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All or Nothing: A Green New Deal for Central America

The Trump administration is already campaigning for the upcoming elections and its main target is an easy fragile one – migration and how to put the brakes on it. Turning Guatemala into a temporary prison has been its latest achievement.

Guatemalan migrants deported from the United States remain outside the Air Force Base after their arrival in Guatemala City on July 31, 2019.

Guatemalan migrants deported from the United States remain outside the Air Force Base after their arrival in Guatemala City on July 31, 2019. (Photo: by Orlando Estrada/AFP/Getty Images)

The issue of migration allows Trump to show off his imperial power in front of the cameras, and to cover up with much fuss a series of failures. His latest "achievement" has been to force Guatemala - a country on the verge of collapse and mired in a humanitarian and institutional crisis - into becoming a temporary prison for those seeking asylum in the US.

Guatemala will receive hundreds of deported migrants. The country has been designated as the hell where the concentration camps for migrants will be located, conveniently out of the reach of US courts of justice. Guatemala is thus to become a Tropical Turkey, the country where asylum requests will be brought together, so that the brutality can be carried out offshore.

This is the country with the longest, uninterrupted track record of control and repression of internally displaced persons in Central America. The country which in the past has carried out experiments such as the razed-land policies, or the State terror laboratories called “model villages” which as part of the dispossessing and genocidal policies that forty years ago killed more than 250,000 people. Today this is being repeated.

Central America as a region offers powerful evidence of the complete failure of the economic policies that have benefited a few powerful countries in the world and sacrificed the most vulnerable ones.

The silence of the international community speaks volumes. The accomplices to the Central American calamity are on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The Mediterranean and the Arizona desert tragedies both have similar causes, and the response to both is the same. Multilateral institutions have failed the world's poor and vulnerable, and the current international trade model only favours the perpetrators of the forthcoming global environmental catastrophe and their accomplices.

The US, Canada, China and Europe are the world powers which have contributed to the fast deterioration of the quality of life of Central Americans through exploitation schemes and political pressure. From the destruction of local economies as a result of the signing of the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), to the reinforcement of commercial policies which avoid compliance with human rights, and to the Association Agreement between the European Union and Central America, which protects and consolidates the domination and control by large corporations of the energy matrix of Central American countries.

Could the region this time be the space for testing a set of policies precisely in the opposite direction? Could progressive forces on both sides of the Atlantic dare to push for a Green New Deal for Central America as a response to the current crisis?

Would it be possible for the developed world to imagine a moratorium for the countries which are the most unequal, violent and vulnerable to climate change, allowing their people enough flexibility to exceptionally apply another economic model? Clean energy? Decent jobs? Native seeds?

Central America accounts for 7% of the world's biodiversity despite its small size. It leads the ranking of the most unequal countries in the world and of the poorest countries in the Americas, and it is home to four of the fifty most violent cities in the world. If economic slowdown is added to extreme vulnerability to climate change, lack of active public inclusion policies for women and marked racism to indigenous and Afro-descendant populations, it is obvious that the number of people willing to migrate to the North, even risking everything, will only increase.

A Green New Deal for Central America would allow for the possibility of conducting pilot testing, giving concrete shape to and defending a different future - no longer as an idea, but as a proven reality. Replacing fragile and failed institutions with architecture that results from economic and ecological transformation, empowering indigenous and peasant communities, regaining control of the natural commons, reversing the fast disappearance of unique species, preserving the remaining oxygen reserves in the region, compensating Central American countries for the impact that 10% of the world inflicts on them, putting them on the map of the countries most at risk from the global climate crisis. These changes do not depend on the congresses of these countries. They depend on Washington, Brussels and the international financial institutions.

If radical change is not the option, humanitarian aid patches will end up in the pockets of contractors who are linked to the security industry.

This humanitarian crisis summarizes the failures of the system that the world inflicts on the poor, pushing them to cross seas and deserts, and to risk everything while seeking a better life. At the same time, it is also an opportunity for a radical change, for transcending discourses which promise palliative “sustainable futures” that nobody is willing to finance. It is an opportunity for raising international solidarity on the basis of a concrete plan - beyond words and paper.

If the Green New Deal does not work here and now, if it cannot surpass humanitarian camp reactions and massive exoduses and produce a positive agenda, tomorrow will be too late. If we seal a new social contract, we must include everyone, we must make sure that no one is left behind - starting with those to whom we owe the most.

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Renata Avila

Renata Avila

Renata Avila is an Executive Director of the Smart Citizenship Foundation, ChileRenata is an international Human Rights lawyer, specializing in the next wave of technological challenges to preserve and advance our rights. She is currently writing a book on digital colonialism and designing international tech policies for a democratic future. She is a member of the Coordinating Collective of @Diem_25, Board member for @creativecommons and co-convener of the Progressive International.

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