What the people in Honduras are trying to escape
Refugees in the Caravan after arrival in Mexico City in November.

What the people in Honduras are trying to escape

Americans need to know the roles of the U.S. in fueling the violence, corruption, and abject poverty that created the so-called Caravan

BRATTLEBORO — Traveling in the searing sun and suffering from blistering feet, sickness, dehydration, and fatigue, the refugees coming from Honduras on the so-called Caravan are not the “real bad people” Trump describes. Rather, they are the victims of successive U.S. administrations that put power in the hands of really bad people.

The term “Banana Republic” first referred to Honduras, where the United States sent the Marines at least six times in the last century simply to keep resources and cheap labor in the hands of a handful of oligarchs and giant U.S. agribusinesses.

More recently, the U.S. flooded Honduras with weapons when it supported the Contras, who were fighting against the Sandinistas in neighboring Nicaragua. These weapons are still in circulation, killing people in Honduras as well as in neighboring countries.

Conditions dramatically worsened after a coup d'état in 2009. The military overthrew a government seeking to bring a modicum of social and economic justice to the country by introducing such measures as a minimum wage and improved land-title registration.

The State Department, under the leadership of Hilary Clinton, recognized the sham election that followed, in an attempt to bring stability to the country. The decision backfired.

The election was followed by heightened levels of violence, corruption, and control by powerful criminal gangs. Interestingly, while the rest of the world boycotted the elections, a handful of Republican members of Congress chose to show up as observers, placing their imprimatur of “free and fair” on an obviously contemptible episode.

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Life became hell for the majority of Hondurans after the coup and sham elections. The U.S. provided millions of dollars to the security forces to prop up the right-wing Nationalist Party, which unveiled a new policy of “supporting business” and aggressively selling off the country's rich natural resources.

Facing widespread public hostility, the government resorted to draconian measures involving arrest, torture, and murder.

The economy collapsed along with the ratcheting up of violence, fear, and intimidation. Already-low wages plunged amid high unemployment.

Environmental activists were slain because of their opposition to the sell-off of mining and hydroelectric concessions that threatened indigenous communities and important habitats.

Death squads reappeared, and the murder rate soared.

By 2010, Honduras had become the most violent country in the world outside an official war zone.

By 2012, under the nose of U.S.-financed security forces, South American smugglers were freely flying into Honduras, which became the launching pad for 80 percent of the cocaine destined for the United States.

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As Hondurans face terror from gangs wielding weapons mostly made in the United States, ignorance has turned the hearts of so many of our citizens into stone. Americans need to know the roles of successive administrations in fueling the violence, corruption, and abject poverty afflicting the people fleeing Honduras.

There is a willful blindness and lack of compassion for the people fleeing the crisis there. We need to listen to their stories and speak out forcefully against the racist language and fear-mongering directed toward them.

We need to welcome these people and keep their hopes alive - not just for their sake, but also to reverse the downward spiral of xenophobia and hatred poisoning our country as a result of Trump's demagoguery.

The journey North is filled with misery, and conditions are worsening. How many Americans watching the caravan on TV have paused to consider what it would be like walking in their shoes - walking in their shoes with painfully blistered feet?

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