Desperate at the Border

Photograph Source: Nofx221984 – Public Domain

Hundreds of thousands of Central Americans wouldn’t flood the U.S. border if things weren’t pretty bad back home. Destitution, gangs, rampant murder, death squads – that’s what people leave behind in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, countries that have all been laboratories for U.S. anti-communist counterinsurgency and economic neo-liberalism. Those U.S. efforts have been a complete and utter bust. Had the Hillary Clinton state department not been blinded by idiotic dogma and instead supported Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in 2009 rather than green-lighting the rightwing coup against him, he could have instituted his mild reforms, and they would have made life more endurable for thousands of Hondurans. One such reform was Zelaya’s minimum wage, the prospect of which helped cause the coup, because Honduran oligarchs couldn’t tolerate a minimum wage, could they? No. And the U.S. agreed. Well, 12 years later destitute Hondurans cram the U.S. border. And the U.S. brought this on itself. This is a problem for which U.S. policy is largely to blame.

Note that there are very few Nicaraguans among the migrants deluging the border. Why? Because by and large Nicaraguans are satisfied with their socialized economy and their very livable country. But the U.S. isn’t satisfied. No. The U.S. agitates for regime change in socialist Nicaragua, presumably to install a narco-dictator like Juan Hernandez who the U.S. backs in Honduras; the U.S. wants to embed somebody at the helm in Nicaragua who has the Chamber of Commerce seal of approval, a stalwart anti-socialist, who will unleash death squads on leftists and send those Nicaraguan campesinos scrambling to Texas. Did I say U.S. policy is just plain stupid? Let’s repeat that: It’s as stupid as it gets.

The U.S. also supports the relatively new, right-wing president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, who came to power defeating the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front by means of some “anti-corruption” hullaballoo. After the way the anti-corruption business was deployed in Brazil against former presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula, whoever uses it as a path to power deserves skepticism, to say the least. And Bukele is quite authoritarian. At one point he sent soldiers into the legislative assembly to help pass a bill and, reportedly, to overthrow that assembly. Despite a 2020 cut in aid to Bukele’s government, the Trump administration was generally one of his biggest boosters. For the most part, he has U.S. support. Let’s hope that doesn’t mean, as it so often does, that tens of thousands of El Salvadorans hit the road again on their way north. Because that will educe a geschrei of rage from Trump nativists and thus propel the next, Trump-imitating neo-fascist’s quest for the U.S. presidency.

North American government, military and business have been making people’s lives miserable in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala for over a century. Now U.S. policies and counterinsurgency have created a wasteland. And people are running for their lives. They’re fleeing generations of criminally mindless U.S. policy best embodied in HRC’s response to the 2009 Honduran coup. But the idiocy is bipartisan. While Clinton may be directly responsible for the current Honduran dysfunction, equally oblivious are the MAGA millions to whom the GOP is so responsive, screeching about the border being overrun. Of course it’s being overrun – such is the logical conclusion of decades of bipartisan U.S. policy in Central America.

The only question is whether Biden’s administration will ultimately (so far, no) listen to the Trumpsters and respond with Nazi-like force toward the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children trying to escape mayhem to the U.S. Will they go in detention centers? Concentration camps? Cages? Or will Biden construct a system to match them with relatives – documented or undocumented – who are already here? If so, be prepared for some hardcore racist GOP propaganda – as befits a party that pretends not to know why those children are here to begin with and that eschews its responsibility for a century and a half of disastrous policies, ensuring that these children’s lives would be ruined back in their home countries.

Central America isn’t the only place where North American policies, counterinsurgency and unpopular U.S.-backed governments drive people out of their homes. Take Venezuela, currently besieged by criminal, sadistic U.S. sanctions, without which the government of Nicolas Maduro could much more easily function for its population. Sanctions have impelled huge migration out of Venezuela – a migration western media loves to trumpet.

That same media, however, refuses to report on the multitudes who have fled Colombia, NATO’s pied-a-terre on the Latin American continent and ruled by a U.S.-supported reactionary. Death squads also run rampant in Colombia, but neither the U.S. media nor government sees fit to report that. That doesn’t gild the narrative of Plan Columbia, which was promoted by none other than Senator Joe Biden. Plan Colombia sought to eradicate drug trafficking and leftists. Instead, they made a desert and called it peace. The drug business still flourishes, but death squads are mowing down leftists. The U.S. drug war has ravaged Colombia (along with many other Central and Latin American countries), so it’s no wonder that as of 2015 nearly one million Colombians had emigrated to…Venezuela. But you won’t read or see that anywhere in western media.

Given that the U.S. did so much to incentivize flight from Central America, right-wing indignation over migrants swarming the border is hypocritical at best. But the GOP has already shown it intends to use this tragedy to clobber the Dems. That does not bode well for how these unaccompanied children will be treated. They’re already a political football in the hands of a border police force that can be credibly compared to the Gestapo. Biden deserves praise for putting his money where his mouth is, when last week he paid to place these migrants in hotels. This will no doubt elicit howls of rage from austerity-crazed GOP politicians. They will try to hound him into retreat. They may succeed. I, for one, will be amazed if the U.S. somehow manages to rise to the occasion and respond humanely to the disaster it has done so much to create.


Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Busybody. She can be reached at her website.