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Taking Justice Into Their Own Hands: A Local Perspective on the Honduran Exodus

By Josh Leach and Phil Hamilton on November 20, 2018

For the past several weeks media outlets have shone a spotlight on the exodus of asylum-seekers leaving Central America, many of whom are traveling as part of caravans in an effort to seek safety in the United States. The focus on the caravans has provoked numerous misguided, racist, and xenophobic responses, ranging from threats to cut aid to countries in the region that fail to stop the caravans to the deployment of 5,800 troops to the southwest border, an incendiary mid-term election ploy that was more bluster and bravado and less about action.

Just as members of the exodus are approaching the border, we see President Trump sending troops home in what we know to be the third act in a theatre of the absurd.

To continue our effort to share real information to counter these misguided responses, following are a series of key highlights from an analysis shared by Father Ismael Moreno (Padre Melo), the Director of Radio Progreso, a UUSC partner in Honduras.

Padre Melo’s full analysis is available here in English and Spanish. Additional context is available through our report on the findings of a recent UUSC delegation to Honduras.

1. The caravan is an expression of desperation.

“The phenomenon of caravans is the expression of the desperation of a population for which it is increasingly risky to live in a country that denies employment, public safety or even safety [of any kind]. The caravan is the explosion of a pressure cooker that the Honduran government – in association with a small transnational business elite – has been stirring for at least a decade: a government that has abandoned public social policies and replaced them with social compensation programs, while consolidating a model of development based on investment in the extractive industry and the privatization and selling-off of public goods and services.”

“The public has been increasingly experiencing helplessness and abandonment, a feeling that intensified with the elections of November 2017, when the government was returned to power in violation of the Constitution and awarded a victory that – in the view of about 70 percent of the population – was the result of organized fraud. The public has stopped trusting politicians, the government and private industry. Caravans are a phenomenon that expresses the despair and anguish of a people that has stopped believing in solutions within the country. Their departure is an extreme expression of a people’s decision to take justice into their own hands.”

2. The level of migration is not new.

“The caravan is happening every day; surely the number of people who left in a single day in the caravan leave Honduras continually in less than a month. The caravan has been a silent, rampant, discreet, private, and invisible phenomenon that – with this new explosion – has become a visible, public, and even dignifying caravan.”

3. Corruption and an exploitive development model are among the root causes.

“…the fundamental problem is Honduras in the hands of some alliances that can be named the axis of evil. These alliances are made up of a small political elite that has lived embedded in the State and uses its resources as its property, in collusion with an authentically oligarchic business elite that manages the threads of the entire economy and … is a minor partner of the capital of transnational companies. This triple collusion forms the true Honduran government, which is structured around a model of infinite accumulation at the expense of increasingly denying opportunities to some six million of the nine million Hondurans that make up the population.”

“This axis of evil and its development model, based on the accumulation of wealth with the corrupt control and exploitation of natural assets and the privatization of public goods and services, is where the fundamental answer is to be found to the question of, ‘What are the Hondurans doing and why are they organizing caravans that provoke the attraction of thousands of Hondurans?’”

4. The caravan is, and will be, used to strengthen anti-immigrant efforts in the U.S.

“Surely, the extreme right of Trump is especially interested in capitalizing on this phenomenon to strengthen their anti-migrant effort – one of the fundamental policies of his administration.”

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