In a move that reveals the utter subservience of the Peña Nieto government, Mexico agreed to host a U.S. security meeting that will take place inside the U.S. Southern Command in Doral, Florida. After a tradition of keeping a distance, at least publicly, from US interventions in the region, the Mexican government is facilitating a new Pentagon plan to crack down on the Mexico-Guatemala border and remilitarize the region, largely under its command,
Not only will Mexico continue to do the dirty work of its northern neighbor by massively deporting migrants and refugees on its southern border. The government is formally convening the meeting of the Northern Triangle countries on behalf of Trump’s Armed Forces.
The news has gone almost unnoticed. La Jornada reported on April 26 that at a meeting of the Central American Security Conference in Cozumel, Guatemala’s Defense Minister Juan Manuel Pérez announced agreements between the representatives of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and the US Southern and Northern Commands to conduct aerial, ground and reconnaissance patrols on the Mexican border, exchange information and intelligence, and “standardize protocols and procedures for interdiction operations with the support of technology and intelligence of the Southern Command.”
For Trump’s government, stopping the influx of migrants across borders is top priority, whether it’s over US borders or the borders of any country along the route of families fleeing poverty and violence to the United States. His vision of a “white” America without migrants except those necessary as labor, not full human beings, has been backed up by the threat of the wall along the US-Mexico border. Where he cannot build physical walls, he seeks to construct walls of contention with military force. Peña Nieto has offered his country as a key piece of the plan, despite Trump’s constant stream of insults and abuses aginst Mexico.
The U.S. military and the trump administration doesn’t hide that the militarization is aimed primarily at migrants and refugees. General Perez put forth an example of success at the meeting by noting that increased information exchange with the Pentagon had managed to identify “a route of undocumented immigrants passing through northern Petén”. He openly celebrated the announcement that the Southern Command will help to install a new operational base in El Petén and emphasized that the meetings with the U.S. military are “strategic and key to fine-tuning mechanisms to confront migrant routes, livestock smuggling, and the use of people for the passage of drugs.”
It’s not the first time the SouthCom, and now NorthCom since Mexico was integrated into the Pentagon’s geopolitical plan as part of North America, have established mixed task forces in the region. In Guatemala, these include the failed experiment in Tecun Umán in 2013 and on the Guatemala-Honduras border with the Chortí task force. When we visited the mobile military base at Tecun Umán, we found that following a photo-op inauguration the base really didn’t exist. Much of the reason had to do with the resistance of the local population. For generations, their lives and livelihoods have been cross-border by nature. A crackdown on the scores of rafts that poled across the shallow river every day carrying tires and laundry detergent and whole families was never going to fly.
The jeeps stood lined up in idle rows and the police deployed in the area reported that “inter-agency” frictions plagued the plan from the start. Despite U.S. investments of $22 million at the Tecun Uman base and $13.5 million in Chortí, a Rand study found that they failed to stop the flow of drugs in the region, a finding noted by drug registries in the United States.
So why intensify the militarization policy now?
Border militarization promoted by Obama and now Trump, has never really sought to curb the flow of prohibited drugs to the U.S. market. The policy serves primarily to discourage and criminalize migratory flows, despite the documented fact that many people leave their countries by necessity and in many cases to save their lives and those of their families. The rights to asylum established in international and national agreements are violated in this context every day.
Second, the deployments seek control of territories with abundant natural resources and valuable routes for use by US and allied government and business interests. This means getting rid of local populations especially indigenous communities that stand up to displacement and environmentally destructive changes in land use. Recently, news broke that the members of a Laguna Larga, a Guatemalan community in El Petén, were rounded up and ousted from their homes by the Guatemalan army. The entire group of men. Women and children were forced to migrate to Mexico. If the idea is to control migration and make communities stronger in in areas where organized crime operates, why the attempt to depopulate the region?
Mexico’s Secretaries of Government and Foreign Relations and Defense and Marine Secretariats will stand beside their U.S. co-hosts June 15 and 16 to launch the new Plan Pentagon for Central America. They won’t call it that, of course. Vice President Mike Pence will open the event “Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America”, before the presidents, the generals and representatives from observer countries. There is little official information on the event. The State Department website states that “it will bring together a diverse group of government leaders and business leaders from the United States, Mexico, Central America and other countries to discuss the challenges and opportunities in economy, security and governance in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.” Day One is dedicated to prosperity and economic growth, and Day Two to security.
The meeting will define the Trump policy in the region. A Reuters article explains the new role of Mexico and why the Peña cabinet will be on stage at SouthCom. “Kelly (General John Kelly) seeks to reorient the Obama-era alliance without a large increase in U.S. funding by pushing Mexico to take more responsibility for governance and security in Central America”. The same article cites a Mexican diplomat who asked not to be named stating, “We want to be on good terms with them (the Trump government) because we’re dealing with a much more important issue,”
“In return, we want a beneficial NAFTA renegotiation.”
What a trade-off. The Peña Nieto government sells Mexico’s soul – its national sovereignty – to the Trump government before NAFTA negotiations even start.
The worst thing is that it’s not even his soul to sell. It’s the souls and the lives of thousands of Central American migrants who now -more than ever- see that the perilous border of the United States of Trump has moved south, from the Rio Grande to the Rio Suchiate.