- A caravan of an estimated 4,000 migrants from Central America is continuing its journey through southern Mexico, bound for the US border.
- Though US President Donald Trump has condemned the migrants, Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel LópezObrador explained they’re escaping widespread institutional issues across Central America.
- Migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are fleeing corruption, violence, and poverty.
A caravan of approximately 4,000 Central American immigrants is headed toward the US border, the latest instance of Central Americans fleeing unbearable conditions for the hope of building a new life in America.
The group’s progress has become a major political flashpoint, earning a public statement of disapproval from President Donald Trump, who has accused them of “coming illegally to the U.S.” The Pentagon later announced it was sending 5,200 troops to the border.
Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2018
Despite Trump’s sharp response, Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador suggested a coordinated response among the United States, Mexico, and Canada to solve the root of the problem with increased funding for development in Central America.
“In this way we confront the phenomenon of migration, because he who leaves his town does not leave for pleasure but out of necessity,” López Obrador said, pointing to the widespread institutional issues across Central America that foster corruption, violence, and poverty.
Outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto also offered the migrants the opportunity to receive benefits and apply for refugee status if they stayed in Mexico, and more than 1,700 took him up on the offer.
The members of the caravan mostly come from the Central American countries known as the Northern Triangle: Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. This collective region is considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world, with common failures among their national systems perpetuating impossible living conditions.
Travelling tens of miles each day in sweltering heat, the caravan had reached Niltepec, Mexico, by Tuesday, October 30 – still at least 1,000 miles from the US border:
This is the second massive migrant caravan to set its sights on the US border this year. Dozens of members of the first caravan, which reached the San Ysidro port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico, in April, have applied for asylum, and their cases are making their way through the long and complicated system.
They’re escaping gang violence
The unmitigated violence and control that gangs such as MS-13 and Barrio 18 orchestrate contribute to some of the world’s highest homicide rates in the Northern Triangle.
Though MS-13 was formed in Los Angeles in the 1960s, its presence grew in Central America in the mid-1990s after the US deported massive rates of undocumented immigrants who had criminal records. It has since become an international organisation that wields strict control within Central America.
Gangs are not only forces of violence, but also of unchecked control, often extorting vulnerable citizens including public transportation agents, small businesses, and poor families for exorbitant fees.
These groups, combined with drug cartels and criminal organisations, form an overwhelmingly powerful and deadly system of control.
They’re fleeing political corruption
Violence and crime thrive under weak national legislatures and administrations that are built on legacies of corruption, which are further stressed by remarkably low tax revenues.
Deadly internal fighting among the government, citizens, and guerrilla groups persisted in the Northern Triangle until the 1990s and provided a foundation for organised crime.
The Northern Triangle’s current governments have been embroiled in political insecurity as recently as June, when protests following the re-election of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández left 32 dead and resulted in no charges for police or military agents.
They’re trying to get out of poverty
Irineo Mujica, of the humanitarian aid group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, told the Associated Press on Monday that two things are responsible for the exodus: “hunger and death.”
In Honduras, for example, two-thirds of people live on $US2.50 a day. And the governments collect little taxes from residents, so the availability and quality of necessities like education, healthcare, and security are low.
Many of the people marching in the caravan have children in tow and are trying to give their families a better life in the United States.
A caravan means safety in numbers
Migrants travelling alone or in small groups along the thousands-mile long journey face the possibility of abuse and exploitation at the hands of smugglers and criminals who take advantage of particularly vulnerable immigrants, including pregnant women, minors, refugees, and asylum-seekers.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged the risks migrants face, but doubled down on the Trump administration’s flat denial that members of the caravan would be admitted at the border.
“We are concerned that these migrants may be victimized by human smugglers or others who would exploit them,” Pompeo said in a statement on Sunday evening. “We also are deeply concerned by the violence provoked by some members of the group, as well as the apparent political motivation of some organisers of the caravan.”
The caravan has become a key point of political rhetoric, as it dominates American media in the weeks before November’s midterm elections.
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