Eight in ten people in Central America suffer from a severe food insecurity crisis and are on the brink of extreme poverty, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
In addition, due to its geographical location, the isthmus is one of the areas most prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic activity, overflowing rivers and hurricanes such as Eta and Iota, which in November, just five months ago, devastated vast areas. in the region, killing more than 200 people and displacing more than half a million people.
If we add to this the extremely high levels of corruption, drug trafficking and indiscriminate organized crime violence, we have ideal ground for a sustained and recurring human diaspora.
These massive movements of people, which have been the engine of the American economy for the past decades, are now affecting the political interests of the Northern Power. But the obstacles that have been imposed in an attempt to contain the human tide have only made the suffering of the migrants worse.
Despite this, Central Americans continue to flee their countries of origin, particularly Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
According to US officials, more than 100,000 people were arrested at the southern border in the past month, with an increase in the number of unaccompanied families and children in the previous month.
The migration of Nicaraguans to Costa Rica has its own peculiarities, but it is of such magnitude that it has exceeded the capacity of institutional response of Costa Rica.
The small country also has to contend with the transmigration of people from South America, Africa and Asia, who, in relatively fewer numbers than Central Americans, are also trying to reach the United States.
In contrast, remittances from migrants strengthen the region’s economies, often overtaking even sectors such as industry. For example, in Guatemala, remittances represent 14.6% of GDP, in Honduras 23%, El Salvador 20% and Nicaragua 13.4% (2020 data).
Which government would be interested in genuinely solving the migration problem if it supports poor economies?
In addition, banking systems are strengthened, which ensures a certain sustainability for national economies.
International cooperation did not work
The region is no stranger to international aid and cooperation programs.
The Alliance for Prosperity plan, launched in 2014 by the Obama administration, which sought to stem the migration of people from northern Central America, has failed miserably.
One of the main reasons was the failure to take into account what all basic public policy programs teach: “Those affected must be involved in designing solutions and must define their public problem”.
Although the official version from Central American countries speaks of an interest in integrating communities into plans, the real interest has come from the United States.
However, the project was carried out from the office, without knowing the terrain and even, in some cases, by authoritarian, corrupt and human rights violators, backed even by the United States.
The results are obvious. The projects implemented have not changed the quality of people’s lives at all. Instead, it swelled the pockets of many politicians and NGO directors who were asked nothing more than technical or financial reports, rather than impact assessments.
The path to the “ American dream ”
However, for the new American authorities, it is essential to bring an urgent and energetic solution to the problem, with the particularity of the democratic discourse of respect for human rights.
This is a priority given the mountains of reports of migrants being chased or killed en route north by criminal gangs.
In recent times, even the Mexican immigration authorities themselves have been accused of being linked to these crimes.
In January of this year, 19 people, mostly of Guatemalan origin, were brutally murdered and burned to death in Camargo, Tamaulipas.
Investigations link state police personnel and agents of the National Migration Institute to the events.
These atrocities are part of the pressure exerted by the Mexican authorities to restrict the passage of Central Americans seeking to reach American territory.
As an alternative to this risky passage, many migrants fleeing Central America choose Mexico as their destination, as the Documentation Network for Migrant Defense Organizations has pointed out in their reports.
In his strategy to structurally solve the problem, Joe Biden recently appointed his vice president, Kamala Harris, to implement migration mitigation plans.
The vice president, former attorney general of California, knows the terrain and issues of security, justice, intelligence, defense and diplomatic relations.
But for the new effort to bear fruit, Kamala Harris must pay close attention to the poverty that plagues the region.
Let’s not waste time and resources on finding gunpowder.
People migrate irregularly, putting their lives on the line if they have nothing to eat. And to reverse this trend, it is necessary to generate changes that strengthen state institutions.
The region must improve its indicators of education, access to health and security in all senses of the word, including public, social and food security.
It is also essential to strengthen judicial systems – among others to mitigate impunity – and party systems, which are currently weakened and extremely vulnerable to corruption, in a context where the flow of money from drug trafficking and gangs of young people contaminate everything.
The so-called “regional anti-corruption task force” that the US government wants to set up must take into account the fundamental issues that have led Central America to become a migratory machine that expels thousands of people every day.
It’s time to call things by their name and try to reclaim the present and future of some 37 million people, who see the bald eagle as their salvation from afar.
Translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima