A Caravan Called Central America
There was no need for Mr. Trump's conspiracies—No hidden moves by Mr. Soros, no plans by ISIS, nor political projects by US Democrats or Honduran leftists. The migrant caravan only comes as a surprise to those who have only just now discovered the human mobility corridor between Tegucigalpa and the Arizona desert, through which Central American migrants have fled for decades, having been spit out by their own countries.
This caravan, which has multiplied several times over since it began, is no surprise. It required a mere mention on Facebook to excite thousands to flee en masse. The movements, in these times, self-summon. The same is true for those who protest by escaping.
No matter Donald Trump’s lies, the people taking part in these caravans are not criminals who conspire to invade the United States. They are desperate men and women, so desperate as to carry their young children in their arms for four thousand kilometers. If they join a caravan, in rows of people that are lost in the horizon, they do so to avoid some of the risks faced by small groups that cross Mexican territory, plagued by criminals.
In his shelter in Ixtepec, Oaxaca, the priest Alejandro Solalinde has been receiving migrants for years arriving at the height of exhaustion, assaulted by all kinds of gangs, beaten or looted by Mexican authorities. He has seen women who were raped along the way, people whose lives were spared by a miracle. Once, Solalinde posed the question: "What are these people running away from to risk their lives in this way?"
It continues to be a valid question if we want to understand these caravans. Beyond questions such as who organized them, who placed the first ad, and who leads these groups, the most pertinent question is the one Solalinde asked. What is making these people flee, even with babies on their arms? Why are entire families fleeing, exposing themselves to a cruel route, to territories controlled by Narco Cartels, to sexual violence, to kidnapping, and today, even to the threats of the president of the United States to send the army to arrest them? What makes them run away?
The Hondurans who initiated this new form of migration as a group are fleeing precisely from the antidemocratic monster created in Honduras by the United States. That beast emerged from the tolerance of the coup d'état in 2009, was further affirmed by the fraudulent re-election, just a year ago, of President Juan Orlando Hernández and his clique of corrupt leaders, and legitimized by Washington.
The caravan that is arriving in Mexico City flees from an unbearable accumulation of violence, corruption, poverty and organized crime that has closed the possibilities for a decent life. Hondurans flee from a corrupt government, from a corrupt opposition, and from repeated lies in which they no longer believe.
Thousands have followed the example set by Hondurans and are now organizing their own caravans in neighboring countries. They flee the repression of a tyrant in Nicaragua and the delusions of a corrupt and inept President in Guatemala. They flee from the inability of Salvadoran governments, both ultra-right and ultra-left, to put an end to homicides, inequality and corruption. They flee the violence exerted by gangs deported by the United States, a country that now demands loyalty in exchange for crumbs, in spite of the fact it bears equal responsibility for the situation in the isthmus. They flee from indolent elites and from decades of waiting for a future that never comes.
If anything today represents Central America, it is not governments, diplomatic bodies or flags; it is the people taking part in these caravans, who at each step convey a consistent and irrefutable message about the reality in the region.
With their flight, these men and women define what they are fleeing from: a land where there is no longer a possibility of a dignified life for themselves and no future for their children. Their chance of ever being taken into account seems so remote, that in El Salvador, none of the four candidates for the presidency has taken a stand in their defense or against the threats made by Trump. For the future president, whomever is elected, the goal of remaining on good terms with the United States is more important than ensuring the wellbeing of his of own population; and winning the vote is more important than offering any solution to the systemic reasons that make Central Americans flee. And they continue to flee, now en masse, so that the silence of political leaders does not make them invisible.
In these caravans, one finds the keys to all the problems of the region, including Mexico and the United States. The solution is not to stop them by force, because those migrants are not the problem. Attempts to criminalize the caravan evade the difficult questions necessary to solve the causes of migration. It is a vile act of cowardice. It is blaming the migrants for the answers that the rulers of the region, from Managua to Washington, have not been able to provide.
FI name: Noviembre 2018