If President Trump's decision to impose tariffs on Mexican imports and withhold aid money from Central America were examples of the stick, then the White House is following up with a surprising carrot.
After Trump's surprise tariff announcement triggered a steep selloff in markets on Friday, it appears the administration is pivoting to a novel new strategy: Sending dozens of DHS agents and investigators to Guatemala to try and stem the tide of unauthorized immigration.
First reported late Friday by the Washington Post, Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan has reportedly lobbied heavily to take a more "muscular" approach to working with local governments to solve the root cause of the immigration crisis. According to a memorandum of understanding with the Guatemalan government signed by McAleenan, approximately Customs Agents and DHS investigators will be deployed to Guatemala to work side-by-side with local police. US agents will help train local police, as well as assist in "law enforcement actions" to improve criminal investigations, to try and break the stranglehold that powerful drug gangs have on society.
The agents will be deployed along the Guatemala-Mexico border, where they will focus on some of the poorest areas of the country. US troops are expected to carry weapons, and, according to WaPo, in what appears to be a trial run, DHS agents helped Guatemalan police arrest nine suspected smugglers in Guatemala City.
"The U.S. and Guatemala are formalizing a number of initiatives to improve the lives and security of our respective citizens by combating human trafficking and the smuggling of illegal goods, helping to limit 'push' factors that encourage dangerous irregular migration to the U.S., perpetuating the ongoing crisis at or border," McAleenan said in a statement, after signing a "Memorandum of Cooperation" with Guatemalan officials.
"Other areas of cooperation include increasing the security of the Guatemalan border to stem the flow of irregular migration while ensuring proper preparation to improve the ability of both countries to identify and better understand their root causes," according to DHS.
WaPo points out that there is a legal precedent for sending American personnel to Central America: The DEA has been doing it for years. But those operations are typically much more limited in scope. Seeing that the deployment looks similar to the military's use of American 'advisors' in parts of the Middle East, we can't help but wonder. Have fears about boots on the ground in Venezuela been misplaced? Could Central America be a more likely candidate for American military intervention in this hemisphere?