FROM EL FARO ENGLISH: Central America returns to Biden

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President Joe Biden, center, hosts a leaders retreat and working lunch with heads of state and government during the Summit of the Americas, Friday, June 10, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Welcome to El Faro English.

Central America, in a nutshell: After the Northern Triangle presidents failed to show up at the Summit of the Americas, their foreign ministers gave strident speeches defying Joe Biden and named their countries’ conditions for U.S. and regional engagement. El Salvador and Guatemala have used sovereignty claims to ward off international criticism. Honduras reaffirmed its desire for a UN-backed anti-corruption commission, but cited the 2009 coup in a warning that collaboration will depend on non-interference in “internal affairs”.

Broken bridges

If Nayib Bukele had attended the Summit of the Americas, he was supposed to have choice words for Joe Biden and would have likely organized a massive event with the Los Angeles diaspora designed as a public coronation. But the Salvadoran president instead challenged Biden from a distance. He even refused to answer a call from Secretary of State Antony Blinken to convince him to attend, according to the New York Times, and on the opening day of the summit he tweeted that the Organization of American States (OAS) was the United States. “Ministry of the Colonies”.

Present in her place, Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill doubled down on criticism.

“The hemisphere’s multilateral organizations must rebuild themselves,” she said, “otherwise they will be doomed to lose all credibility and legitimacy and disappear altogether.”

Hill made no reference to the fact that she worked for the OAS in Washington for more than a decade in its anti-drug office and presented herself as a close friend of Secretary General Luis Almagro. She also omitted that Bukele’s administration partnered with the OAS in 2019 to create the international anti-corruption commission CICIES, which later disbanded amid high-level government corruption investigations.

El Salvador’s speech at the summit was a ra two-year rejoinder of international criticism and failed State Department efforts to temper Bukele’s abuses of power.

“El Salvador is on a path of no return,” Hill said. “For the first time since we became a republic, in El Salvador we breathe hope, peace and the desire for progress.”

This is the same message Bukele delivered to international observers after ordering the judicial coup in May 2021.

Time will tell how the irascible Bukele will react to the almost certain inclusion of close confidants in the next edition of the Engel list this month and the indictment by the DOJ of two of his security cabinet members who have negotiated with the country’s gangs and one of the who admitted to helping an MS-13 leader escape to Guatemala despite a US extradition request.

Guatemala, too, played the sovereignty card in response to international criticism of the widespread persecution of anti-corruption judges and prosecutors. On Tuesday, Norway condemned a new attempt to criminalize former attorney general Claudia Paz y Paz, who tried former dictator Ríos Montt for genocide.

On Monday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, added her voice to the chorus in appeal to guatemala guarantee the independence of judicial institutions and the protection of magistrates”.

In his remarks at the Summit, Guatemalan Foreign Minister Mario Búcaro used a condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine to justify “sovereignty.” But he was referring to the reason President Alejandro Giammattei was not present: US sanctions and opposition to the re-election of Attorney General Consuelo Porras.

Giammattei has cast US Democrats as the culprits of his diplomatic troubles and used the defense of God and family as a smokescreen when corruption cases arise.

“We are open to dialogue and ready to listen, but we also need you to listen to us,” Búcaro said. “We cannot allow those with policies, ideas or inclinations that we do not share to maliciously undermine our principles and values ​​or impose programs that violate them.”

The new friend

Honduras is another story. While recent U.S. anti-corruption sanctions pushed relations with El Salvador and Guatemala to the brink, Honduras’ non-participation had to do with Xiomara Castro’s balance between his interest in international cooperation and historical ties. of the Free Party with leftist governments like Nicaragua and Venezuela. , whose exclusion from the top led her to withdraw.

In his address, Honduran Foreign Minister Enrique Reina called for “respect for the self-determination of peoples and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states,” naming the 2009 military ousting of Castro’s husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, which was later legitimized by the international community.

“In Honduras, it took us 12 years and a lot of darkness, death and pain to get back on the democratic path,” he said.

He also offered a carrot, underscoring Castro’s interest in a deal with the United Nations to create the International Commission against Impunity in Honduras (CICIH), modeled on Guatemala’s now defunct CICIG.

A major question is whether the CICIH would have the political space to support investigations into Zelaya, now a close adviser to Castro. In a sworn deposition in March 2021, Devis Rivera Maradiaga, the ex-leader of the Los Cachiros cartel, listed Zelaya among three recent Honduran presidents he allegedly bribed.

As expected, Panama and Costa Rica offered respite from critics. JTo assuage widespread uncertainty over his democratic bona fides and budding populist ways, Costa Rica‘s new president Rodrigo Chaves highlighted the country’s “political stability” and said he was committed to human rights and the struggle against forced migration. He did not, however, directly mention relations with the United States.

Upon taking office, Biden named the Isthmus a foreign policy priority and tasked Vice President Kamala Harris with nurturing the relationship. But regional leaders first complicated any real engagement, and now, with the war in Ukraine and domestic issues at home, the administration’s focus has shifted, even as the White House announced in Los Angeles new projects in Central America, including $1.9 billion in business direct investment and several million to civil society and the defense of freedom of expression.

None of these funds will go through regional governments.

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