THE REASONS OF THE CENTRAL AMERICAN CARAVAN

In mid-October, a caravan of thousands of migrants started walking from San Pedro Sula in the north of
Honduras. This October’s end the caravan is located in the State of Chiapas in Southern Mexico. The goal
of the members of the caravan is to reach the Mexican border with the U.S. and request asylum. The
caravan picked up several thousand people from El Salvador and Guatemala as it made its way. Many
Mexicans have joined in as expressions of support. Many other Mexicans are showing at the campsites
with clothing, water, medical attention, and food. To walk Mexico from South to North is a trip, described
by the many who have made the journey, likened to crossing hell. Unlike the current U.S. government
administration, Mexicans have opened their country and their hearts to the migrants. Disorder at the
border between Guatemala and Mexico was brief but intense. The scuffle at the bridge over the Suchiate
River between migrants and Mexican police lasted but a few minutes. After that, orderly settling down of
migrants in parks took place. Moreover, for now, the migrants are safe from extortion, theft, and attacks
by the gangs that prey on the poorest and vulnerable.

Today there are less than 4 thousand people in the caravan. The majority are families with children and
young people. Many have returned home because they or their children became ill or could not take it
anymore. Many other decided to take the offer by the transition team of incoming Mexican President
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and exiting President Enrique Pena Nieto. More than 1,700 hundred
migrants have requested asylum in Mexico.

What is more noticeable is that the Mexican State under the leadership of the Secretary of the Interior
(Secretaría de Gobernación) is working in unison with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the Inter
American Commission of Human Rights (ICHR) from the Organization of American States (OAS), and
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Many Mexican NGOs, private and
religiously affiliated, and the National Commission of Human Rights are engaged in sheltering,
protecting, and aiding the migrants. Other federal agencies in Mexico, mainly the Health and Defense
Departments are important institutions providing services. Several of these agencies are busy shielding
and defusing discrimination and demagoguery exhibited by uppity social sectors in the country.

All the Mexican and international efforts and assistance are in striking difference with the venomous
rhetoric and hatred of the U.S. President and his administration. They have claimed that the caravan has
Muslims, Middle Eastern terrorists, and criminals in its midst. They also have argued that the migrants
are dangerous invaders. All of these assertions are absurd and fabrications aimed at scaring the
cantankerous base of the president. Dozens of worldwide journalists, members of the Mexican
government, ONGS, and relief agencies have demonstrated the allegations are all outrageous lies.

The U.S. President and the Secretary of Defense are deploying military troops to the border “to prevent
the invasion.” Well-clad soldiers are going to defend the country from invading crowds of women,
children, and young people. The soldiers will defend the country from unarmed people who have walked
thousands of miles and are tired, sunburned, sleepless, and with bleeding feet. Really?

The only aspiration of the Central Americans from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are to request
asylum. They wish for a better life for their children. They want to work. They want to be safe from the
criminal gangs that control Honduras, El Salvador and to a certain degree, Guatemala. They want
acknowledgment of what they are: human beings. Central Americans want the U.S. government to recognize that the country has signed international agreements about refugees. They want the U.S. to be
the human rights country that it has been for decades. They want the U.S. to accept them in the same
way it welcomed refugees from Africa, Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Central American do not want
charity; they want to work and demonstrate they are good people.

The truth that few know is that Hondurans, the majority of the migrants in the caravan, are fleeing from
misery and unacceptable insecurity. More than 70 percent of Hondurans live below the poverty line, and
45 percent exist in extreme poverty. The World Bank defines extreme poverty the conditions under
which people live with less than $1.20 a day. That means that close to 50 percent of Hondurans cannot
purchase a liter of milk ($1.25) or a kilo of rice ($1.21). Not to say a dozen of eggs ($1.95) or bread ($1.60
per kilo). Guatemala and El Salvador share similar dismal economic conditions.

The current president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Celaya took office in November of 2017 amid rampant
voting fraud claims. When Hondurans found out about the fraud, they took to the streets to
demonstrate their anger. The police and the military faced demonstrator with beatings, shootings, and
incarceration. The U.S. government granted support to the illegitimate government with the usual
justification that it was better to have this government than one supported by leftists. The fact is that
the government of Celaya is illegitimate, corrupt, and under siege by the Mara gangs. He has been inept
and incapable of improving the economic conditions and insecurity threat of the majority of Hondurans.
The aid is pouring in from the World Bank, the European Union, and the USAID does not reach the ones
in need. To the contrary, millions of dollars vanish only to reappears in the offshore accounts of military,
politicians, and government officers.

The migrants of the caravan are optimistic and idealistic. They hope the US administration will grant
them asylum. That is highly unlikely with the current Republican government awash with disdain for the
poor, migrants, and Latinos. The best and bright note of all this is that the Mexicans opened the country
to the migrants. Mexicans are showing the generosity and solidarity that characterizes them.

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