Oct 29, 2018
The migrant caravan that is estimated at 7,000 to 8,000 people began in Honduras and is now making its way through Mexico. Some will stop in Mexico. But most are walking thousands of miles north to the U.S. border. Over the last years, there have been many smaller caravans of hundreds of people that have gotten little or no publicity. And many more are expected in the coming months, U.S. officials admit.
Obviously, for the people making this difficult and perilous journey of thousands of miles on foot, banding together serves several purposes. Traveling together provides a certain security against gangs that regularly prey on migrants. It is also a lot safer and cheaper than hiring a coyote, which can cost up to $10,000 per person. And, it is also a form of protest against impossible living conditions.
Most of the people in the caravan are from Honduras, a small Central American country. These migrants know what’s in store for them if they do finally make it to the U.S. border. Not only arrest and a long detention, but possible deportation. Migrants say they are forced to try to make the journey in order to save their lives; that they are being driven by abject poverty, joblessness, as well as the plague of armed violence. Many making the trip are families with newborns and other children, and pregnant women escaping life-or-death situations or lives of poverty.
“If I stay here, I will die,” one desperate young mother told a reporter, as she began her journey.
These barbaric conditions are a product of U.S. economic and military domination that dates back more than a century. U.S.-based banana companies first became active in Honduras in the late 1890s. These banana companies bought up land at a dizzying pace. They built railroads, established their own banking systems, and turned all of Honduras into a one-crop economy, whose wealth was carried off to New Orleans, New York and Boston. In the process, these companies drove millions of peasants off the land.
To safeguard U.S. investments, the U.S. military invaded and occupied the country in 1907 and 1911. U.S. aid was mainly centered on building up the most important institution in Honduras: the military. Heads of government came and went, sometimes as military dictators, sometimes as supposedly democratically-elected “presidents.” But the military remained the guarantor of order. It was used to control elections, break strikes, etc.
In the 1970s and 1980s, guerrilla movements broke out, challenging U.S.-imposed regimes in countries bordering Honduras, including El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. In response, the U.S. military used Honduras like its own aircraft carrier. The U.S. built military bases for tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and mercenaries to fight these three wars. This militarization of the country created economic chaos and widespread misery, thus setting the stage for the first wave of Honduran immigrants into the U.S.
After the wars ended in the early 1990s, conditions did not improve. The civil wars left behind tens of thousands of young people from broken families. That reality, combined with extreme inequality and policies of mass incarceration of youth, led to the build-up of enormous gangs that operate hand-in-hand with the police. One Honduran government commission admitted that 70 percent of the police are “beyond saving.” It concluded: “a series of powerful local groups, connected to political and economy elites ... manage most of the underworld activities in the country. They have deeply penetrated the Honduran police.” The government’s answer to police corruption was just more militarization; the army patrolling the streets.
The violence of the police, the army and the gangs pushed up the murder rate in Honduras to become the highest in the world. And the continuing joblessness has left Honduras one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, with two-thirds of the population living in poverty. All the while, rich coffee and banana plantations, along with factories that produce garments and wiring harnesses for cars, churn out big profits for the capitalist class in the U.S. and around the world.
Under both Democrats and Republicans, the U.S. continues to impose its rule. In 2009, the Obama administration supported a military coup that overthrew an elected president, because he tried to establish economic relations with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. In December 2017, the Trump administration backed the U.S.-sponsored dictator, who openly stole his own election in order to remain in office.
Donald Trump might call the migrants fleeing the country “terrorists” and “gangsters,” but the real terrorists are the ones calling the shots and enforcing the dictatorships – Washington, D.C. and Wall Street.