VALLE NUEVO, Guatemala – I didn’t mind that my hotel near the border didn’t have wi-fi. But then there was no electricity.
Even it wasn’t that bad. After the lights went out, the owner found some candles. She put them by the pool and I had the pleasure of answering my iPhone messages the old fashioned way, by candlelight.
One of the posts informed me that the Politico site had published an article about Vice President Kamala Harris’s trip to Guatemala City earlier today titled “Message from Harris to Guatemala: Don’t come to America”.
I returned an improved version based on my conversations with locals about his trip: “From Guatemala to Harris: Don’t come to Central America”.
The consensus among the various ordinary people I met was that during his 18 hours in Guatemala, Harris was very unlikely to solve problems over 500 years old.
The main problem of this type is the lack of economic development that drives people to head for the US border. This is what led me to drive to this town on the border with El Salvador.
We will never resolve our border crisis until Central Americans resolve their border crisis: there are too many of them.
In area, Guatemala and El Salvador are comparable to Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Now imagine if all the semitrailers heading west from our state had to go through exit customs on our side of the river and entry customs on the Pennsylvania side.
You will see what I saw: The truckers backed away waiting for the ordeal of going through customs not once but twice.
In the 1980s, PJ O’Rourke joked about Europe: “You can’t swing a cat without sending it through customs. “
The Europeans quickly solved this problem by creating the European Union. And when the British decided to back down, Brexit was almost torpedoed on the issue of reestablishing the hard borders between the Republic of Ireland and Ulster.
Everyone involved knew it wouldn’t be practical. But here in Central America, those borders are the norm, with entirely different laws and monetary systems on either side. Do you have a calculator to calculate exchange rates? It is common practice here.
But there are a lot of people who make a living outside the border. I had the opportunity to speak to several of them when I pulled over to park. One group was made up of money changers, one of whom traded me 350 Guatemalan quetzals for $ 50.
Then there were the guides who, for a fee, will help you unravel the many tangles of customs and immigration.
They were disappointed when I told them I would not cross the border. Business has been slow lately. To show me the reason they took me to a couple of nurses sitting at a table on the border side where people from El Salvador come in.
Nurses informed me that anyone entering the country must show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. Either can cost around $ 90 in El Salvador, so border crossings have declined significantly.
Many of these passengers are Salvadorans or Nicaraguans trying to head north to the United States.
Harris promised more. She said she would work to secure an agreement on immigration control between the three countries in the Northern Triangle, near southeastern Mexico.
But if these countries could agree on issues of such importance, then they would agree to form a common market such as the one that eventually became the European Union.
The vice-president also trotted out that old cliché about tackling the “root causes” of emigration. To this end, it has pledged to send $ 310 million in aid to fight food insecurity. Biden spoke of spending $ 1 billion a year on aid for four years.
I would suggest both of them take a tour of one of these countries. The highways are lined with people selling coconuts and pineapples for a living. It is hard to imagine that the money comes to them through governments that are not only corrupt but incompetent.
The spinoffs that interest these people most are the money migrants send home to America. I met quite a few who had worked in the United States for a few years and came back with a good nest egg.
These are not the kind of people who will trust their governments to fix things for the first time since the Spanish conquest.
Harris told them, “I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned away. “
She can believe it.
But do they do it?
This is the only question that matters.
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