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The Honduran exodus: From the American dream to the Mexican nightmare

On October 12th past more than 5,000 men, women, and children began a journey north towards the United States to which other migrants from El Salvador and Guatemala also joined in a search for better living conditions. How to explain this sudden massive human flow? How can somebody risk their lives and that of their family for an uncertain future?

People from Honduras have migrated for years, it is estimated that an average of 400 people exits the country a day. If this figure is added to other figures of other countries of the region, the number of migrants who search for the “American dream” would total 500,000 people a year.

Extreme poverty, lack of dignified employment, a precarious healthcare system, growing inequality and lack of political freedom that Hondurans have faced for decades are just some of the causes which explain the need for these citizens to abandon their country. Besides a society diminished by a structural violence and a strong presence of narcotrafficking influenced groups and the “maras” (criminal gangs.)

This obscure scenario is also accompanied by the elite and businessmen that have governed Honduras with the support of the United States, which is only interested in their economic interests and that of their multinational companies. The migrants who now live and work in the U.S. send millions back to Honduras by working hard jobs which feed the weak Central American economy. Between January and July of this year, these remittances accrued a total of US $2,349 million, 9% more than in 2017.

This massive exodus is not casual; it was prepared like many other journeys. It is escaping for survival, but also a form of protest from those who consider themselves forgotten and aggravated by the dominating elites and their current President Juan Orlando Hernández, who, in spite of accusations of being fraudulently elected, maintains office with the support of the United States.

Hondurans flee their country because the government never guaranteed their right to not migrate, to have a dignified life because they destroyed their traditional crops, they took their land for the benefit of the narcotraffikers and valuable multinational companies, this is why they have nothing and risk everything. This is the only way to understand the uncertainness of a dangerous 1,800-mile journey across Mexican territory. If they travel alone Women have a high likelihood of being raped or sold as sex slaves, children and youngsters of being kidnapped, recruited or killed by narcotraffikers and in the best case scenario be extorted by Mexican corrupt emigration officers. Therefore this caravan works as a protective shield for many.

A problem without a solution

This massive migrant dynamic is not new but is becoming more frequent in Latin America. It is the same as the Haitians that travel to Brazil since 2010 (an estimated 90,000) or Venezuelans into Colombia since 2014 (close to a million). This trend is the result of social and institutional problems of failed states, without capacity and no intention or reaction.

The migrant exodus produces issues both in the exiting countries as for the arriving countries. Mexico is one of the countries with greater history and more migrants to the United States, which could suppose a greater understanding of what happens with its neighbors, but this is not the case.

As soon as the Mexican government knew about the caravan it stated it would not allow people to enter without their respective documents and authorizations and also said that people that did not comply with their demands would be arrested. The border authorities reinforced their presence and the aggressions were on the rise. However, later they changed their repressive statements and said they would process refugee requests for those willing to stay in their country, but these were the announcements of the salient administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, who did not really care for the border problems or that of the migrants.

Despite having a new migratory policy Mexico has not effectively consolidated human rights protection practices for the migrants exiting, in transit or that stay in their country. It is a signatory of all the agreements and conventions with respect to migrants and their families but does not comply with any of them; it requests for its nationals in the U.S. what they deny to Central Americans.

Migrant exodus are not easy to manage as no city, region or country can tend and care for  populational movements of this size; meaning a collaborative work between local, state and federal authorities. This requires a real political will through bilateral and multilateral agreements to help design effective solutions to solve the causes of migrant flows. It also needs the participation and appraisement of:

  • What civil organizations do
  • The academic community
  • Local organisms
  • The migrant themselves to work more assertively with those who take decisions.

As the caravan advances, the speeches in favor and against are posted daily in the newspapers. While many people come to support the caravan with food, shelter and words of encouragement, other people and authorities harass them, shout their hatred in a xenophobic and discriminating scenario.

Political manipulation

The Honduran exodus has faced political manipulation. For the Honduran government, those who organized the mobilization were the political opponents to President Hernández, to discredit him. Even the Honduran Ambassador to the United States filtered a false video of supposed youngsters giving money to migrants, accusing the caravan of narcotrafficking.

In México, the new administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hoped to suit everybody and invented a new program called “Estás en tu casa” (You’re at Home) offering employment, healthcare, and education to migrants if they agreed to stay in the poorer states of Chiapas and Oaxaca. This initiative hoped to stop the progress of the caravan to the north, but was rejected.

Donald Trump has been who has most political use has had of the Honduran exodus. In face of the upcoming mid-term elections where he is in risk of losing the majorities in the house and a third in the Senate, the migrant caravan serves him to launch his repressive border control and accuse the caravan of being infiltrated by Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists and narcotraffikers.

Trump has not only intimidated the governments of Central America threatening to eliminate economic support but has also warned Mexico he would cancel the recently signed economic agreement which replaced NAFTA and has also shown signs of sending troops to the border. These threats have made the Central American presidents react and act fearful as always, and try to discredit and stop the migrant caravan.

The exodus advances amid personal, family, social and political difficulties. Many have ceased their efforts or have not supported the harsh conditions of the migration and have returned or have stayed on the way and exposed to the aforementioned dangers. Not all of them will arrive to the border, but the achievement of many will turn this effort in a success. They are awaited on the other side with hatred, threat, aggression, and a militarized territory.


Consejo Editorial