Neither the coercive policies promoted by Donald Trump’s government nor the deployment of Guatemalan security forces and the Mexican National Guard at border crossings nor the Covid-19 pandemic, have managed to stop the advance of the migrant caravans from Honduras.
Migration as a social phenomenon started several decades ago in Honduras due to, among other factors, inequality, poverty and the search for better economic conditions outside of the country.
Together with this, in recent years, caravans emerged as the most common method of reaching the United States. Since the coup d’etat against the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya (2006-2009), the country has experienced the application of crude neoliberal measures due to the National Party’s different governments.
There were measures imposed basically through the use of force, trickery and fraud. The result? Poverty extended to 70% of society and misery to four out of ten Hondurans.
Actual unemployment surpassed 50% and free trade agreements drove agricultural production down.
This is how the current migratory crisis is described by Ricardo Salgado, a mathematician, social researcher, political expert and advisor for the General Coordination of the Liberty and Refoundation Party (Libre).
In conversation with the Prensa Latina, he explained that Honduras imports almost 90% of the food that it needs. As a result, increases in potential for conflict in the field, advantages and impunity granted to the capitalists of agribusiness and the extreme repression of military and paramilitary forces present in this rural environment.
The Honduras International Migration Monitoring Centre recorded more than a dozen caravans between October 2018 (the date that the first mass group left from the city of San Pedro Sula) and the end of 2021, and he considered this country as the Central American state with the population which migrates the most. A study made public by the academic space of the National Autonomous University, reported that emigration started especially at the end of the 20th century, associated with the impact of hurricane Mitch in 1998. In 1990, around 156,000 Hondurans, 3% of the inhabitants, were living outside the country.
The investigation revealed that, at the beginning of the year 2000, the number of emigrants exceeded 340,000 and from 2019 to 2020, more than a million Hondurans, 9% of the population, resided in other parts of the world, especially in the United States and Spain.
On 15 January, local media reported the exit of the first migrant caravan of 2022 with hundreds of people, both Hondurans and other Latin American nationalities, from the Gran Central Metropolitana bus station in San Pedro Sula, in the department of Cortes.
According to the sociologist Eugenio Sosa, the causes of this phenomenon are: social crisis and their direct consequences (poverty, scarcity, lack of income and unemployment), violence (homicides, petty crime, political persecution of human rights defenders and communities, displacement due to extractivism and organised crime) and problems with democracy and institutional inefficiency through corruption and impunity, which generates despair and the feeling that “things can’t be changed in this country”.
Sosa warns that, in parallel with the increase in search for this exit, Hondurans also face deportation and arrest at the various border points. Furthermore, changes are presented in the migratory demographic with the mass incorporation of teenagers, children and families.
Salgado confirms that limiting or detaining the migratory problem is essential for the refoundation of the country: “Money transferred from family is today one of the three largest sources of currency in the nation, but, paradoxically, the increase in migration provokes more unemployment, one of the triggers”.
In his opinion, the new government led by the first female president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, of Libre, sees this crisis as one of the challenges.
How to face it? Through the creation of sources of employment, the reactivation of farming activity and attention in impoverished rural and urban areas, he asserted.
The origin is, fundamentally, social and economic, Gilberto Rios, one of the leaders of Libre, claimed to Prensa Latina “So, if we return to a government concerned about the needs of its citizens, financial growth and with investments in education, health and safety, it is possible to stop the situation”.
He pointed out that, during the election campaign, Castro even promised the generation of conditions for the migrants to return, forced to leave in those years as a consequence of the conditions of poverty, the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, the scarcity of resources and economic depression. Four years ago, migration experienced caravans as a new method, Eduardo Sosa remembers, which he considers a more generalised, visible and open way, and that which most politically strikes governments because this exodus exposes their mismanagement.
Also, he recognised that the subject is approached in an extremely disjointed way, as “it is a transnational problem and every country faces it directly with Washington, through an insufficient agenda and with few resources”.
Therefore, he specified, the first thing is for the US to face the difficulties of applying regional policies.