Columns

US involvement in Central America created border crisis

Victor A
Dixon

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

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The current wave of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras has its roots in six decades of US policies carried out by members of both parties.

The US has always seen Central America as its backyard with the resources of these countries being owned by US companies and, under the Monroe Doctrine, has seen itself as being free to intervene militarily in them in order to protect US interests.

For example, in Guatemala, most of the arable land, along with railroad infrastructure and a port, is owned by the United Fruit Company, a US company. In 1954 when President Jacobo Arbenz developed a land redistribution programme which threatened the interests of United Fruit Company there was a coup against his Government, fully backed by the Eisenhower Administration and leading to a decades-long civil war that claimed some 200,000 lives in the 1980s and 1990s.

This set a pattern of military strongmen, juntas and military intervention to prop up right-wing governments, including training the local military in methods of torture, scorched earth and terror, which forced local populations to flee for their own safety.

In El Salvador, in the 1980s, the Ronald Reagan Administration organised and funded the protracted war with the FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front ), a left-wing guerrilla movement and funded counter-insurgency efforts in Honduras, which became a staging ground for the Contras. More than 75,000 people died and civil society collapsed.

Between 1980 and 1991 one million people fled Honduras, mostly to the US, which refused to accept them, and so they joined gangs like MS13 in order to support themselves.

In 2009 there was a military coup against the Government of Manuel Zelaya, who had introduced social and economic reforms to reduce the inequality between the rich and the poor, such as raising the minimum wage, providing subsidies for education, school nutrition, public transportation, and pensions for the elderly. These moves were too disturbing to the country's economic and military elites.

There is no evidence the Barack Obama Administration was involved in the coup, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that it helped in preventing Zelaya's return and aided the junta in consolidating its power in the face of massive non-violent protests.

In subsequent years, horrific repression and a murder rate increase of 53 per cent (the highest in the world) led to tens of thousands of refugees fleeing to the US. These refugees were not accepted by the US Government and most were deported ironically by Hillary Clinton — the very person who had largely precipitated the crisis. Others joined gangs and were imprisoned prior to being deported back to their homeland where they grew stronger.

In the 1990s the US destroyed the Cali and Medellin drug cartels in Colombia under 'Plan Colombia', and in 2006 Mexico launched an all out war against the Mexican cartels which left 70,000 people dead. The cartels sought a new pathway to transport their product, and moved south into Central America, where they encountered gangs ready to participate in a very lucrative trade.

With the drug trade comes violence, as drug gangs compete to protect their territory and product, as well as impose conscriptions on local populations, further adding to the forced migration.

Interestingly, Nicaragua is the one country in the region that successfully resisted US intervention and is now a stable society, free of drug gangs and a migrant problem.

Since the 1950s the US has sown violence and instability in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which are now dangerous places from which thousands of helpless people are fleeing. Decades of US support for corrupt repressive regimes that terrorise their people, its demand for illegal drugs transmitted through these countries, and the war on drugs that was foisted on them have left the US with a moral responsibility to help these refugees.

Building a wall is not the solution, because it addresses the symptom and not the causes of the problem. The solution requires the cessation of the policy of propping up repressive regimes in the region, combined with massive economic aid and the help of international and refugee organisations.

 

victoradixon@yahoo.com

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