Well it certainly has been an interesting week here in America as we watched Donald Trump fold like a beach chair in the face of tumultuous protest over his policy of separating children, including toddlers, from the parents of “immigrants” crossing our southwest border illegally.
After trying unsuccessfully to blame the Democrats and telling more lies such that he was only enforcing the “Democrat law” and that he could do nothing without Congressional action, today he signed an executive order keeping “immigrant” families together at the border. At least for now. Moments ago the House defeated the first of two bills addressing the immigration issue.
A couple of facts from a retired old crank living in Florida should be presented here.
First, the vast majority of families or mothers with children arriving at the border are not Mexican. They are from the murder triangle of Central America – Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The erstwhile “Banana Republics.”
Second, they are not economic migrants. They are refugees.
They are fleeing their countries in spite of and in the face of the Trump policy, well known certainly in Honduras and to a lesser extent in Guatemala and El Salvador, that upon arriving at and illegally crossing the border, they will be treated like criminals, not as refugees. They will be arrested, jailed, separated from their children and deported as quickly as possible.
This is the Trump zero tolerance policy, enacted as a deterrent and meant to keep migrant refugees in their place.
They are coming anyway, in spite of the dangers of making the trip, beset by trafficers bandits, assorted thugs and extortionists.
Why is that?
“Honduras has been recognized as the murder capital of the world for many years, with its homicide rate peaking in 2011 at 91.6 murders per 100,000 people. , San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where the two biggest criminal gangs, which have memberships across the region in the tens of thousands, fight with automatic weapons. The city has become a war zone, with a murder rate of 193 per 100,000 (New York City’s rate is 5.1). It also has the world’s highest rate of sexual violence.
Homicide rates in Guatemala have remained steady, but have more than doubled in El Salvador. After the late 2013 breakdown of a truce between the country’s two most powerful gangs (MS-13 and Barrio 18), homicide rates increased dramatically, reaching an all-time high of 104 murders per 100,000 people in 2015. Not surprisingly, research on the causes of migration from this region increasingly finds these high levels of crime and violence as a primary push factor in Central American migration.”
Courtesy of Congressman Henry Cuellar
“The most important single object that Esperanza Ramirez and her 3-year-old daughter brought with them on their thirteen-day, 1,200-mile exodus through Mexico was a tiny piece of paper with the telephone number of Esperanza’s sister on Long Island. She folded the paper to make it even smaller, and hid it among the few things they carried. Criminal drug gangs along the Gulf of Mexico have gone into a lucrative side business: kidnapping Central Americans from the stream of refugees fleeing north, and forcing them to call their relatives in the United States to wire ransom money. “I knew that you can’t let them find out that you have contacts up here,” she said as her exhausted little girl, Angelica, slept in her lap. “It’s better if they think you are poor and alone.”
The Ramirezes (their names have been changed to protect them from retribution) got through Mexico and crossed the Rio Grande just south of here safely, but Esperanza, who is 24, has had to live with violence her entire life. She and her daughter had just fled the most dangerous city in the world, San Pedro Sula, Honduras.”
Under both international and American law, Esperanza and Angelica Ramirez have a strong case for asylum in the United States. But the United States has a particular moral responsibility in the Central America refugee crisis that goes even deeper.
Americans, especially young Americans, probably know more about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda than they do about how their own government funded murderous right-wing dictatorships in Central America back in the 1980s.
The Reagan administration’s violent and immoral policy included $5 billion in aid to the military/landowner alliance in El Salvador, which prolonged an awful conflict in which some 75,000 people died—a toll proportionally equivalent to the casualty rate in the American Civil War. But once shaky peace agreements were signed in the 1990s, the United States walked away, leaving the shattered region to rebuild on its own.
In response to today’s exodus, our President is showing little concern for international law, and none at all for Washington’s own historic responsibility in Central America.
During the early 1980s, the United States established a continuing military presence in Honduras to support El Salvador, the Contra guerrillas fighting the Nicaraguan government, and also develop an air strip and modern port in Honduras. Though spared the bloody civil wars wracking its neighbors, the Honduran army quietly waged campaigns against “Marxist-Leninist” militias and against many non-militants as well. The operation included a CIA-backed campaign of extrajudicial killings by government-backed units, most notably Battalion 316.
In Guatemala in 1950, in a largely free and fair election, Jacobo Arbenz was elected President. The historical view of him was that he was a moderate capitalist. His most important policy was Decree 900, a sweeping agrarian reform bill passed in 1952. Decree 900 transferred uncultivated land to landless peasants. Only 1,710 of the nearly 350,000 private land-holdings were affected by the law, which benefited approximately 500,000 individuals, or one-sixth of the population.
Despite their popularity within the country, the reforms of the Guatemalan Revolution were disliked by the United States government, which was predisposed by the Cold War to see it as communist, and the United Fruit Company (UFCO), whose hugely profitable business had been affected by the end to brutal labor practices. United Fruit carried out a vicious propaganda campaign over the “communist threat.”
Plans were made under Harry Truman to overthrow Arbenz with the support of Anastasio Somoza, the Nicaraguan dictator but were aborted when details became public. Eisenhower finished the job along with United Fruit, the CIA and John and Allen Dulles.
A free election to be held in 1963 was thwarted by the Kennedys. Four decades of guerilla warfare, military coups and right wing dictatorships including death squads and murders of the indigenous peoples followed the toppling of Arbenz.
During the first ten years of the civil war, the victims of the state-sponsored terror were primarily students, workers, professionals, and opposition figures, but in the last years they were thousands of mostly rural Maya farmers and non-combatants. More than 450 Maya villages were destroyed and over 1 million people became refugees or displaced within Guatemala. According to the report, Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica (REMHI), some 200,000 people died. More than one million people were forced to flee their homes and hundreds of villages were destroyed. The Historical Clarification Commission attributed more than 93% of all documented violations of human rights to Guatemala’s military government, and estimated that Maya Indians accounted for 83% of the victims. It concluded in 1999 that state actions constituted genocide.
Such has been the behavior of the United States of America in the “Banana Republics.”
Today “gangs” control vast areas of these countries.
We should not call them gangs. This in not West Side Story.
These are terrorist organizations.
If we wish to stem the tide of children and women showing up at our border asking us to protect them we should spend as much effort helping to make their home countries livable as we do to prosecute them as criminals. They are fleeing the violence resulting from the slow institutional failure of government in their countries.
No amount of soap will erase the stain from our unclean hands.