On 19 October, thousands of Central American migrants tried to cross the bridge between Guatemala and Mexico, seeking safety up north. News outlets broadcast the painful moans of people being crushed one against the other and the screams of children.
We saw the desperate looks of mothers as authorities in Mexico tried to push back the crowd with batons and pepper spray. The following day, they were permitted to cross over.
The caravan of 7,000, mostly from Guatemala and Honduras, is heading for the United States.
Trump also threatened to cut humanitarian aid to Central American countries. He also announced he was . As the caravan began to receive more attention, people asked: “Why are these people coming to the US?”
Necessity Obliges Us to Leave
As a professor, sociologist and father whose own family once crossed the border of Mexico for a better life in the US, I reflected on this.
Poverty and violence are the main factors driving the caravan. The proliferation of gangs, narcotics trafficking, corruption and impunity are all endemic problems in Honduras and Guatemala.
Honduras is one of the that isn’t a war zone. Droughts and floods have also had devastating consequences on agricultural economies. These people are travelling in a caravan for their own protection, to avoid having to pay a smuggler and to minimize the risk of crime.
A Deadly History of US Involvement
But the roots of their plight are connected to larger issues and hemispheric politics played out over decades. Rage and threats will not make the caravan go away, as noted in a recent by research and advocacy group, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).
Governments cannot prevent citizens from leaving their own countries.
Guatemala provides a great case for how US involvement has contributed to political instability and economic inequality in Central America. The country of , many of whom are of Indigenous descent, elected their second democratically chosen president in 1951.
This crackdown included dropping napalm on Indigenous villages thought to contain guerrilla fighters. Additionally, military soldiers were ordered to “desaparecer” or “disappear” anyone suspected of opposing the government.
About 200,000 people, mostly Indigenous, were killed in the country. These issues continue to reverberate today as the political class colludes with and protects criminal groups.
Honduras also has a long history of US involvement, both economic and military. The began in the late 1890s, when US-based banana companies first became active there. The US military intervened in to protect US interests and further cement the .
Honduras has undergone political turmoil since a 2009 military coup against populist president Manuel Zelaya. The US froze aid but it was restored shortly thereafter.
Similarly in the 2018 election, the results were contested and the country was once again plunged into a political crisis. At least 30 were killed, most of them opponents of , who was accused of rigging the vote.
Migrants Deserve a Fair Chance
The caravan of desperate and hungry migrants from Central America did not create itself. It was created by meddling governments and indifferent neighbours.
While about 1,600 migrants have made official asylum claims in Mexico, many are continuing their journey north and Mexican authorities have not tried to stop the caravan.
In a video message posted to social media (You are at home). The government offered shelter, medical attention, schooling and jobs to the migrants on the condition they seek asylum with the National Immigration Institute and remain in the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.
However, it is unsurprising that Central Americans do not trust their chances for a fair asylum process in Mexico, a country with a high homicide rate and a history of discrimination against migrants.
Just a few days ago a photo was published on social media of a group of racist skinheads in Mexico City leading an anti-Central American caravan campaign.
We need to address the key factors that allowed this caravan to exist. We need to prevent powerful governments from meddling in the affairs of other nations. And we need to sanction those who do.
These migrants deserve a fair hearing, a chance to ask for protection in the US and a timely and fair resolution of their claims. And we need to stop state sponsored violence.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.)
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