The first time I traveled to Guatemala was after the civil war in the 1990s. I lived with a family in Antigua for a week and then traveled around the country. Including a white knuckle flight over hundreds of miles of jungle to the Mayan site of Tikal.
The second time, my spouse and I spent a few weeks , living in a wonderful resort on Lake Atitlan and exploring various parts of the country by bus and van. Visiting villages only accessible by boat, experiencing the colorful market at Chichicastengo, enjoying coffee in the colonial city of Antigua. Interacting with friendly people. Great memories.
Guatemala is about 50% or so Mayan. So the Spanish and Mayan peoples live side by side, but in different worlds. A colorful mixture of cultures and religions and languages. After being immersed in the colorful culture where women still wear bold colored huilpiles, denoting their village, coming back to the US was like trading in an HD color TV for an old black and white with rabbit ears.
Now, it seems, Guatemala has once again descended into violence and division. The government or gangs are once again creating a hostile environment. I really don’t pretend to know what is going on, but it is too bad.
The valleys of fertile farmland we drove through are probably the greenest I have ever seen.
According to the latest US Aid report the US has invested tax dollars in Guatemala in an attempt to make life better for the people. The legal system has been streamlined and modernized in an attempt to give the “accused” some basic rights.
Another section of the report outlines the economic aid we have given the Guatemalans. Evidently US aid has increased the exporting of crops by about 50%. More income for the farming sector.
Also, according to the US Aid information sheet, our assistance has led to the creation of 20,000 more agricultural jobs for Guatemalans. So, let’s see what that means.
The average size of a family is about 4 people. Probably 5 people or more in the rural areas. So, 20,000 jobs probably supports 100,000 people.
That is 100,000 people who have no reason to emigrate to the US for a better life. 100,000 people who now can stay in their native land and make a living. 100,000 fewer people to process at the US border.
Now, Mr Trump has said he will end all aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The total aid to these three countries is $ 500,000,000. Total. For some perspective, this is the cost of about 4 Lockheed Martin F-35B fighter jets.
Of course, economic aid to Latin American countries, delivered mainly through NGOs, only helps to lessen the potential immigration to the USA. This is the idea behind trade agreements and aid programs. To assist people living in their own homelands so they do not need to emigrate.
Eliminating this aid is just not smart policy. Unless your objective is to increase the pressure at the border to create a humanitarian crisis.