In Honduras, a 1 percent increase in homicides drives up migration by 120 percent.
By Fraces Moore Lappé
Common Dreams (7/23/19)
Each month tens of thousands of migrants cross our southern border. They’re “seeking a better life”…right? Isn’t that why families leave loved ones to trek vast distances facing untold dangers?
Certainly, it’s the story that fits our cherished image of our nation as a land of opportunity like none other.
Recently, though, I felt ashamed that I—someone who wants to believe she’s well informed—had overlooked a key piece of my own responsibility, or, more precisely, my own and my nation’s culpability.
Certainly, I’d long been aware of numerous US policies that have long hindered positive development in the region to our south. In Guatemala in 1954, for example, the CIA deposed democratically elected president Jacobo Árbenz. In Nicaragua, from the ‘50s through the ‘70s, the U.S. backed the Somoza family dictatorship, and then in the ‘80s we funded right-wing forces attempting to overthrow a government enjoying wide popular support.
I’d also known that immigrants’ hopes of escaping desperate poverty weren’t the whole story. I knew that many arriving at our southern border were fleeing threats of violence against them and their children. For some, it’s guns in the hands of gangs that make staying put impossible. “Even suspicion of being loyal to a rival gang is a death sentence,” reported The Associated Press earlier this month.
What I had not, and certainly should have, grasped is our nation’s central role in generating fear by allowing a flood of US weapons to continue across our southern border.
The link between homicide and migration is captured in this startling ratio from the Inter-American Dialogue in 2018: In Honduras, a 1 percent increase in homicides drives up migration by 120 percent.
On some level, I had grasped that fear—legitimate fear—was a driver of migration.
U.S. role in generating the fear driving migrants north
But what I had not, and certainly should have, grasped is our nation’s central role in generating fear by allowing a flood of US weapons to continue across our southern border. The flood into Mexico alone includes “[m]ore than 212,000 illegal firearms” from the U.S. each year owing to “straw purchases,” observes the Los Angeles Times.
Central America is hardest hit.
There, gun laws are comparatively strict, yet “homicide rates are among the highest on earth.” In El Salvador, with the world’s highest rate, almost half of weapons found at the country’s crime scenes are from the U.S. officials here estimate.
During the 1980s, El Salvador was “the single largest recipient of U.S. military hardware and weaponry in the Western Hemisphere,” and, after its civil war ended in 1992, “the guns, grenades and bullets linger, as do their murderous effects,” write Robert Muggah and Steven Dudley in the Los Angeles Times.
The country has only one gun store. Located in Mexico City, it is guarded by the army. Seventy percent of guns seized in Mexico were originally sold in the U.S.—most of them in Texas, California, and Arizona according to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“Once in Mexico, these weapons end up in the hands of drug cartels or get shipped to gangs in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador,” says The Associated Press. In Honduras, “armed holdups on public transportation are a regular occurrence, where nearly half of the unregistered weapons originated in the U.S.,” reports the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives..
“The number of firearms smuggled from the United States was so significant that nearly half of American gun dealers rely on that business to stay afloat,” reported the University of San Diego in 2013.
Yes, this horrific story is being reported, but where is the public outrage?
We hear endless calls for more resources to stop illegal entry at our border. But where are the calls to stop the massive illegal transfer of weapons fueling the very violence that drives innocent people to leave their homes?
In 2016, the National Rifle Association (NRA) spent nearly $70 million to help elect Donald Trump and other Republicans, a sum much larger than the group reported to the Federal Election Commission. ” As gun-industry money directly benefits our politicians, they have little incentive to reduce the industry’s power and its harm to innocent people.
Only we citizens have the power to stop money-driven politics and its deadly consequences. We each can use our voices to spread the word of our nation’s culpability in this horrific violence. And, we can use our votes to move forward reforms loosening money’s grip, including NRA dollars, on our democracy.
Unless we do, we all have blood on our hands.
- Murder Nation: The U.S. Is Flooding the World With Guns. Congress Can Stop That — Gun exports reached record levels in 2017 and again in 2018. Can Congress stop Trump from loosening the rules even further? When gun exporters and importers gather at a trade conference at the Trump Hotel in Washington later this month, they will confront mixed trends in their industry. Gun manufacturing in the United States fell sharply in the first year of the Trump presidency, by more than 27 percent — a change widely attributed to gun buyers’ confidence that Trump would maintain or expand commercial access to firearms, limiting the impulse to stock up over a short period of time. Gun imports into the United States have also dropped significantly, with pistol imports falling by over 20 percent from 2016 to 2018. But reduced gun production was partly compensated by a record level of U.S. gun exports to other nations, which grew by nearly 30 percent in 2017. U.S. gun companies dramatically increased their firearms exports globally — to 488,300 guns in 2017, more than in any year on record, according to a report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). The United States exported even more firearms in 2018, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, and the Trump administration seeks to expand such exports even more. … Read the Rest
The US Needs A Marshall Plan For Central America
[Editor’s Note: The US owes the poor people of Central America a Marshall Plan-scale economic development program and reparations for all the harm our government, corporations and paramilitaries have inflicted upon our Central American neighbors. — Mark L. Taylor]
By Tom Gallagher
Common Grounds (7/23/19)
Imagine we’re no longer battling Trump Administration abuse of asylum-seekers on our southern border and we have a chance to “do the right thing.” What would we do? How about a Marshall Plan for Central America?
The original Marshall Plan (named for U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall) spent the equivalent of $100 billion in today’s dollars to rebuild Western Europe following World War II. Many complex calculations went into spending that kind of money, yet today few would call it a mistake. But why would we consider a similar undertaking in the current circumstances? The answer requires a vision of the future, along with an understanding of the past extending beyond the headlines of the present.
In his 2013 book, “The Right to Stay Home,” activist and journalist David Bacon wrote of Mexican farmers finding themselves considering the difficult and dangerous trek to El Norte, after their livelihoods were destroyed by the cheap American corn flooding their country as a result of the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Bacon posed the question of whether there should be a “right not to migrate.” Today’s situation is more complex. Migrants now predominantly come from three separate countries—El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras—and for many violence has replaced poverty as the driving force. Yet the fundamental question remains the same: What would it take to make tomorrow’s potential refugees decide staying home was a better option than giving their life savings to smugglers and risking their lives crossing deserts and rivers?
What also remains the same is deep U.S. involvement in the history of those countries—history that Central Americans know, and North Americans mostly don’t. The longest-running U.S. intervention in the region has been in Guatemala, starting with the 1954 CIA-engineered overthrow of the country’s democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz, continuing with using the country as staging ground for the 1960 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (putting down a local rebellion in the process), and involvement in the country’s civil wars running into the 1990’s.
How much longer will we watch the suffering and inhumanity — so much of which we have caused — before we agree that we need to do something big?
The most expensive intervention may have been El Salvador where $4 billion (equivalent to $9-10 billion today) was invested in fighting insurgents in the 1980–1992 civil war (including a secret $1.4 million CIA investment in a presidential election.) The most recent intervention was the U.S. government’s clandestine support of the 2009 overthrow of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, a country where we had also trained Contra soldiers to overthrow the Nicaraguan government in the 1980s. People flee these countries today because this history has produced three nations that have in this decade all recorded murder rates ranked in the top ten in the world.
Ignoring foreign aid
As Bacon noted, while “proposals for human rights for migrants in the United States and Canada have won some attention … proposals … for alternatives to forced migration, have not.” Certainly not in Washington which budgets $4 billion annually on border security—and about $180 million in foreign aid to the three countries.
So, is the situation driving the asylum-seekers our problem—in the sense of being something our government had a hand in creating? Yes. Is it something we need to spend large amounts of money on? We already do. As we know, when the threat of communism was the issue, we spent big. And if the issue in Central America were Islamic terrorism, ample funds from the nearly $6 trillion we’ve spent fighting that would certainly be available. Why not then find the funds to create alternatives to forced migration?
How exactly? Exactly, I don’t know. But the Green New Deal has persuasively demonstrated that if we want to move a big idea politically, we need to agree on the nature and the magnitude of the problem before we fight about the details.
How much longer will we watch the suffering and inhumanity before we agree that we need to do something big, call it what we will—common sense, compassion, or a Marshall Plan for Central America?