On October 13th, in the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras – the crime capital of the world for two years running – a caravan full of people desperate to escape the oppression and violence of their country decided to undertake a journey to make its way across the US border. There are now nearly 10,000 migrants, not only from Honduras, but also neighbouring countries such as Guatemala and El Salvador. On the 14th of November, events took a turn as hundreds of these migrants reached Tijuana, the Mexican city bordering the United States, with thousands more to be expected. The sight that greets them is not so welcoming, as they get their first glimpse of the 5,600 troops sent down by Trump to discourage them on their quest.
To understand why this is happening, the events need to be traced back nearly ten years. In 2009, a coup d’état was led in Honduras in order to oust the democratically-elected, increasingly left-wing president Manuel Zelaya. The US involvement, notably that of then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton, helped prevent the country going back to a constitutional rule by continuing to provide financial aid to Honduras and ignoring its responsibility to intervene by claiming it was not legally a coup. Suspiciously, the leader of the coup, Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, had attended the School of the Americas, a US Army training program also known as ‘School of Assassins’ for its students’ known involvements in coups. The US refusal to acknowledge this as a breach of the law has since then allowed Honduras to dwindle into an oppressive regime, run by a conservative government that is sucking out the country’s natural resources for personal profit.
In 2017, Honduras found itself once again with the right-wing National party member Juan Orlando Hernández as their president, after a fraud-based vote allowed him to retain the position of power he has held since 2014. With the Electoral Tribunal supporting his party, the Partido Nacional, Hernández could be confident the votes would be counted in his favour regardless of the outcome. Once again, an unsavoury light is cast on the US as it continues to provide millions of dollars in aid and military training every year. Hernández is seen to be a reliable ally to figures such as Trump; official members of his administration have described Honduras as being ‘on the cusp of a lot of change and positive development’, despite the protests and strikes that have since erupted around the country, with at least 30 deaths by February alone.
The cities are run by gang turfs, with no schools in surrounding areas so that children have no choice to risk getting caught in the cross-fire. The gangs themselves are made up of ordinary residents’ neighbours and loved-ones – a reminder that a life of crime is the only option for many. Regardless of these factors, the people of Honduras are continuously ignored. Their President continues to use violence in a country where children are still dying from malnutrition. Although many are willing to fight back, others have no choice but to flee.
This brings us back to the caravan situation. With so many migrants on the road, they have become increasingly resourceful, and through means such as hitchhiking or loading onto cargo trucks, they have gone from covering 30 miles per day to 200. However, few realise just how dangerous the migrant trail. Early November, a 25-year-old Honduran man fell off a truck and died in Chiapas. Children are enduring extreme conditions, from high heats to chilling colds, and many find themselves separated from their families. Heroic figures such as Ruben Figueroa have taken it upon themselves to track down missing migrant families by going back and forth between villages in Guatemala and Honduras and Mexico, where he locates and reunites those separated when crossing the borders.
While all this is happening, the United States are struggling to save their reputation. Trump’s reaction shows him ignoring all moral obligation, instead pulling an online tantrum via his Twitter feed where he calls the migrants ‘criminals’ and vows not to let them in. True to fashion, he proceeds to blame the Democratic Party for their ‘weak existing laws’ and desired open-border policy, and threatens to cut off all aid to Honduras.
His fear stems from the fact that these people do in fact have the legal right to claim asylum in the US if fleeing from violence. Trump has ignored this, preferring to sign an agreement temporarily barring them from this right. In the meantime, Mexico gives us a glimpse of how the US should be operating, having already issued 2,697 temporary visas so that the migrants can go through the 45-day application process required for permanent residency. However, many believe in the promise land that is the United States, despite Trump’s attempts to discourage them. Most are willing to carry on through Mexico in an attempt to cross the border, regardless of the uncertainty and the dangers