President Donald Trump complained Tuesday that Guatemala’s government broke off a planned safe third country agreement with the U.S., a deal that would require Central American migrants traveling into Guatemala to claim asylum there instead of elsewhere.
Trump wrote that Guatemala has been forming caravans of migrants, sending “large numbers of people, some with criminal records to the United States.” In response, Trump warned that his administration would explore imposing a “ban,” tariffs, remittance fees or some combination of all three. He also touted his administration’s decision months ago to cut federal aid to Guatemala.
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“Guatemala has not been good,” Trump wrote. “Big U.S. taxpayer dollars going to them was cut off by me 9 months ago.”
The tweets follow Trump’s praise last month for Mexico’s attempts to intercept Central American asylum seekers as well as his announcement that Guatemala was getting ready to do the same. But last week, the Guatemalan government canceled a meeting between Trump and President Jimmy Morales, and the country’s top court blocked asylum deal talks from progressing. Morales faced pressure at home not to sign the deal after concerns emerged that Guatemala wasn’t equipped to shelter and assist large numbers of migrants.
Mexico said in the past that its ability to keep its asylum commitments depends on if other Central American countries would do so as well. When U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard met Sunday, Ebrard said current immigration measures were working and an asylum deal wasn’t necessary.
It is unclear how Trump would impose his threatened tariffs, since Guatemala has been part of the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement since 2006. The trade agreement — which includes Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua — removed most tariffs and trade barriers between the countries.
But trade deals have previously proven unable to stop Trump from issuing tariff threats, most notably his willingness to dangle the possibility of import taxes over Mexico even as his administration worked to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The president has also controversially used national security as a rationale to impose tariffs on allies, including Canada.
Trump ultimately opted against imposing tariffs on Mexico after promising immigration negotiations with the Mexican government. The president did, however, warn Mexico that he could revisit those tariffs if it does not do enough to curb illegal migration.