Political Crisis in Central America Prompts Migrant Caravan Moving Towards US

© REUTERS / Ueslei MarcelinoCentral American migrants, who are part of a caravan of migrants trying to reach the United States, hitchhike on a truck along the highway as they continue their journey in Tapachula, Mexico October 22, 2018
Central American migrants, who are part of a caravan of migrants trying to reach the United States, hitchhike on a truck along the highway as they continue their journey in Tapachula, Mexico October 22, 2018 - Sputnik International
This week’s mass migration of Hondurans has a long history and deep roots related to poverty and inequality endemic in the country, as well as to a deep political crisis.

"The Hondurans are ones of the most hurt people in Central America. It’s not surprising that they resort to migration to try to survive and seek the opportunities denied by their country of origin,” Rodolfo Pastor, a member of the Partido Libre Partido Libre and spokesman for the Opposition Alliance, which sought to defeat Juan Orlando Hernández during the 2017 elections in Honduras, told Sputnik.

Political Crisis and “Authoritarian Regime” in Honduras

Pastor recalled that the current president sought re-election “against the Constitution, through the institutional manipulation that allowed him to monopolize the control of State institutions”, which resulted in the 2017 election results being challenged for more than a month.

According to the Organization of American States (OAS), “the narrow margin of results, as well as the irregularities, errors and systemic problems that have surrounded this election, don’t allow the mission to be certain about the results.”

Honduran migrants board trucks sending them back to Honduras, after they crossed the border into Guatemala illegally in their bid to reach the U.S., in Agua Caliente, Guatemala October 17, 2018. - Sputnik International
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The support for that tainted election was offered by one of the US government representatives in the country. “There was a media show where the business manager of the US embassy in Honduras, Heide Fulton, was accompanied by the president of the Superior Electoral Court, David Matamoros, to publicly say that the process had been clean, the results were correct and that they supported the re-election of Juan Orlando Hernández,” Pastor said.

The episode was added to a long list of US meddlings in the internal politics of Honduras, and provoked a series of street protests that left many dead with many more being detained, similar to what had happened in 2013, after the previous elections. Pastor himself suffered a series of threats that forced him to leave the country at the end of 2017.

“In addition to the endemic problems of poverty and inequality that the region suffers, Honduras also suffers a decomposition of the political system and the establishment of an authoritarian regime that has dedicated itself to using force to repress the people and consolidate a practically dictatorial power,” he said.

US Interference

On October 11, in Washington, Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, met with Presidents of Honduras and Guatemala, Vice president of El Salvador and the Mexican Foreign Minister to follow up on the “Alliance for Prosperity” (Alianza para la Prosperidad). During the meeting the US envoy stressed the importance of containing the increase in immigration.

“It’s a kind of cooperation with Latin America that has been proposed by the US. The program focuses on the so-called Northern Triangle, that is, in the countries most afflicted by violence – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras,” Pastor said.

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This new Alliance mostly funds strengthening the Army, local police and justice systems of the Northern Triangle countries. It didn’t start with Donald Trump; it goes back to the government of Obama and his Vice President, Joe Biden.

“The enemy is no longer communism, but drug trafficking and the war against drugs, where Central America is an obligatory step from the producer in the south to the consumer in the north,” he summarized.

Even the organization’s name is similar to the “Alliance for Progress” (Alianza para el Progreso), meant for the development of Latin America, which John F. Kennedy implemented in the early 1960s.

Similar strategies have been applied in different countries at different times: the Colombia Plan, the Mérida Plan and a program called the “Central American Regional Security Initiative”, which “implies a change in priorities but guarantees the control and alliances of the US over the region,” Pastor told Sputnik.

Increase in Migration

The migration of Hondurans has been increasing during that process and doing it in “caravans” is not new either. Traveling in large groups protects people from organized crime and road violence. According to Pastor, apart from the 60 thousand Hondurans that benefited from a temporary status program that was offered in 1998 after hurricane Mitch – a benefit that Trump has announced he would cancel – there’re about a million illegal migrants from Honduras in the US at the moment.

“Honduran migration has been accelerating in congruence with the political and economic deterioration of the country. The levels of social violence, human rights violations, deaths of journalists and activists have increased. We can even create a timeline of that deterioration.”
The groups of Honduran migrants are even distinguished from those of  El Salvador and Guatemala by their distinctive battle cry – “Out JOH!” (¡Fuera JOH! — Juan Orlando Hernández).

A man carries a child along other Hondurans fleeing poverty and violence, as they move in a caravan toward the United States, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras October 13, 2018 - Sputnik International
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“One of the reason that the situation has become politicized is that people began to link the deterioration of their living conditions with the imposition of a person for whom not only did they not vote, but they voted against and were denied the possibility to get him out in 2013 and 2017,” Pastor said.

He added that “there is a general annoyance among the population,” particularly among the poorest, which are six of the nine million inhabitants of the country. Four million live below the poverty line.

“These are the people who see how a privileged class lives at the expense of their misery and they reject that. We can hear “¡Fuera JOH!” everywhere, from the political opposition to common people; it is not only aimed at the President, but against the system he represents. It’s against the system that has been mistreating all these people,” Pastor concluded.

Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Rodolfo Pastor and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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