morning, Mr. Trump, citing reports of a new caravan, repeated a threat to cut off aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador for not blocking the flow.

Aid may be less of a worry for Mr. Morales, though, than continued United States support for his effort to oust the Cicig panel. For more than a year, Mr. Morales and his government have been carefully developing allies in Washington, nurturing ties with evangelical groups and conservative legislators and moving Guatemala’s embassy to Jerusalem, soon after the Trump administration did.

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