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Refusing to Honor Refugees

Obama Deports Honduran Migrants

by RAHEEL HAYAT

On July 14, 2014, the Obama Administration deported 38 Honduran women and children, some of them as young as 18 months old, in what it said was “just the initial wave” of deportations, amidst a rise in children fleeing poverty and violence in Central America. The migrants were flown to San Pedro Sula, a Honduran city with the highest homicide rate in the world. The mainstream American Media has attributed the recent rise in number of Honduran Migrants coming into the U.S. solely to the increasing violence related to drug trafficking and gangs in Honduras. However, what the media has failed to address is the political instability in Honduras caused by the 2009 military coup and the role the United States played in it. The military coup of 2009 threw open the doors to a huge increase in drug trafficking and violence that has resulted in a wave of state-sponsored repression in Honduras.

In 2009, a military coup took place in Honduras when the Honduran Army ousted then democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya who was accused of overreaching and not abiding by the order of the Honduran Supreme Court. The military of Honduras, instead of bringing Zelaya to trial, put him on a plane to Costa Rica and effectively took over the administration of the country. The international community marked these events with widespread condemnation. The United Nations, The Organization of American States (OAS), and the European Union condemned the removal of Zelaya as a military coup. On 5 July, the OAS, invoking for the first time Article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter voted by acclamation of all member states to suspend Honduras from the organisation.

Protests Against the Military Coup in 2009

The United States under the new Obama Administration quickly recognized the the new government of President Lobo, even when the international community and rest of Latin America refused to do so. President Lobo’s government was in fact a hand picked government by the Honduran Military. It retained most of the military figures who perpetrated the coup, and no one was ever prosecuted for the military coup under President Lobo’s administration.

The United States was weary of Manuel Zelaya increasing leftist ties with then President of Vanezuela Hugo Chavez and President Raul Castro of Cuba. On 22 July 2008, Zelaya sought to incorporate Honduras into the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America — Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA), an international cooperation organization based on the idea of social, political, and economic integration in Latin America and the Caribbean . This posed a direct threat to large land and business owners in Honduras, who have historically held political power in the country.

The new government of President Lobo backed by the military was supported by Miguel Facussé, the richest man in Honduras by most accounts and a major player in the drug trade that goes through Honduras. The United States, weary of a strong Latin American Economic Bloc, also saw this coup as an opportunity to consolidate its economic investments in Honduras. Since the coup the United States has maintained and in some areas increased military and police financing for Honduras and for people like Facussé. The United States has also been enlarging its military bases in Honduras, according to an analysis by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The United States also saw Honduras as a first domino with which to push back against the line of center-left and leftist governments that have won elections in Latin America in the past 20 years. With its American air base, Honduras is also crucial to the United States’ military strategy in Latin America.

So what does all of this have to do with the recent surge of children crossing into the United States?

According to the Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), more than 10,000 official complaints have been filed about abuses by the police and military since the coup, not one of which has been addressed. Those who document these abuses are under threat: twenty-two journalists and media workers have been killed since the coup and COFADEH’s leadership has received death threats. Hondurans are still suffering from the effects of the June 2009 military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of President Manuel Zelaya.

The recent surge in migration of people from Honduras into the United States can be directly traced back to the 2009 coup. The increasing violence between U.S. backed Honduras Government and the Drug Cartels has led to a break down of the economy and security in Honduras. The United States continues to support Honduras’s military by supplying them with military aid while simultaneously deporting thousands of migrants who continue to arrive in the United States seeking escape from violence in Central America. Reports show Honduran children are increasingly being targeted by gang violence and Border Patrol statistics indicate a strong correlation between Central American cities with high homicide rates and waves of children who come to the United States. Asylum claims from Honduras have skyrocketed more than 500 percent in the last five years since the coup.

Instead of taking responsibility in the current crisis in Honduras, and accepting the incoming migrant population (many of whom are children) as refugees, the United States has treated these people as criminals, often detaining and deporting them without any legal representation. The United States describes a refugee as someone who “has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.” It is clear that under this definition, migrants escaping to the United States from Honduras and other parts of Central America would qualify for Asylum and refugee status. However, since the United States has expedited deportation hearings for many of these refugees including hundreds of minors, these people have not been able claim asylum and find a legal means to stay in this country.

Hondurans who are coming to the United States are fleeing a tumultuous situation that has led to thousands of indiscriminate killings in the past few years. The United States, by deporting these people back to Honduras are putting them directly in harms way. It is about time that the world challenges the Obama Administration over its complicity in the recent economic and political instability in Honduras and reminds the Administration that it has a moral responsibility to help the Honduran people who are fleeing their country to seek refuge in United States.

Raheel Hayat is an attorney and human rights activist from the San Francisco Bay Area. 

 

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Response

 

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Jeffrey St. Clair

Editor

Counter Punch

counterpunch@counterpunch.org

 

July 23, 201

Dear Mr. St. Clair,

Re: Counter Punch article on Obama Deports Honduran Migrants

I commend Raheel Hayat for writing about the high rates of murder and drug trafficking that occur in my country (CounterPunch Weekend Edition, July 18-20, Refusing to Honor Refugees: Obama Deports Honduran Migrants). In fact, Honduras suffers from related problems of poverty, a lack of economic opportunities, and under-resourced policing, all of which are exacerbated by externally funded armed groups that are exploiting the Honduran land conflicts for their wider political objectives by terrorizing local communities and encouraging the illegal seizure of private lands. These are all issues on which Honduran is looking to the United States and others for support.

However, Raheel Hayat makes very serious but erroneous and unsubstantiated statements about Mr. Miguel Facusse, the owner of Corporación Dinant. Given that CounterPunch claims to “Tell the Facts”, I ask that your readers are made aware of the following:

As a proud Honduran and a major employer in Central America for many decades, Mr. Facusse plays no part in party politics, preferring instead to work with Governments of all political persuasions to ensure that Corporación Dinant is able to continue operating for the benefit of its staff, the local communities in which we operate, and the Honduran economy as a whole. Dinant’s businesses are in no way related to any government institutions or government projects.

Dinant and its owner, Mr. Facusse, have never been involved in any activities related to drug trafficking or any other type of illegal activities. We strongly condemn the use of any of our properties for illegal drug-related activities. In fact, we are doing everything in our power to assist the Honduran and US authorities in their efforts to combat drug trafficking by reporting immediately any illegal activities that we find to have occurred on our facilities.

As an attorney and human rights activist, Raheel Hayat’s intentions are undoubtedly honorable. But, for all its troubles, Honduras would be better served if those who have either never been here or who hold extreme and outdated political views did not seek to represent us. I kindly ask that CounterPunch publish this letter adjacent to Mr. Hayat’s original online article.

Yours sincerely,

Roger Pineda Pinel

Corporate Relations Director

Tel: (504) 2239-8800—ext. 5120

www.dinant.com