Those “Mexican” Countries

It’s no wonder Donald Trump loves Fox News. In the annals of stupidity, they are fellow over-achievers.

Paul Krugman’s recent newsletter referenced the most recent evidence (as if we needed any) that Fox is not a legitimate news outlet:

Social media had a field day after “Fox & Friends Weekend” opened its show with a banner reading “Trump cuts off aid to three Mexican countries.” It was a stupid error, but also revealing: Clearly, a lot of the staff at Fox think all them brown people are the same.

And meanwhile, Trump is trying to cut off aid to a fourth Mexican country — one that happens to be part of the United States, home to three million U.S. citizens.

What that Fox banner was about was Trump’s order to the State Department to cut off all aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, countries that have recently been the source of many would-be migrants to the U.S. Leaving aside the reality that the “border crisis” is a figment of Trump’s imagination, what, exactly, is this aid cutoff supposed to accomplish?

The cutoff will, after all, make the conditions that have led some central Americans to flee their homes even worse, increasing their incentive to try to move north. So what are the governments of these nations supposed to do? Erect barriers to keep their people in?

The insanity of Trump’s approach was highlighted by an email I received from a friend. Dick Patterson is a  retired academic who used to live in Indiana, and who wrote about his recent trip to those “Mexican” countries.

In January, 2018 I joined an Indiana Audubon Society birding trip to northern Honduras. We flew in to San Pedro Sula, a small city in the north. I had never before heard of San Pedro Sula, but it was an attractive small city. Little did I know that it was a hotbed for gang violence and was soon going be the starting point for columns of migration north.

The view from the airplane of the ground below was of square miles of banana plantations, followed by more square miles of what I learned were pineapple plantations…  I was told that the plantation hires local people as laborers, but don’t provide permanent jobs because the company does not want to pay benefits. The jobs are in the tropical sun and the workers are exposed to toxic chemicals.

Honduras has more than bananas and pineapple plantations. Palm oil, cacao, sugar cane and coffee are also grown. The plantations take up most of the good farmland, with Chiquita and Dole taking up 60%.

In 2018 president Hernandez ran for a second term. Despite the fact that the constitution allows only one term, he won. Our birding guide, an extremely intelligent civic-minded man, just shrugged his shoulders, and said he just had to get on with his life.

In summary, a corrupt banana republic.

Is it any wonder that the best job available is to join a gang that extorts money from local businesses? Or that hordes of people see no future there? And now Trump wants to cut off foreign aid because they can’t keep everybody home in these conditions.

We could help by pressuring the American fruit corporations to clean up their act. Cutting off foreign aid will only make a bad situation worse.

Making a bad situation worse might just be the mantra of American foreign policy. How many times, in how many situations, have we pursued what State Department naifs conceived of as our short-term advantage only to find that we had undermined our long-term interests?

With the “election” of a man who has zero understanding of geopolitics, who sees every interaction as a zero-sum game and every country other than Russia as either a competitor or an enemy, we have abandoned even the pretense of a rational foreign policy. We now have a “Christian warrior” as Secretary of State, a President who is incapable of understanding cause and effect, and a Republican propaganda machine that labels all countries south of the border as “Mexican.”

It’s an embarrassing time to be an American.


  1. Did you call Fox News the “anus of stupidity”?

    On this, we agree.

    We cut off aid to get the people to rebel against their leaders so we can install USA friendly leaders. How many times have we taken these actions?? And yet, Americans still don’t get our foreign policy. Look at our Middle East policy…one coup after another and a couple of them foiled by Russia. We are trying the same thing in Venezuela.

    It’s the CIA and the military working for “Chiquita and Dole taking up 60%.”

    When you’re an Oligarchy, the government works for them–not the people. Every single institution today is rotten because they fail to serve the people.

    Greed is predictable. Power is predictable. Greed and power will be our downfall.

    Or, should I say, greed and power IS our downfall.

  2. The ignorance on display in this country makes it no wonder the world is looking at us like we have lost our collective minds – we have! The reason the Klown is still mouthing off is because the ignorance behind him is stronger than we who still like to think we have a brain, thought. My diagnosis: The stupid will not end – until it is ENDED. And that end of this Nation’s time span, must be pretty soon, because this situation cannot continue to stand – We are NOT a democracy we are a nation, a civilization – in decline, and led by a Fool.

  3. It’s not very often that this country has a coherent foreign policy, but I think we can all agree that our current state of affairs is unmatched in all of history. In addition to his Western Hemisphere gaffs, it appears he’s trying to solve the Mid-East problem by recognizing Israel’s hegemony over the region. Were you looking for a two state solution? Get over it. The only way that will happen is if the two states are Israel and Saudi Arabia.

    It’s a really bad day when the only thing to be thankful for in foreign policy is that Mike Pompeo isn’t as smart as John Foster Dulles., a past master at overthrowing governments.

  4. The Three Stooges; Trump, Pence and McConnell have hired the Keystone Kops (i.e. the misuse of ICE) to oversee and resolve our “Mexican problems” at the southern border. The responsibilities of ICE were to weed out terrorists attempting to come into this country and stop the drug trafficking; they resorted to arrest and kidnapping babies and small children. Finding excuses to cut aid to foreign countries led Trump to deny disaster aid to American citizens in Puerto Rico then added denial of disaster aid to California victims of the worst wildfires in their history for not raking the forests of brush. The fact that 60% of those forests are federal properties is as far beyond The Three Stooges understanding as the fact that Puerto Rico is an American territory subject to our laws and taxation, thus deserving of disaster relief which their taxes help pay for.

    “It’s an embarrassing time to be an American.” And that embarrassment has no bounds.

  5. Todd, I have not until this morning, upon reading your post, considered the retentive physiology of stupidity. ?

  6. Perhaps, The Duck’s deep knowledge of geography is why he is soft on Russia. He thinks it is part of Israel!

  7. Trump rules by gut instinct because his brain isn’t working. Cutting aid to the three Central American countries will only exacerbate our border problems as the already bad conditions become worse for citizens of those three countries. Brilliant move, Don!

    It would help if Trump would repopulate the various “desks” now empty in the State Department, especially the Latin-American desk, but with career diplomats and not recent graduates of Liberty University. We need expertise in our approach to solution of the problem, not brawls to make political points but, unfortunately, that is not likely to happen in an administration more concerned with political optics than real solution of the problem.

    I therefore conclude, reluctantly, that nothing will be done about real solution of the exodus of migrants to our border from these three nations on the brink of failed state status until, hopefully, we have a change in administration in November, 2020. I have even considered that Trump does not want a solution because it would remove his description of these asylum seekers as “animals” and fodder for his racist tweets and Fox News’ stamp of approval, a rather cynical but perhaps accurate description of geopolitics in Trumpworld, and if Trump thinks we have a border problem now, he hasn’t seen anything yet, as in, what if those three Central American states fail and the gangs take over? See any problems?

  8. For you people that think our abuse of Latin America and Mexico began with President Agent Orange – think again. The brutality of our American Foreign Policy has a long history. A binary thought process of thinking of America the Beautiful in Latin America before President Agent Orange is deeply flawed.

    Two time Medal of Honor recipient Major General Smedley D. Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940). Quotes,

    “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

    I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street.

    I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912.
    I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.

    Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
    Since General Butler’s day we can add more interventions in Latin America. President Agent Orange has in his direct manner exposed what has been always American Foreign Policy in Latin America – Get in line and obey or else.

  9. Trump’s untutored, scatological mind lacks knowledge on most things and expertise on all. Searchers for truth know to look at what Trump says and then turn 180 degrees for the facts. Since nothing he says is accurate, all is driven by childlike gut instincts and vindictiveness, and the rest is a series of ego-driven lies. All of this comes down to the reality that nothing he mumbles about is worth paying attention to, yet he drives the news cycle all day every day. Somebody needs to babysit him so he doesn’t injure himself and the rest of us, but can’t we simply stop covering his every whiny, self-pitying plea for attention and calling it “breaking news?” It’s all irrelevant to the management of the country and our lives. Listening to MSNBC debate about how to parse his meaningless prattle is a waste of precious radio frequency bandwidth. Wouldn’t it be elevating to listen to experts discuss in-depth about how to address the immigration problem or how to cope with Russian aggression or how to deal with Maduro’s depravity? Let’s silence this man’s voice completely and force him to say something semi-reasonable before we reward him with our attention.

  10. I agree with Terry. I keep wondering why the news media maintains its 24/7 coverage of Trump and then I remember: It’s the sponsors.

  11. First, kneeling before corporate America (Dole; Chiquita) is typical of Republican politics these days. Gosh, what will happen when all the available Honduran workers leave the country? Who will pick the fruit then, the gangsters?

    Second, the daily observations about the total incompetence and backward thinking by this administration are all starting to sound the same. There will be NO change to this as long as Trump and his “best people” keep screwing up.

    Third, why aren’t we talking about the drug use situation in OUR country? Why are we not addressing the constant demand for drugs by millennials, war veterans, the inner-city poor and just about everyone else who needs some sort of white powder to get through their day? Without the extreme demand, most of the crime goes away, no?

  12. Trump haters have NO legitimate complaints. So they nit- pick about nothing more than a grammar pho-pa. It DOES seem that his critics ARE guilty of everything that they falsely accuse the President of . Hillary lost the election in spite of her efforts to steal it like she stole the nomination . Why don’t all you whiners Do just what Antony Scalia said , ” Get over it !”

  13. Mark,

    Oh, we’re over it, just like we’re over ostriches and seditionists like you. You have a right to your opinions, of course, but with that right also comes the right to continue to make a fool of yourself.

    No, Trump’s critics are NOT guilty of what Trump says and does. We don’t lie to everyone every day. We don’t cheat on our taxes. We don’t coddle our enemies. We are not traitors. We do not conduct un-Constitutional policies. We do not hire Nazis to be our immigration advisors. We don’t hire criminals to be our campaign managers. We don’t denigrate women, nor ridicule our institutions.

    So, you may have to accept those differences between Trump critics and Trump adherents. Or, as Antonin Scalia once said, “Get over it!”

  14. Thank you, as always, Sheila,

    This piece strikes and very deep chord with me in given what I studied in school under the umbrella of international relations. Years ago, during the early 1980s, I took an area study course on Central American politics and I was absolutely horrified by what I learned from the readings for that class that I didn’t really know beforehand. I learned that the countries of “The Northern Triangle” had been, essentially, American vassal states that provided almost slave labor in order to provide cheap fruit for American breakfast tables. I learned that we supported brutal dictators paid them and their equally corrupt governments large sums of money under the table so that companies like the American Fruit Company and Standard Brands could make out like bandits and ripping off the locals. I learned about the Campesinos, essentially tenant farmers that eek out their own sustenance on hillsides throughout the region that were often terrorized by their own corrupt governments backed by this country.

    I read about the death squads that were often trained by our own Central Intelligence Agency and other paramilitary groups that were employed by the brutal dictatorships to keep their people in line while they themselves looted the countries that they ruled with iron fists. I read about priests that would be murdered because they dared to confront the governments in the countries in which they lived. All of which made me realize that our government, in collusion with American business, did things in our names that we knew nothing about and did so interacting with people that we would never allow in our own living rooms.

    What is so horrifying about all this, beyond what we see, hear or read about almost every day is it we are in a large way responsible for the chaos that is consuming El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and also Nicaragua. By running those countries the way that we basically did for decades we both overtly and inadvertently degraded the ability of the peoples of these countries to create sustainable standards of living as well as law and order in their own countries and they’re still living in the aftermath of this situation, being unable to rise above the chaos that they are stuck in.

    What really needs to happen is the absolute opposite of what the current administration is proposing to do-cutting off American aid to these countries what little or no aid going to Nicaragua in any case. If Trump is concerned about the numbers of legitimate refugees trekking all the way through Mexico to seek asylum in the United States now just wait till the impact of these cuts really hits these countries and they collapse. We need to create, and not just by ourselves but perhaps through the Organization of American States and international aid organizations, something akin to a Marshall Plan for Central America.

    Just as Secretary of State George Catlett Marshall envisioned in regard to the plan that bore his name that saved Western Europe from economic and societal collapse 70 years ago, we would be doing something that would not only save this region but also protect our own national security in the process. General Marshall was smart enough, actually brilliant enough, to see that if Western Europe got itself back on its feet with the help that we could provide it would be a bulwark against Soviet expansion and build itself back up to the level that it was prior to the Second World War and then grow and grow economically and societally far beyond that which it most certainly did do.

    The same thinking needs to be applied to Central America because if those countries could be helped to be economically and societally stable we would not have the refugee problem and that the people that are frantically trying to get here to escape the terror and economic collapse that they’re dealing with at home would not need to leave their homes. Obviously in terms of funding and organization this would be a very complicated effort and would require several years to pull off but it makes more sense than turning this country into an armed camp with walls for borders and inhumane immigration and asylum policies as this current administration is bent on implementing that will ultimately be highly counterproductive in many ways.

    America, this country, in spite of all our flaws and all the times where we fall short of the promises that we hold dear and that the rest of the world also holds dear, must regain its moral compass not only to help these people and to also ensure our place in the world as a counterbalance to those nations that want to change the world into something that no one in their right mind would really want to have come to pass. No other country but this one can do that and all of this would be a big step in that direction to regain some semblance of the moral authority we have shown at times. We need to work as hard as we can come up with a sustainable plan, with the help of partners, to help those that still see this country as the beacon of freedom and liberty instead of, given our current internal political situation, having those long held hopes dashed in such a cruel and counterproductive way.

    To do otherwise we might as well tell the French to come to New York Harbor and begin the dismantling of the Statue of Liberty in order to take it back home since we’re no longer worthy of having such a tribute to liberty here in America.

  15. General Marshall allowed President Truman to put Marshall’s name on Truman’s plan. HST just wanted to get it done and did not care whose name was on the plan.

  16. I have listened to so many contributors to MSNBC and the like have come on and mentioned what we all know and that is as long as we continue to repeat (and show soundbites) of Trump’s non stop combo of ignorant and downright incendiary comments we simply allow him to to do the thing he loves best: wallow in himself at both the beginning and ending of each day. No, the contributors don’t say that but they come close. And in response to this country’s governmental interference and dishonesty, warmongering, and all around rotten behavior I say, for such a young country we should be amazed at how we managed to accomplish all that in a much shorter time span than all those older countries. Although, the immigrants from such places stepped upon these shores armed with all sorts of inherent ideas.

  17. Dole is a privately owned US corporation, owned by a man who defrauded shareholders to take the company private and Chiquita is owned by a Swiss (partnering with Brazilian?) large corporation.

  18. Tom,

    Thanks for the history lesson, sordid though it may be. From a larger view, capitalism, allowed to run its vicious course through “under-developed” countries, creates another blight on the human condition. It does so willingly for profit. Corruption, human abuse and violence don’t matter to these “industries”. Add to all that you reported the drug demands of our undisciplined, spoiled and self-indulgent people demanding them, and you have a perfect stew of horror. We are being governed by the worst person in the world, yet these people are streaming here to escape their countries. It underscores how horrible it must be to live in those Central American countries.

  19. This bit got to me: “Our birding guide, an extremely intelligent civic-minded man, just shrugged his shoulders, and said he just had to get on with his life.”

    I think that’s what a lot of us in the US keep doing: We shrug and get on with our lives.

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