The photograph above of the bodies of a Salvadoran refugee and his two-year-old daughter will be the iconic image of our president’s attempt to stem the tide of immigration from so-called “shithole countries” to the south. I have visited a number of these countries and found myself admiring the people I met.
Many of these refugees are Guatemalan Maya escaping the bad government that has dogged their country ever since 1954, when the United States deposed President Juan Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán in a coup d’état for daring to oppose the destructive policies of the United Fruit Company. I guess that made him a Communist in the eyes of the U.S. State Department under John Foster Dulles. Ever since 1954, Guatemala has been ruled mostly by rightist generals, some of whom, like the infamous Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García and José Efraín Ríos Montt went in for large-scale genocide of the indigenous population. Some 200,000 Maya men, women, and children lost their lives.
Since 1996, the scale of the killings has abated, but not stopped. Under Jimmy Morales, Guatemala is not an entirely safe place unless one has renounced indigenous ways. That’s why many of the refugees from Central America are Maya from Guatemala.
I have also gone across the border into Honduras (to see the Maya ruins at Copán). If I thought Guatemala was a poor country, as soon as I crossed the border into Honduras, I saw that the economic situation was more dire. That, plus one of the country’s largest cities, San Pedro Sula, was ruled by criminal gangs and, for a while, was the murder capital of the world.
My concern is that the United States under Trump is slowly turning into a shithole country. If so, where will we go for aid? And will we be welcomed? Not likely.