Remittances to Central America

By Martin Mowforth

Remittances sent back home by migrants who have managed to enter the United States, Canada or European countries are often crucially important in supporting families in low-income countries. Nowhere is this as clear as it is in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. In Guatemala remittances generally account for 14 per cent of the country’s GDP; in Honduras and El Salvador, the equivalent figure is 20 per cent.

Whilst the business world (in the form of CentralAmericaData.com) reported record increases in remittances sent to Central American countries for January and February this year – see table below – and forecast a good year for remittances in 2020, at that time the effects of the pandemic had not been foreseen. This dramatic effect, however, is illustrated by the figures for April 2020 compared with April 2019 – see the table below.

At the level of the family and the household, remittances are often vitally significant for the household economy which in many cases is precarious at best. Unemployment and a lack of opportunities added to a high level of violence in these three countries have stimulated a decades long wave of emigration to richer countries where jobs are more numerous and salaries are higher. In the last two years the phenomenon of migrant caravans from these countries, and especially Honduras, has grown largely as a result of a slightly new balance of forces in which the threats of violence to the family have increased in significance. The economic motive, however, is still highly significant, as are the remittances which improved economic earnings in the rich countries can sustain.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, caused problems not just for the earners, but also for the recipients of the remittances. Despite these problems, in July CentralAmericaData.com was reporting an increase in remittances to El Salvador of around 10 per cent in the month of June (compared with June 2019), which it believed was due to the ending of the lockdown in the United States and the consequent reduction in unemployment there. This in turn was an enabling factor allowing “a major effort on the part of Salvadorans living abroad to support their families.”

Remarkably too in Guatemala the Bank of Guatemala reported that “in the first seven months of 2020 the country received remittances totalling $5,959 million (USD), a sum 2 per cent greater than the equivalent figure for 2019.”

For the first six months of 2020, on the other hand, remittances to Honduras were down by 4 per cent on the equivalent period for 2019. La Prensa (Honduras) explained: “the majority of these resources come from family members in the United States which has seen employment fall by 13.3 per cent by June following a 4.4 per cent decline in March.”

How remittances progress in the remainder of the year will depend on factors such as the advance or retreat of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Northern Triangle, its advance or retreat in the United States (and other rich countries) and the effects of these factors and policies pursued by governments on levels of unemployment in the rich countries.


Sources:

CentralAmericaData.com

  • ‘Remesas en El Salvador: Tendencia se revierte’,07.20
  • ‘Honduras recibe menos remesas’,07.20
  • ‘Remesas: Envíos récord en Julio de 2020’, 08.20

Central Reserve Bank as given in El Economista ‘Recepción de remesas en El Salvador cayó 40% en abril’ by Javier Orellano, 15 May 2020.

El Economista (09.07.20) ‘Las remesas enviadas a Guatemala se recuperan un 15.1% en el último mes’.

El Economista (04.05.20) ‘Prevén drástico descenso en remesas para el Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica’.

Laprensa.hn

 

Remittances to El Salvador and Nicaragua in 2018

El Economista (17 December 2018) reports that remittances received in El Salvador between January and November 2018 increased by 8.7% in comparison with the same period in 2017, and amounted to more than US$4,900 million [US dollars], according to the Central Reserve Bank (BCR).

In these ten months the country received remittances from 160 countries, at the head of which was the US with US$4,602.4 million, followed by the European Union and Canada with US$46.8 million and US$43.8 million respectively.

The 2.8 million Salvadorans who live in the United States sent a major part of the US$5,021.3 million in remittances which El Salvador received in 2017, this being the highest figure in history for the Central American country.


Informe Pastrán (21 December 2018) reports that remittances received in Nicaragua during the third quarter of 2018 rose to US$372.8 million, an increase of 4.8 per cent compared with the same period in the previous year. Remittances up to and including the month of September 2018 amounted to US$1,097.4 million, a 7.6 per cent increase on the same period during 2017.

During the third quarter of 2018, the major origins of these remittances were the United States (55.4%), Costa Rica (19.4%), Spain (11.5%) and Panamá (5.3%).

The department of Managua continued to be the major recipient of the remittances (35.0%), with the department of Chinandega receiving 10.3%, León 8.2%, Estelí 8.0% and Matagalpa 7.0%.

Migrants’ stories: Why they flee

Anthony W. Fontes, American University School of International Service

File 20190408 2924 16ojp3p.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A man hugs his family before leaving for the U.S. border with a migrant caravan from San Salvador, El Salvador, Jan. 16, 2019. AP/Salvador Melendez


Massive influxes of Central American families seeking asylum in the United States are overwhelming U.S. immigration facilities.

The crisis along the U.S. southern border led directly to the forced resignation on April 7 of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, whom President Donald Trump believed ineffectively managed the situation.

As Trump promises to “shut down the border” and “punish” the governments of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador for failing to stem the exodus from their countries, the question of why so many families are making the difficult and dangerous journey north appears more urgent than ever.

I have spent much of the last decade conducting on-the-ground fieldwork in this region, and along the migration paths through Mexico, seeking answers to this question.

The region’s extreme poverty and violent impunity are central factors driving this migration.

Yet every migrant’s story is unique. Some simply seek the chance to earn enough money to ensure a better future for themselves or their children. Others flee persecution at the hands of gangs, organized crime or corrupt state officials. For others, insecurity and poverty are so intertwined that drawing them apart becomes impossible.

Santos Isabel Escobar weeps beside the coffin of her 18-year-old son, Eddy Fernando Cabrera, who was executed with four other young people in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Jan. 11, 2019.
AP/Fernando Antonio

‘Falling deeper into debt’

Extreme poverty and inequality haunt the region. Today, about half of all Central Americans – and two-thirds of the rural populations of Guatemala and Honduras – survive below the international poverty line.

Meanwhile, throughout the 21st century, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have consistently counted among the most murderous nations in the world.

Many Central American migrants are simply desperate to find work that pays enough to feed their families. U.S. asylum law provides no relief for these “economic refugees.”

I met Roberto Quijones in a migrant shelter in the Mexican state of Tabasco, about 25 mile north of the Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, in late 2017. We spoke as he soaked his blistered feet and tried to mend his busted shoes with duct tape.

Roberto is from a rural town in northwestern El Salvador near the border with Honduras and Guatemala, and had been out of work for two years. For more than a year, he and his wife and their 2-year-old daughter had been living with an aunt. Their welcome had worn thin.

“She’s family,” Roberto said, “but you know you get to a moment when not paying rent isn’t possible anymore. Even if they are family.”

And even for those who can find work, extremely low wages cannot cover families’ basic needs, destroying hope for a better future.

“I can make 200 lempiras, a day working” – the equivalent of US$10 – said Marvin Otoniel Castillo, a father of three from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We spoke in late 2016 beneath a bridge in Veracruz, Mexico, waiting to hop a train to continue northwards.

“So your whole life is falling deeper into debt,” Marvin continued. “That’s why I came. So I could send my oldest child to school so he wouldn’t have to live like his father.”

A woman sells live baby chicks in central San Salvador, El Salvador. Nearly 1 in 3 Salvadorans lives in poverty.
AP/Rebecca Blackwell

Running for their lives

Other migrants have been targeted by criminal organizations that operate with stunning impunity in Central America.

Criminal organizations derive much of their power from their deep links with government agents; it’s sometimes impossible to identify where the state ends and the underworld begins. Such connections also make understanding who is responsible for any given murder difficult.

Transnational gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, play an important role in this violence. Estimates of how much they contribute to overall crime rates vary between countries and are hampered by extremely low prosecution rates and a lack of reliable data.

However, gangs are responsible for the region’s most widespread and brutal extortion rackets, which create deep psychological and economic strife for poor Central Americans while also causing countless murders.

The upshot is that many Central Americans trying to enter the United States are literally running for their lives.

That includes Pedro, whose uncle and two brothers were gunned down on a crowded Guatemala City street in 2015 because, he believed, his cousin had stolen from a drug-trafficking organization. Like others I’ve interviewed who are fleeing violent persecution, he requested anonymity to protect himself and family still living in Guatemala.

Pedro said he moved with his wife and two daughters to another part of the city to escape detection. But then police discovered his 13-year-old daughter’s body in an alleyway.

Her assailants had raped her, burned her with cigarettes and knifed her to death. Pedro said that no one would tell him who did it, but he fled with his family to ensure their safety.

Or Alejandra, from a mid-size city west of the Guatemalan capital, who told me she was in her final year of a nurse training program and spending Christmas holidays with family when she witnessed her uncle gunned down in his front yard while he strung up party lights.

The uncle, she said, had refused to pay extortion money to a criminal group run by active and former police officers. The next day, Alejandra received threatening messages on Facebook. She didn’t want to leave the country, but moved in with a friend in another town and tried to lie low.

A few weeks later, Alejandra claimed, the group sent a kid with a handgun to kill her. She escaped by throwing herself from her motorbike. That’s when she decided to give up her career and flee Guatemala.

Central American migrants being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection after requesting asylum, in El Paso, Texas, March 28, 2019.
REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

The price of staying

For financial or personal reasons, many Central Americans are unable or unwilling to flee in the face of such threats. That can exact a steep price.

One evening in late 2018, a woman named Sofia said that members of MS-13 caught her when she was walking home from work in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. She’d moved to the city months before with her 12-year-old daughter, because her husband, Pablo, had fled the country to escape the gang’s threats.

Pablo had worked driving a produce truck, but then MS-13 killed his boss for refusing to pay extortion. Gang extortion is believed to be a leading cause of murder in Honduras and though the majority of the country’s extortion victims are poor, they pay about $200 million a year to protect themselves.

MS-13 told Pablo he was next.

The family’s funds were just enough to get Pablo out of Honduras. Maybe, they hoped, if he was gone the gang would leave the family alone. Once in the States, he could send money home.

The plan didn’t work. Four gang members forced Sofia into a car, drove her to the countryside, beat her and raped her repeatedly. “This is what will happen to your daughter,” they shouted at her over and over again, “if you don’t pay us what your husband owes.”

Ethics and survival

The images and stories of Central Americans caged at the border awaiting processing expose how the U.S. immigration system was never designed to deal with this many people fleeing these kinds of problems.

In the hopes of getting better treatment at the border, some migrants have resorted to pretending to be part of family units, or lying about their age.

This kind of “gaming the system” may be ethically questionable, but viewed from the perspective of survival, it makes perfect sense.

Such strategies speak most of all of collective desperation, begging a question posed by many of the Central American migrants I have met over the years: “If you were me, what would you do?”

Anthony W. Fontes, Assistant Professor of Human Security, American University School of International Service

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Stories from the Migrant Caravans from the Northern Triangle Countries

[English] [Español]

By Ricardo Flores, La Prensa Gráfica, El Salvador

28 November 2018

At the height of the migrant caravan crisis (which has not gone away) in November 2018, the daily Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa Gráfica produced an article of ‘Stories of forced displacement due to violence’ written by Ricardo Flores. There were six personal stories in the article and ENCA member Jill Powis translated them for the ENCA Newsletter (no.75) which for reasons of space could only include four of them. All of them are included here on The Violence of Development website. We are grateful to Jill for her translations.

1

Nelson was disappeared and then murdered for refusing to leave his home. The first warning came in 2014 from a neighbour, a woman who had links with members of the Barrio 18 (18th Street) gang.  She told him that he had to close down his business, which supported his family of seven, on the grounds that “he was selling the same product as her.” After that came more warnings, including death threats, to make him leave, together with his whole family. It was October 2015 when they decided to leave, to stay with relatives, but Nelson, a fictitious name to protect his [family] identity, decided to stay “to guard the house.”  His relatives believe that he was killed because, before he was threatened, he worked for a community organisation running violence prevention schemes to improve life within the community.

Prior to Nelson’s death, the family had sought protection from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos – PDDH), but this opened a case file only after his murder.  The PDDH informed the police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalía), and all that happened was that some family members who gave evidence were named as key witnesses in the legal process.

Cristosal [see note below] lodged an application for protective measures for Nelson’s family with the Constitutional Court on 9 June 2017.  The application was accepted four months later, but by this time they were already out of the country. They had lost their jobs, their homes, the right to freedom of movement and the young people were forced to abandon their studies.

2

This is the story of a family 35 strong, including children and adolescents, who were victims of threats, physical attacks, sexual abuse and rape by gang members – all for being relatives of members of the armed forces. The gang attacked the family on various dates and different places.  The threats became so bad that they were forced to leave the town.

The family moved to relatives living in an area of the country without gangs. However, there they suffered violence again, but this time from the state. Police officers carried out an operation in the community, shooting “to intimidate”. A bullet hit a woman from the family, killing her instantly. This forced them to move again.

The family reported all the attacks by the gang to the authorities. The police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office solely designated them as key witnesses in the legal process so that they could testify – there was no progress on the cases. One of the victims of the forced displacement also filed a complaint with the General Inspectorate of the National Civil Police about his mother’s death at the hands of the officers who carried out the operation. The local police’s official version was that the woman died “in the context of a confrontation with gang members.”

This was the only one of the six cases where the Constitutional Court issued a final judgment in favour of a family displaced by the violence in El Salvador, following  a an application for protection measures filed by Cristosal.  However, the measures ordered by the Court benefited only a few members of the family, with the rest leaving the country under the international protection system.

3

Margarita and Luisa (not their real names) were threatened with rape if they did not leave the community. The two women, mother and daughter, had a food business which involved visiting various apartments. The threats began when some gang members came to live in the area.

In response to the threats, which were also directed at Margarita’s husband and another daughter, the family decided to move, but when they settled down in another place, they again suffered extortion from another gang.

When the family reported the gang to the Anti-Extortion Unit of the National Civil Police, it stated that its response would be limited to arresting the suspects and starting legal proceedings against them “because it does not have enough officers to provide the family with protection.”

4

Sofia was held captive and raped by a gang for being the daughter of a policeman. When the teenager disappeared, her father went to the police, but they failed to respond immediately. When they finally found her, the police accused Sofía (not her real name) of being a member of the gang.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office offered protection measures, but only for Sofia, a minor; and so the family, five people in total, preferred to move, where they remained in hiding. Despite not leaving the house, the gang members managed to find them and continued to issue them with death threats.  This meant that they were forced to move house again until they got help to leave El Salvador.

In view of the poor response by state institutions, the Constitutional Court accepted the application for protection measures for all five members of the family, but by this time they had already left the country.

5

A large family requested international protection measures in the wake of the murder of a young woman and her sister, as well as the kidnapping of a baby girl who was only months old. The investigation of the case produced evidence that the crimes were committed by gang members with the aim of “getting the baby.” The other members of the family were threatened so that they would leave, and so after the funeral for the two women, the family abandoned their belongings, homes and jobs.

Cristosal concluded that the State does not have the capacity to protect a large family.

6

Victoria, her adult daughter and two children lived in a house where they had a family business. One afternoon, an armed gang came to the store. Victoria (not her real name) was shot dead at the scene, while her daughter suffered bullet wounds to various organs. Her relatives had to take her from the hospital because the gang continued to look for her and they feared that she would be found. When she recovered, three months later, she decided to move with the two children to a house belonging to another relative. However, an informer from the gang found her and warned them to leave the area “if she did not want to have any problems”.

As a result of this fresh threat, the woman was forced to move again with her children to another relative in another region of the country. Unlike the other cases, this family did not want to take advantage of the government shelter system, but instead wanted measures that would allow them to be protected by the authorities in the place where they had relocated.

Cristosal presented their request to the Constitutional Court and it was accepted on 11 July 2018, when it ordered protective measures.

The trial for Victoria’s murder resulted in the conviction of those responsible, who are currently awaiting sentencing.

Note: Cristosal works to advance human rights in Central America through rights-based research, learning, and programming. They accompany victims of violence to provide protection when they need it most, repair the lingering effects of human rights violations, and build human rights frameworks to create conditions where peace is possible. https://www.cristosal.org/

Relatos del desplazamiento forzoso por la violencia

[English] [Español]

Por Ricardo Flores, La Prensa Gráfica, El Salvador

28 Noviembre 2018

Estos son los relatos que seis familias desplazadas por la violencia le contaron a Cristosal, la organización que documenta y atiende los casos y que ayer presentó un sistema de monitoreo del problema. Estas historias llegaron hasta la Sala de lo Constitucional de la Corte Suprema.

1

Nelson fue desaparecido y luego asesinado por negarse a abandonar su casa. La primera advertencia le llegó en 2014 de una vecina que tenía vínculos con pandilleros del Barrio 18, quien le dijo que debía cerrar el negocio del que sobrevivía la familia, conformada por siete personas. La queja de la mujer era que “vendían el mismo producto que ella”. Tras esa intimidación, llegaron más avisos que contenían amenazas de muerte para que se fuera del lugar junto con toda la familia. Corría octubre de 2015 cuando decidieron huir hacia donde otros parientes, pero Nelson, nombre ficticio para proteger su identidad, decidió quedarse “para resguardar la vivienda”. Los parientes creen que fue asesinado porque antes de ser amenazado trabajaba en una organización comunitaria que tenía proyectos para prevención de violencia para mejorar las condiciones de vida en la comunidad.

Previo a la muerte de Nelson, la familia había acudido a la Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en busca de protección, pero la institución abrió un expediente del caso hasta después del homicidio. El acompañamiento de la PDDH los llevó a la Policía y la Fiscalía, donde la respuesta fue que algunos miembros de la familia que sirvieron como testigos recibieron nombres claves en el proceso.

Cristosal decidió presentar el 9 de junio de 2017 un amparo ante la Sala de lo Constitucional. Cuatro meses después, la sala admitió la demanda y ordenó medidas de protección para la familia de Nelson. Sin embargo, el grupo ya estaba fuera del país. Los sobrevivientes perdieron el empleo, el desarraigo a su patrimonio familiar, el derecho al libre tránsito y los jóvenes abandonaron sus estudios.

El Salvador debe de reconocer el desplazamiento forzado: Médicos del Mundo

La organización internacional sostuvo que es “urgente” ese reconocimiento por lo crítico que se ha vuelto esta problemática en El Salvador.

2

Esta es la historia de una familia conformada por 35 personas, entre niños y adolescentes, que fueron víctimas de amenazas, agresiones físicas, abuso sexual y violación de parte de pandilleros. Todo por ser parientes de miembros de la Fuerza Armada. La pandilla cometió ataques contra la familia en distintos lugares y fechas. Las amenazas se agravaron hasta exigirles que abandonaran el municipio.

La familia buscó apoyo en otros parientes que residían en zonas del país sin presencia de pandilleros. Cuando lo lograron sufrieron nuevamente violencia, pero esa vez de parte del Estado: ocurrió cuando policías realizaron un operativo en esa comunidad con disparos “para intimidar”. Una bala impactó a una mujer de la familia, lo que le ocasionó la muerte inmediatamente. Eso los obligó a un nuevo desplazamiento.

La familia puso la denuncia de todas las agresiones y ataques que sufrió de parte de los pandilleros. La Policía y la Fiscalía se limitaron a asignarles nombres claves en los procesos para que atestiguaran; sin embargo, los casos no prosperaron. Una de las víctimas del desplazamiento forzoso también interpuso ante la Inspectoría General de la Policía Nacional Civil una denuncia por la muerte de su madre a manos de los agentes que realizaron el operativo. La versión oficial de la policía de la zona fue que la mujer murió “en el marco de enfrentamiento contra pandilleros”.

Este ha sido el único de los seis casos en que la Sala de lo Constitucional emitió sentencia definitiva a favor de una familia desplazada por la violencia en El Salvador, después del amparo interpuesto por Cristosal, aunque el beneficio de las mediadas de protección dictadas por el tribunal superior solo fue para unos pocos miembros de la familia, pues la mayoría salió del país bajo el sistema de protección internacional.

418 niños sufrieron desplazamiento forzado en El Salvador en los últimos 3 años

Organizaciones, como Cristosal, piden a la CIDH que intervenga y solicite a los países del Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica una mejor atención a las víctimas.

Noticias de El Salvador / La Prensa Gráfica / 19 Oct

3

A Margarita y Luisa (nombres cambiados) las amenazaron con violarlas si no se iban de la comunidad. Las dos mujeres, madre e hija, pasaban en su negocio de comida en unos apartamentos. La amenaza inició cuando unos pandilleros llegaron a vivir al lugar.

Ante la advertencia, que incluía al esposo de Margarita y a otra hija, la familia decidió cambiar de domicilio, pero al establecerse en otro sitio, volvieron a sufrir extorsión de otra estructura de pandilleros.

Cuando la familia le contó a los miembros de la Unidad Antiextorsiones de la Policía Nacional Civil lo que los pandilleros les exigían, la respuesta fue que las acciones estaban limitadas a las capturas de los denunciados y abrir un juicio “porque no cuentan con personal suficiente para brindar protección a la familia”.

4

Sofía fue privada de libertad y violada por un grupo de pandilleros por ser hija de un agente. El policía buscó ayuda de la PNC cuando la adolescente desapareció, pero no obtuvo respuesta positiva de inmediato. Cuando finalmente la encontraron, los agentes acusaron a Sofía (nombre cambiado) de ser parte de la pandilla.

La Fiscalía ofreció medidas de protección solo para la menor, pero la familia, cinco personas en total, prefirió desplazarse a otro sitio, donde permanecía en confinamiento. A pesar de no salir de la casa, los pandilleros los ubicaron y volvieron a amenazarlos con la muerte, por lo que volvieron a movilizarse hasta obtener ayuda para salir de El Salvador.

La Sala de lo Constitucional admitió el amparo del caso debido a la pobre respuesta de parte de las instituciones del Estado, y otorgó medidas de protección para los cinco miembros del grupo familiar; pero ya estaban fuera del país.

Cristosal registra un incremento del 53% de víctimas de desplazamientos forzados

Las víctimas de desplazamientos forzado atendidas por la ONG incrementaron un 53% entre 2016 y 2017. Cristosal reitera que el Estado sigue sin reconocer el problema.

Noticias de El Salvador / La Prensa Gráfica / 25 Apr

5

Una familia numerosa solicitó medidas de protección internacional a raíz del asesinato de una joven y su hermana. Además del secuestro de una niña que tenía solo meses de edad. La investigación del caso arrojó evidencia que los hechos fueron cometidos por pandilleros con el objetivo de “quedarse con la niña”. Los demás miembros de la familia fueron amenazados para que abandonaran el lugar, por lo que después de enterrar a las dos mujeres, dejaron sus pertenencias, vivienda y sus fuentes de empleo.

Cristosal comprobó que el Estado no tiene la capacidad para proteger a una familia numerosa.

6

Victoria, su hija adulta y dos niños vivían en una casa donde tenían un negocio familiar. Un día por la tarde, pandilleros llegaron a la tienda a disparar. Victoria (nombre cambiado) falleció en el lugar, mientras que su hija resultó con lesiones de bala en algunos órganos. Familiares tuvieron que sacar del hospital a la herida porque pandilleros continuaban buscándola y temían que fuera ubicada. Pasaron así durante tres meses, hasta que logró recuperarse. Luego decidió desplazarse con los dos niños por sus propios medios hacia una casa de otro pariente. Sin embargo, un palabrero de la pandilla la ubicó y les advirtió que salieran de la zona “si no quería tener problemas”.

Esa nueva advertencia provocó que la mujer se desplazara otra vez junto a sus hijos a otro sector del país con otro pariente. A diferencia de los otros casos, esta familia no quería ingresar al sistema de albergue gubernamental, sino que una medida que les permitiera la protección de las autoridades en el sitio en que se había reubicado.

Esa petición fue planteada por Cristosal ante la Sala de lo Constitucional en un amparo que terminó admitiendo el 11 de julio de 2018, cuando ordenó medidas de protección.

El proceso judicial por el homicidio de Victoria culminó con la sentencia de los responsables. El proceso en la sala sigue pendiente de una sentencia definitiva.

Remittances to and migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle

El Economista recently published an article based on the findings of a report entitled ‘The Future of Central America: Challenges for a Sustainable Development’. The report was produced by a collaboration between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Latin American Centre for Competition and Sustainable Development (CLACDS, by its Spanish initials) of the INCAE Business School. Short extracts from the article are translated below.

Key words: remittances; migration; Northern Triangle countries; Temporary Protected Status (TPS);

The recent hardening of the United States’ immigration policies is putting at risk a significant ‘escape valve’ for the economies of the Northern Triangle of Central America: namely remittances.

“An important factor for these societies [El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala] is the fact that there is an escape valve for social and demographic problems, and a source of income,” said the Dean of the INCAE Business School, Alberto Trejos, to El Economista, regarding migration and remittances.

The report points out that there are at least 3 million migrants from the Northern Triangle in the United States and that their remittances represent 20 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of El Salvador and Honduras and 12 per cent of the GDP of Guatemala. Our societies in the region

According to the report, in 2017 Salvadoran migrants in the United States accounted for 23 per cent of total population of El Salvador, and the respective proportions of Honduras and Guatemala were 8 per cent and 6 per cent.

The report warns that the hardening of immigration policies in the United States could have a substantial impact on remittances and, through them, on the economies of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

The report’s estimates indicate that remittances could decline by 7.6 per cent per annum due to recent and proposed immigration policies changes and that the elimination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduran and Salvadoran citizens [illegally residing in the USA] could imply a further reduction in remittances of 6 per cent per annum in the medium term. It also estimates that a further 7 per cent of migrants who currently reside in the USA could decide to return to their country of origin.

Those migrants would return with savings of around 3 per cent of their country’s GDP which would generate a temporary positive effect which would be converted into an additional demand for jobs. For these jobs to be filled would require that the economies of the Northern Triangle countries would have to grow by one percentage point more than is expected or predicted.

For the INCAE Dean, remittances are an important escape valve, but the current remarkable migration has negative consequences due to the flight of humans who are at their most productive ages. “We have to stop thinking of the phenomenal migration from the perspective of remittances, even though it appears to represent the inflow of money. But we have to admit that this money flows in because we cannot provide alternative prospects to young people so that they might stay.”

“At the same time that this money flows in, the productive capacity of these people disappears. Society loses the income that these people would have generated, we lose the contributions of the skills of these migrants and that leaves us with a society that is demographically and economically different.”

For the INCAE Dean, the conditions which prompt people to migrate “are not a good thing,” and although migration may generate some positive effects on the economy, it cannot be called a good thing. Trejos warned that a mass return of migrants at this time would necessitate “a very disruptive adjustment.”

El Economista: eleconomista.net

INCAE: www.incae.edu

Thirst, crop failure and cattle deaths result from drought in Honduras

Summary report by Martin Mowforth

A 13th September report in the Salvadoran daily newspaper La Prensa Gráfica described yet another motive behind the exodus of people from Honduras: namely drought. This illustrates well the thesis in the article ‘How Climate Change Forces Central American Farmers to Migrate’ – also uploaded to this website this month,  September 2019 – that drought and the unreliability of climate are forcing many rural farmers to consider the possibility of migration as a way out of their predicament.

Several Honduran departments have been declared as emergency zones due to the scarcity of water. Some of these zones have not had any rainfall for ten months and over 50 per cent of basic grains like corn and beans have been lost, according to official sources.

In the eastern department of Olancho 1,000 head of cattle have died due to the drought. Farmers with some capital behind them can purchase alternative feeds for their cattle such as the waste products of African palm oil which are rich in protein. But for the majority the grass is simply not growing due to the drought. Some sources are suggesting that this climate trend means that in the medium and long terms farmers must adapt to raising a much smaller number of cattle on their land.

The drought has also affected urban areas such as the capital city Tegucigalpa, and residents are having to purchase tanks of water for activities such as washing as well as drinking. Clearly in such circumstances the poor are more likely to be adversely affected by the drought.

In July 2019, in Inside Climate News (ICN), Georgina Gustin produced a report entitled ‘Ravaged by Drought, a Honduran Village Faces a Choice: Pray for Rain or Migrate’. It is available at: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/08072019/climate-change-migration-honduras-drought-crop-failure-farming-deforestation-guatemala-trump  and includes three video clips of interviews with Central American farmers. We urge our readers to read and view this account of the link between climate change and migration patterns.

As if Hondurans don’t have enough to contend with: a narco-state run by organised crime; security forces whose main modus operandi is violence against the people they are supposed to be protecting; a gang culture and protection racket which pervade so many of the activities of Honduran society and economy; a system of production which displaces Hondurans from their land for the benefit of transnational corporations and local elites; and a complete lack of opportunities for Hondurans. Add climate change to the mix, and who could be surprised that so many Hondurans try to escape their country of birth to find opportunities elsewhere in the world?

How Climate Change Forces Central American Farmers to Migrate

The following article is taken from ‘Towards Freedom’, an organisation that takes “a progressive perspective on world events” – https://towardfreedom.org/  We are grateful to Toward Freedom and Edgardo Ayala for permission to reproduce the article here.

January 2, 2019 | By Edgardo Ayala

Gilberto Gómez stands next to the cow he bought with the support of his migrant children in the United States, which eases the impact of the loss of his subsistence crops, in the village of La Colmena, Candelaria de la Frontera municipality in western El Salvador. This area forms part of the Central American Dry Corridor, where increasing climate vulnerability is driving migration of the rural population. Photo Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

CANDELARIA DE LA FRONTERA, El Salvador (IPS) – As he milks his cow, Salvadoran Gilberto Gómez laments that poor harvests, due to excessive rain or drought, practically forced his three children to leave the country and undertake the risky journey, as undocumented migrants, to the United States.

Gómez, 67, lives in La Colmena, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, in the western Salvadoran department of Santa Ana.

The small hamlet is located in the so-called Dry Corridor of Central America, a vast area that crosses much of the isthmus, but whose extreme weather especially affects crops in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

“They became disillusioned, seeing that almost every year we lost a good part of our crops, and they decided they had to leave, because they didn’t see how they could build a future here,” Gómez told IPS, as he untied the cow’s hind legs after milking.

He said that his eldest son, Santos Giovanni, for example, also grew corn and beans on a plot of land the same size as his own, “but sometimes he didn’t get anything, either because it rained a lot, or because of drought.”

The year his children left, in 2015, Santos Giovanni lost two-thirds of the crop to an unusually extreme drought.

“It’s impossible to go on like this,” lamented Gómez, who says that of the 15 families in La Colmena, many have shrunk due to migration because of problems similar to those of his son.

The Dry Corridor, particularly in these three nations, has experienced the most severe droughts of the last 10 years, leaving more than 3.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned as early as 2016.

Now Gómez’s daughter, Ana Elsa, 28, and his two sons, Santos Giovanni, 31, and Luis Armando, 17, all live in Los Angeles, California.

“Sometimes they call us, and tell us they’re okay, that they have jobs,” he said.

The case of the Gómez family illustrates the phenomenon of migration and its link with climate change and its impact on harvests, and thus on food insecurity among Central American peasant families.

La Colmena, which lacks piped water and electricity, benefited a few years ago from a project to harvest rainwater, which villagers filter to drink, as well as reservoirs to water livestock.

However, their crops are still vulnerable to the onslaught of heavy rains and increasingly unpredictable and intense droughts.

In addition to the violence and poverty, climate change is the third cause of the exodus of Central Americans, especially from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to the new Atlas of Migration in Northern Central America.

The report, released Dec. 12 by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and FAO, underscores that the majority of migrants from these three countries come from rural areas.

Between 2000 and 2012, the report says, there was an increase of nearly 59 percent in the number of people migrating from these three countries, which make up the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America. In Guatemala, 77 percent of the people living in rural areas are poor, and in Honduras the proportion is 82 percent.

In recent months, waves of citizens from Honduras and El Salvador have embarked on the long journey on foot to the United States, with the idea that it would be safer if they traveled in large groups.

Travelling as an undocumented migrant to the United States carries a series of risks: they can fall prey to criminal gangs, especially when crossing Mexico, or die on the long treks through the desert.

Another report published by FAO in December, ‘Mesoamerica in Transit’, states that of the nearly 30 million international migrants from Latin America, some four million come from the Northern Triangle and another 11 million from Mexico.

The study adds that among the main factors driving migration in El Salvador are poverty in the departments of Ahuachapán, Cabañas, San Vicente and Sonsonate; environmental vulnerability in Chalatenango, Cuscatlán, La Libertad and San Salvador; and soaring violence in La Paz, Morazán and San Salvador.

And according to the report, Honduran migration is strongly linked to the lack of opportunities, and to high levels of poverty and violence in the northwest of the country and to environmental vulnerability in the centre-south.

With respect to Guatemala, the report indicates that although in this country migration patterns are not so strongly linked to specific characteristics of different territories, migration is higher in municipalities where the percentage of the population without secondary education is larger.

In Mexico, migration is linked to poverty in the south and violence in the west, northwest and northeast, while environmental vulnerability problems seem to be cross-cutting.

“The report shows a compelling and comprehensive view of the phenomenon: the decision to migrate is the individual’s, but it is conditioned by their surroundings,” Luiz Carlos Beduschi, FAO Rural Development Officer, told IPS from Santiago, Chile, the U.N. organisation’s regional headquarters.

He added that understanding what is happening in the field is fundamental to understanding migratory dynamics as a whole.

The study, published Dec. 18, makes a “multi-causal analysis; the decision to stay or migrate is conditioned by a set of factors, including climate, especially in the Dry Corridor of Central America,” Beduschi said.

For the FAO expert, it is necessary to promote policies that offer rural producers “better opportunities for them and their families in their places of origin.”

It is a question, he said, “of guaranteeing that they have the necessary conditions to freely decide whether to stay at home or to migrate elsewhere,” and keeping rural areas from expelling the local population as a result of poverty, violence, climate change and lack of opportunities.

In the case of El Salvador, while there is government awareness of the impacts of climate change on crops and the risk it poses to food security, little has been done to promote public policies to confront the phenomenon, activist Luis González told IPS.

“There are national plans and strategies to confront climate change, to address the water issue, among other questions, but the problem is implementation: it looks nice on paper, but little is done, and much of this is due to lack of resources,” added González, a member of the Roundtable for Food Sovereignty, a conglomerate of social organisations fighting for this objective.

Meanwhile, in La Colmena, Gómez has given his wife, Teodora, the fresh milk they will use to make cheese.

They are happy that they have the cow, bought with the money their daughter sent from Los Angeles, and they are hopeful that the weather won’t spoil the coming harvest.

“With this cheese we earn enough for a small meal,” he said.

Copyright Toward Freedom 2018

Changes in migration flows into and immigration policies in the United States

Since Central Americans began to form caravans as a means of migrating to the US border and thence into the United States of America, behaviour at the border has been a major media issue of concern. The article below by Peter Costantini refers more to the most recent group of migrants – Haitians and Africans – rather than Central Americans; but it documents the changing policies practised by the US border agents which affect all those seeking asylum at the US border, a large proportion of whom come from the Northern Triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras).

We are grateful to CounterPunch – an online journal which in its own words, “covers politics in a manner its editors describe as ‘muckraking with a radical attitude’” – for permission to reproduce the article. The CounterPunch website is at: https://www.counterpunch.org  We are also grateful to Peter Costantini for writing the article which is a summary of a much longer report, a link to which is given at the end of this summary.

 

Downstream From Del Rio

By Peter Costantini, CounterPunch

12 January 2022

A large encampment of mainly Haitian migrants appeared abruptly in September at a border crossing in the town of Del Rio, Texas. The reactions to it of United States immigration authorities created a media storm that shone a harsh light on racist brutality by the Border Patrol and contradictory responses to asylum seekers by the Joseph Biden administration.

Del Rio, which is across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, hosts a smaller border crossing than those 350 miles downriver in the lower Rio Grande valley and those 400 miles upriver around El Paso. In early September, thousands of Haitian and other Latin American migrants began arriving and crossing the shallows of the river to set up an improvised camp under a bridge. By mid-month, the camp had grown to a maximum of some 15,000 people, without adequate water and sanitation. The migrants were blocked from entering the town to buy food and supplies, which forced them to cross the river to buy them in Ciudad Acuña. Conditions in the encampment were called “deplorable” by the United Nations.

On September 19, Border Patrol officers on horseback tried to physically block families with children crossing the river to bring supplies back to the camp, which had previously been allowed. Videos of the aggressive use of force against peaceful migrants went viral and provoked widespread condemnation as an echo of historical racist aggression against Black people. The Biden administration disavowed the enforcement operation and initiated an investigation, which is ongoing as of early January.

As the political controversy grew, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas quickly mobilized large-scale federal and state resources to dismantle the camp and resolve the migrants’ immigration status. On September 24, Mayorkas announced at a White House press conference that the camp had been completely dismantled and all of the migrants there had been moved to other locations. A large majority had been processed by immigration authorities and either flown to Haiti or accepted into the asylum process.

Ultimately, Mayorkas’s statements and subsequent media coverage revealed that some 8,700 Haitian migrants were eventually expelled back to Haiti; 13,000 were accepted into the asylum process, of whom 10,000 were released to family members or sponsors around the country and 3,000 were still in immigration detention as their asylum cases proceeded; 8,000 had “voluntarily” returned to Mexico and avoided the U.S. immigration system; and another 4,000 were still being processed as of Mayorkas’s speech.

Most of the 8,700 Haitians expelled back to Haiti had left their home country after a devastating 2010 earthquake to migrate to South America. In the past year, the already impoverished country had been wracked by another earthquake that killed over 2,000, a hurricane, the assassination of the president and dissolution of the legislature and much of the police force, and the takeover of large areas of the capital by warring gangs who kidnapped at will and brought the battered economy to its knees. The United Nations and human-rights organisations forcefully criticized the expulsions. Two veteran U.S. diplomats resigned in outrage that the government would send asylum seekers back to a place so mortally dangerous, given that the purpose of asylum is to protect people against having to return to places they left because of persecution. Debates over the handling of the Del Rio migrants revealed acute disputes over immigration policy within the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats.

Nevertheless, the acceptance of 13,000 migrants into the asylum process, nearly 50 percent more than those sent back to Haiti, suggested that advocates of respect for asylum laws still exerted some influence within the administration.

Under Biden, border enforcement has continued to operate under a controversial statute known as Title 42. The Donald Trump administration had launched this public-health emergency provision early in 2020, using it to summarily expel nearly all border-crossers back to Mexico without the possibility of a hearing, effectively shutting down most immigration and denying any chance to request asylum. Public health and human rights authorities inside and outside of the government protested that protecting against the pandemic did not necessitate shutting down immigration and asylum.

The Biden government had already exempted children from Title 42 expulsions, and some families as well – in part because Mexico did not accept the return of families in some border areas. Biden had reduced the use of Title 42 to about 50 percent of cases by mid-2021, while Trump had expelled nearly 90 percent under it in late 2020. For the Del Rio migrants, 40 percent of those processed were expelled, while 60 percent were allowed to enter the normal, pre-pandemic asylum process.

The full report, Downstream from Del Rio, fleshes out the details and context of what happened at Del Rio and analyses the controversies unleashed and their outcomes so far. It finishes by exploring potential policies and strategies to end the violations of immigrants’ human rights at the border, and reform the asylum system to meet the realities of the 21st Century.

Peter Costantini is a Seattle-based analyst who has covered Latin America for the past three decades.

 

Remittances and migration – a possible Trump effect

Key words: remittances; migration; employment provision; social stability.

Sources within the BCIE (the Central American Bank of Economic Integration) have leaked their concerns about the possibility that US President Trump may tax the remittances not only of Mexican nationals residing in the USA to their families in Mexico, but may also extend this tax to nationals of all the Central American states. There are serious concerns that the currently untrumpeted intention to tax remittances to pay for the construction of the Border Wall with Mexico could seriously affect the economies of Central American states which include the remittance statistics in their currency reserve projections. The knock-on effect of such an action would be extra hardship suffered by all those families whose major money-earner works in the USA.

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A related economic issue arises from the BCIE’s estimate that Honduras needs to create 140,000 jobs this year in order to match demographic projections to the employment requirements of the economy. The best case scenario, however, suggests that a maximum of only 100,000 jobs could be created. Clearly, this has implications for social stability which in turn also has implications for attempted migrations northwards to the USA.

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Migrant caravans continue: Recent migration flows through Central America

In 2018, 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic hit us all, migration flows and rates from the Northern Triangle of Central America to the United States border with Mexico were the subject of relatively frequent attention in mainstream European newspapers as well as in the mainstream US media. The fact that such reports are now less frequent does not mean that the phenomenon has disappeared. For a short time the migrant caravans that were the principal attraction to the ephemeral interests of the western media waned as the lockdowns spread around the globe. But if anything the new conditions of life under the pandemic became worse for a majority of people and the factors driving the local populations of the Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) to strike out for ‘new ground’ were as strong as they ever had been. Those driving factors included particularly the violence of life in this region where gang and police violence and the threats thereof made daily life intolerable and where trying to ignore such violence by ‘keeping your head down’ had for many become a poor coping strategy. It should come as no surprise therefore that the previous few weeks and months have produced a crop of reports of new caravans making their way to the US-Mexico border. A major difference now (towards the end of 2021), however, is that large numbers of Haitians and African people are now joining the many Central Americans who form the caravans.

A few of the more recent reports are summarised below by Martin Mowforth for The Violence of Development website.

In October [2021] numerous reports of massive migrant crossings through the Darien jungle of Panama were made, most notably by UNICEF. On 8th October the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that “More than 91,000 migrants have crossed Darien Gap on way to North America this year”.

A UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) press release from 11th October reported on the “highest ever number of migrant children crossing the Darien jungle towards the US” in 2021.  “Almost 19,000 migrant children have journeyed through the Darien Gap so far this year, nearly three times more than the number registered over the five previous years combined. More than 1 in 5 migrants crossing the border between Colombia and Panama are children.” Horrifyingly, “Half of them are below the age of five.”

“Each child crossing the Darien Gap on foot is a survivor,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Deep in the jungle, robbery, rape and human trafficking are as dangerous as wild animals, insects and the absolute lack of safe drinking water. Week after week, more children are dying, losing their parents, or getting separated from their relatives while on this perilous journey. It’s appalling that criminal groups are taking advantage of these children when they are at their most vulnerable.”

“Never before have our teams on the ground seen so many young children crossing the Darien Gap – often unaccompanied. Such a fast-growing influx of children heading north from South America should urgently be treated as a serious humanitarian crisis by the entire region, beyond Panama,” Gough said.

In Panama, UNICEF and its partners are providing psychosocial support and health services to migrant children, especially those who have been separated from their parents. Together with the Panama government, the UN organisation is distributing water every day to 1,000 people and hygiene kits to migrant adolescent girls and women at the three migrant reception centres in Bajo Chiquito, Lajas Blancas and San Vicente.

The numbers of migrants headed for the US have been bolstered by Haitians and those from African countries, and caravans from the northern triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras continue to form and move northwards to the Mexico / US border.

https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/2021-records-highest-ever-number-migrant-children-crossing-darien-jungle-towards-us

 

On 29th October, Telesur headlined ‘Hundreds of Haitian Migrants Reported Passing Through Honduras’.

The increase of migrants present in the country is evident, and the groups of Hondurans fleeing the country have been joined by Haitians and Africans. The migration situation in Honduras has become more complicated in recent days with the passage of hundreds of migrants from Haiti and numerous African countries, who seek to reach US territory, human rights defenders reported.

The teleSUR correspondent in Honduras, Gilda Silvestrucci, indicated that in the bus terminals the increase of migrants is evident, and the groups of Hondurans fleeing the country have been joined by Haitians and Africans.

In an interview, the migrant Claude Pierre acknowledged that the road to the United States (US) is “dangerous.” “One suffers a lot, goes hungry, but (one migrates) to see if one can find a better life,” he said.

Data show that in the last weeks Honduras has received more than 3,000 Haitians, a number that will increase and complicate the situation in the border areas. The Honduran defender of migrants’ rights, Itsmania Platero, said that these 3,000 Haitians “are part of a first contingent that left from Panama and there could be up to 80,000 migrants entering this country.”

Marcela Cruz, representative of the CLAMOR network, explained that the shelters provide attention to the migrants, as well as to the thousands of Honduran returnees to whom the Government does not provide any assistance.

Analysts have pointed out that violence and poverty are the main reasons why young people, women and men decide to make the exodus to the United States.

Gilda Silvestrucci noted that although the calls for caravans have ceased, many leave in small groups to meet in Guatemala or in Mexico, where an international caravan of migrants is heading to Mexico City, in search of a response to their requests for refuge.

 

Also on 29th October 2021, La Prensa Gráfica reported that on the 10th of that month several bodies of migrants were discovered.

Medardo Tejada Portillo (the father), Jenmy (mother) and son Joshua along with Jenmy’s sister-in-law Francisca Dominguez were the victims. The two assassins are believed to have been ‘coyotes’ who had been hired to take them to the United States. It is believed that the victims had paid almost $10,000 for the journey. They had all been shot.

The victims had planned their journey for three months and the money to pay the ‘coyotes’ had been paid by Jenmy’s mother who lives in the United States.

 

On 5th November, Telesur reported that a ‘Central American migrant caravan overwhelmed the Mexican National Guard’.

(Published 5 November 2021 by Telesur)

On Thursday, a Central American migrant caravan traveling on foot overwhelmed the Mexican National Guard trying to contain its advance and resumed its march toward Mexico City.

The migrants and guard members clashed on the highway linking the towns of Pijijiapán and Tonalá in Chiapas state, leaving at least two guard members injured and many people arrested.

Upon reaching the highway, federal agents got out of their vehicles with shields in their hands and created a barrier to prevent migrants from moving forward. The anti-riot groups initially managed to intimidate the asylum seekers, who ran away. A short time later, however, the situation changed.

At the scene, some 50 migrants counter-attacked the National Guard with sticks and stones. This strong reaction occurred amid the memory of the death of a Cuban migrant who was shot to death by the National Guard over the weekend. After about 10 minutes, the officers rushed into their vehicles to get away as quickly as possible from the site. The caravan then continued moving down the road.

After the altercation, the caravan, composed of some 4,000 migrants, mostly from Central America and Haiti, departed from Pijijiapán on its trek north toward Tuxtla Gutiérrez City in the Chiapas state.

The Central American region is seeing an unprecedented exodus this year. Between January and August, Mexico had reported the entry of more than 147,000 undocumented migrants, tripling the number in 2020, according to figures from the Mexican government.

 

On 19th November 2021, a new migrant caravan attempted to cross Mexico en route to the Unites States

(By Rubén Morales Iglesias) 

A new 2,000 strong migrant caravan, headed to the United States (US), moved out of Tapachula in southern Mexico on Thursday. Tapachula is a city in the state of Chiapas, which borders with Guatemala.

The migrants, Central Americans and Haitians, are attempting to join the first caravan which left Tapachula on October 23 with about 4,000 migrants. That caravan has since whittled down to 700 to 800 according to different reports.

The caravan set out of Tapachula as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was in Washington meeting with the US and Canadian leaders talking about migration.

While their objective is to reach the US border, the migrants said they intend to pass through Mexico City where they plan on meeting with López Obrador to ask for humanitarian visas and permanent resident cards in Mexico City to move freely in the country while trying to get to the US.

 

On 21st November 2021, Mexican authorities found more than 400 migrants in trailers.

(By Aaron Humes: Associated Press)

More than 400 migrants transiting Mexico were found in the back of two trailers, not far from where two separate migrant caravans were located heading north toward the United States.

The group, according to the Veracruz state’s Human Rights Commission’s representative Tonatiuh Hernández Sarmiento, were very dirty, covered in mud, in overcrowded, hot and wet conditions, and included children, pregnant women and ill people. The migrants were held by authorities in a fenced yard until federal immigration agents could retrieve them.

In recent meetings the leaders of Mexico, the United States and Canada discussed immigration, agreeing to increase the paths for legal migration, for example with more visas for temporary workers. They also pledged to expand access to protective status for migrants and to address the causes that lead them to migrate, but did not offer hard numbers or timelines for implementation.

But the clandestine flow of migrants who pay smugglers for direct trips to the US border continues, and those active on the issue say the agreement provides few advances and depends on conditions on the ground, where authorities continue to violate the rights of migrants, deny them access to protection, and allow crimes and human rights abuses to occur with impunity.

The migrant caravan currently in Veracruz is the first to advance so far in the past two years, because since 2019, security forces have stopped and dissolved the caravans. This time, the Mexican government used the offer of humanitarian visas to diminish the caravan’s numbers as it slowly moved north, but some have remained suspicious and continued walking. Some migrants who received the documents have reported being swept up by authorities in the north and returned to Tapachula near the Guatemala border.

At least one migrant told the Associated Press he was prepared to find work in Mexico and enter the US legally when he could – but that he could not risk going back to his home country, in this case Haiti.

 

Such headlines and reports make it clear that the Central American crisis of violence, economic disadvantage, corruption and population displacement has not disappeared, despite the fact that it now rarely appears in our mainstream media.

On this theme, we recommend our readers to another item in this month’s additions to The Violence of Development website, namely the CounterPunch article by W.T Whitney. In the last few paragraphs Whitney gives some context behind these escalating migration rates.

‘US Intervention and Capitalism Have Created a Monster in Honduras’ by W.T. Whitney in CounterPunch.

 

 

Migration and forced displacement in Central America

By Martin Mowforth

Key words: migration; forced displacement; Central America; Norther Triangle countries; UNHCR data; refugees; asylum seekers.

In early December [2020], data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) relating to refugees in and asylum seekers from Central American countries showed the following:.

  • There are around 470,000 refugees and asylum seekers from the north of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) throughout the world.
  • There are more than 97,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Mexico from Central America.
  • There are over 318,000 internally displaced people in Honduras and El Salvador.
  • Over 102,000 Nicaraguans have left their country during 2020.

The UNHCR website explains that:

“Growing numbers of people in Central America are being forced to leave their homes. … Compounded by socio-economic instability and poverty, they are escaping gang violence, threats, extortion, recruitment into gangs or prostitution, as well as sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people – collectively known as LGBTI – are also feeling persecution. Many more are displaced more than once within their own countries or have been deported back home, often into dangerous situations.”

“The escalating situation of chronic violence and insecurity, coupled with COVID-19-related restrictions, is exacerbating hardship and persecution for tens of thousands of people in Central America, who now have limited means of finding protection and making ends meet.”

The UNHCR website cites Raúl who fled with his family from El Salvador to neighbouring Guatemala: “We had our own bakery in El Salvador, until gangs arrived, and we could no longer sell bread. We were threatened out of our country.”

Whilst there are similar factors at play in the three Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – as described in the UNHCR quote above – the situation in Nicaragua has rather different recent causes. In the case of Nicaragua, the UNHCR puts the number of refugee and asylum seekers down to political persecution. Whilst this may explain the motives of some of those included in the data, the UNHCR data should be questioned as many of the applications from Nicaraguans for asylum or refugee status or citizenship within Costa Rica come from Nicaraguans who are already resident in Costa Rica or are regular economic migrants who travel seasonally to work on the Costa Rican plantations or who do domestic work there.

Indeed, the UNHCR is accused of manufacturing a ‘refugee crisis’ by John Perry who explains in more detail the misuse of data in his article ‘Nicaraguans in Costa Rica: A Manufactured ‘Refugee’ Crisis’ which is also included as the next item in this month’s additions to The Violence of Development website (December 2020).