Amidst uncomfortable tensions between the United States and the Northern Triangle countries of Central America, El Salvador and Guatemala made a last-minute decision to “postpone” sending their respective diplomatic missions to Washington this week. What was supposed to be a high-level diplomatic meeting to discuss aid, security, and migration cooperation between the US, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras dissolved into political posturing.
U.S. diplomats and Homeland Security officials have sought to promote a partnership with Mexico and the nations of Central America’s Northern Triangle — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — as a key to addressing the gang violence and endemic poverty that fuel illegal migration.
But strains emerged with Guatemala this week after President Jimmy Morales blocked the entry of the head of a U.N.-backed commission that investigates high-level corruption. The body, known as the CICIG, has enjoyed broad U.S. and international support, but Morales said he would not extend its mandate beyond this year. One of the commission’s inquiries targeted possible illegal campaign donations to Morales himself, and his decision to oust the U.N. program drew rebukes from U.S. lawmakers as well as calls to suspend American aid to Guatemala.
The tensions with El Salvador and its leftist government are more geopolitical. After El Salvador severed ties with Taiwan last month, seeking to cultivate closer ties to China, Washington recalled its diplomats in protest of the move, which Salvadoran officials characterized as an economic decision.