If you want to see what foreign policy under a President Hillary Clinton would be like, then look to where she has done her business without being observed or constrained.
In Guatemala, Clinton’s policy gave protection to militia gangs that tyrannized rural people, took their freedoms away, and blocked them from economic opportunities. Poverty was deepened—with the consequence that many fled to the US to look for opportunities they could not find at home.
Clinton was so committed to this policy that in 2014, a year after leaving the Department of State, she called the president of Guatemala to pressure him to reappoint Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, the executor of the policy.
Under a Clinton presidency, a sharp hike in illegal immigration from Central America would be a virtual guarantee.
Twenty years ago, a US ambassador astutely observed that Guatemala had become the new southern border of the US. Today, Guatemala’s 540-mile Mexican border with 132 points of entry—vividly described by journalist Richard Pollock –is the jumping-off point for undocumented people from all over the world who want to enter the US.
The underground railroad from Guatemala to the US is a well-established route. In 2014, a group of US reporters including this writer traveled to the Guatemalan border region, where we met with a “coyote” or smuggler of humans.
The coyote, who called himself Juan, gave us a detailed explanation of how his business works.
Juan’s people have discounts with bus companies and hotels along the two-thousand-mile route to the US border. They pay off several levels of Mexican officialdom, as well as criminal cartels, so they may move their human cargo through the country without incident and even in comfort.
The trip takes four days, in air-conditioned buses and with nightly stops at hotels. Juan told us he has no trouble passing his clients across the US frontier. Indeed, he and his fellow-smugglers deliver their charges to their final destinations—all the way to addresses in New England or the Pacific Northwest, if need be.
The price is about $6,000 per person—an amount that would seem prohibitive for someone running from poverty. But the coyotes, despite their fearsome reputation, are familiar and friendly faces in the communities from which refugees come. The coyotes keep contact with the people they’ve carried to the US. In this enterprise, a feeling of community prevails.
The smuggling business is also popular with people from other countries. Even in 2014, before the massive exodus from Syria, authorities told us that Middle Eastern people were passing through Guatemala on their way to the US. This year, officials told us the same thing.
Guatemalans who go to the US remain strongly tied to their places of origin. Obviously, they would much prefer to stay at home. For some years, their problem has been that Madame Secretary and other US officials have imposed an anti-capitalist ideology that snuffs out their best efforts and, perversely, impels them toward the US.
Donald Trump’s program, by contrast, is a perfect match for prospective immigrants and their main desire: to be able to enjoy, at home, the kinds of opportunities they must now seek in the US.
In the US, Trump has proposed to break the collusion between powerful special interests and big government—a combination that hurts the interests of smaller players. Trump would lower tax rates and eliminate regulations that presently help larger businesses squeeze out smaller ones.
Given that small businesses are the main engine of the US economy, such a reform all by itself would make for a significant increase in economic growth. This very prescription is also what Guatemala and other Latin countries need in order to climb out of underdevelopment and release their vast potential.
Trump has already shown that he can deal in a productive way with Latin leaders. In his visit with Mexico’s president, he not only managed to represent US interests in an amiable and convincing way; he threaded the needle in a complex relationship that has frustrated a succession of US presidents.
Compare that with Hillary Clinton’s main Latin American venture, in which she backed a Guatemalan minister who enforced a retrograde and violent anti-Americanism.
Trump’s economic policies would also have a special appeal for Hispanics in the US. Those audiences would cheer for reforms in their old societies that encourage competition based on the price/quality of goods and services, which is the surest way to spread wealth.
The resulting development would remove the incentive to flee to the US. It could also lead expatriates, especially undocumented ones, to return to their home countries.
In a few days, American voters will decide this issue among many others. Will we continue to treat our neighboring countries as Hillary Clinton has treated Guatemala? Or do we prefer healthy neighbors who are free to find their potential with our help?
Steve Hecht has just produced a mini-documentary, “From Hillary With Love,” that details Clinton’s role in Guatemala. David Landau contributed to this article.