The Marshall Plan and border imperialism

Central American Migrant Caravan.

By: Carlos Fazio

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has outlined a policy of prudence and non-confrontation with the United States, attached to the doctrine and foreign policy principles established in Article 89 of the [Mexican] Constitution. In that sense, and facing the immigration crisis unleashed by the arrival of thousands of Hondurans in transit towards the northern neighbor in search of asylum, the Mexican president proposed to Donald Trump an investment program similar to the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of devastated Europe after the Second World War.

Based on four axes: migration, trade, economic development and security, the plan is intended to be applied in states of the Mexican south-southeast and the so-called northern triangle of Central America (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala). Seeking to smooth over the current structural violence of capitalism (displacements forced by criminals / State terror), Mexico will destine 25 billion dollars over the next five years for the purpose of creating what Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called a “zone of prosperity.”

To obtain the desired effects, López Obrador has designed the construction of a Maya Train (Tren Maya) on the Yucatán Peninsula, the activation of the Commercial and Railway Corridor on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the planting of one million hectares (2,470,000 acres) of timber and fruit trees, which would generate 400,000 jobs, besides other productive projects that will demand a workforce, with Central Americans included.

According to the State Department, Washington would contribute only 2.5 billion dollars, an amount that would not come from the treasury, but rather would be potential investments and loans from the business sector and multilateral banks, guaranteed by the Overseas Private Investments Corporation (OPIC), [1] a governmental financial institution that facilitates capital for “commercially viable” development projects. More debt, and nothing comparable to the 13 billion dollars (of that epoch) for the Marshall Plan!

López Obrador –who saw the Honduran migrant caravan as “strange” and “suspicious” on the eve of the US elections last November– has rejected the scheme the Trump administration proposed, known as “safe third country,” through which Mexico must accept thousands of Central Americans while US courts decide their fate; what it would mean, in fact, is establishing refugee camps in Mexico.

Since the launch of his electoral campaign in June 2015, Trump made immigration control on the southern border of the United States one of the principal axes of his bilateral policy with Mexico and with Central American countries. At the same time, he demagogically exploited the racist and xenophobic premise that millions of undocumented immigrants born in Mexico were murderers, drug traffickers and rapists (“bad hombres”), and also stealing jobs. In order to stop immigration he proposed constructing a “beautiful wall” and in his rallies you could hear: “build the wall” and “kill them all.”

But the militarization and the extension of a security wall along the 3,169-kilometer (1,954 miles) common border with Mexico are the continuation of Operation Guardian initiated in 1994 preventively by William Clinton (as an ominous complement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), who ordered the construction of 600 kilometers of walls, some 800 barriers and increased surveillance by means of armed helicopters, cutting-edge technology (motion detectors, electronic sensors and night vision equipment) and specialized police.

Since then, with his demonization and criminalization –and beyond Trump’s re-election zeal−, border imperialism has meant a lucrative business for military and security industries that provide the equipment and services for immigration control. With its extension: the neocolonialism of borders, applied now by Washington under the virtual imposition on Mexico of the scheme “safe third country” (or retention zone) in cities like Tijuana.

Strictly speaking, Trump’s negotiations with the government of Enrique Peña Nieto to transform Mexico into a center for immigration detention and asylum processing for natives of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, began in May 2018 and were part of the renegotiation of the TLC.

It was never clear if the Stay in Mexico plan, uncovered by Trump via Twitter, included US funding, as occurs in other current models like that of Australia with Papua Nueva Guinea, of Germany with Austria and of the European Union with Turkey. It’s just that the “safe third country” concept refers to an exception to the right of asylum, and the term “safe” implies a country where human rights and the principle of non–refoulement (not forcing refugees or asylum seekers to return to a country where they will likely face persecution) will be respected, conditions that were not met in the Mexico of Peña Nieto.

On December 20, the United States Department of Homeland Security informed the Mexican Chancellery that, unilaterally and punitively, it would begin to “immediately” expel foreigners to the transit country. In other words, it forced Mexico to be the guardian of migrants that seek asylum in the border nation to the north, and Ebrard accepted it for “humanitarian reasons,” thus becoming an accomplice of Trump’s violations of the legislation of his country and of the law of international protection. So, to avoid a confrontation, somehow Mexico will pay for the “wall.”

[1] The Overseas Private Investments Corporation (OPIC) is the United States government’s development finance institution. It mobilizes private capital to help solve critical development challenges and, in doing so, advances the foreign policy of the United States and national security objectives. See comments in Wikipedia:


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, December 31, 2018

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: