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Why the exodus from Central America?

From the Editors  |  Issue: February | March 2019

While the latest migrant caravan from Central America was crossing Mexico, people greeted our sisters and brothers and their children with prepared food, water, blankets and shelter.

At the end of their trek, they were tired and hungry but hopeful as they arrived at the gates of the United States asking for asylum. There, border patrol agents in riot gear met them with tear gas at gunpoint.

After the first tear-gas incident in December 2017, manufactured public opinion began to spew hate. There were some who dared to criticize the migrants for putting their children in harm’s way, rather than criticize the border patrol agents who followed President Trump’s immoral orders to shoot.

We’re compelled again to ask why the exodus from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala? We ask this not as a defensive gesture. We do so armed with facts in order to take the offensive against the anti-immigrant messages coming from the White House.

Cartel violence and impunity sanctioned by the local governments, together with poverty and climate change are the key factors. They are all intertwined. It’s not one thing, it is all of these things.

The violence in these Central American countries has been well documented since their inception. Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine sealed their fates as colonies and neocolonies of the United States. Their location on the map made them central to U.S. control of all of Latin America. More recently this area, particularly Honduras, has become indispensable to the drug cartels.

In Honduras, the breakdown of civil society and of democracy can be traced back to the ouster of its president, Manuel Zelaya, in June 2009.

In Guatemala, the United States provided extensive aid to the Guatemalan military during the country’s civil war between 1960 and 1996, a conflict which killed an estimated 200,000 people.

Today that violence continues under Guatemala’s president, Jimmy Morales, who came to power with the support of some of the most reactionary elements of the country’s military and, yes, with the support of the United States.

In El Salvador, during the 1980s there was a civil war between the Salvadoran people and the U.S.-supported oligarchs and generals who had ruled for decades. Billions of dollars in economic and military aid were poured into El Salvador, where President Reagan was set to draw the line against communism.

In terms of the economies of these countries, you can find the “Made in the U.S.A.” seal on the 2006 Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

In Honduras, for example, Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, and Gildan Activewear are three of the biggest North American corporations. They employ around 25 percent of maquiladora workers.

Fruit of the Loom alone employs approximately 24,000 workers in Honduras and El Salvador. Nike and Adidas also subcontract production to maquiladoras. Together they have about 30 outsourcing companies in Honduras alone.

With climate change in Central America comes food insecurity. People in the region who depend on small farms are painfully aware of changes to weather patterns that can ruin crops and decimate incomes.

In summation, the United States has played and still plays an active role in creating the conditions that force people to leave. The exodus will continue, until the United States stops its involvement on the side of the oppressors and exploiters of Central America.

Oops, they can’t do that, because the U.S. government with its pro-corporate policies, will have to look at itself in the mirror.

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