Scott Nicol is to be commended for his recent Rio Grande Guardian article calling out those Congressional delegations coming to the Valley to “observe” the “crisis at the border.”
He is absolutely correct in indicating these delegations, whether Republican, Democratic or “bipartisan” are not seriously interested in the flow of asylum seekers and unaccompanied children into the U.S. from our southern border.
There definitely is a serious problem, and Scott definitely is correct. Republicans and Democrats alike, have no actual interest in finding solutions to the problem. Their primary interests are grandstanding, posturing, playing the blame game by pointing fingers at each other, and posing piously for repugnant photo-ops.
If we want to resolve the problem of tens of thousands of migrants from Latin America trekking to our border in search of asylum or refugee status, we need to identify the root causes of this migration and address the problem at its roots.
If you go to your doctor because you have a sharp pain in your lower side, do you want your doctor to prescribe some pain reliever and send you home? Or, do you want your doctor to identify the root cause of the problem and solve the problem at its root? If you have an appendicitis, do you want that pain medication, or do you want surgery to remove the appendix? If you opt for the pain medication, you literally are risking your life.
In foreign policy parlance, “blowback” occurs when actions produce unintended and unexpected negative consequences. In looking for the root causes of the current Central America immigration problem, we will find two sources; both of which routinely are ignored by pandering politicians.
The first is Trump’s four-year effort to close the border. What we see on our border today essentially is a consequence of “pent up demand.” Many (most?) migrants coming today would have come during the past four years were it not for these restrictive policies that not only violate International Law, Treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory, and U.S. Law; but also violate the Constitution of the United States, Article VI, Paragraph 2. Even Biden is in violation because, with the exception of unaccompanied children, his administration continues to turn away asylum seekers.
The second reason is far more important and is rooted in the history of U.S. imperialism throughout Latin America, particularly Central American. Interest began with the issuance of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. The Doctrine first was used to prevent expansion of European colonialism in Latin America. Subsequently it evolved into President Theodore Roosevelt declaring the right to exercise “international police power” (i.e., intervene at will) over Latin America.
The history of U.S. imperialism in Central America is long and bloody, beginning with soldier of fortune/mercenary William Walker’s two invasions of Nicaragua in the 1850s, with the intention of bringing Central America into the U.S. as slave states.
He had off and on support of the U.S. government. Although he succeeded in ruling Nicaragua briefly, united Central American armies ultimately overthrew his government, and captured and executed him in 1860 while the U.S. was too focused on its own Civil War to intervene.
From 1911 to 1914, through the efforts of Sam “The Banana Man” Zemurray, the U.S. effectively took control of Honduras, overthrowing governments unsympathetic to United Fruit owning more than a million acres of Honduran land and controlling the nation’s banana production. Thanks to the U.S. brief periods of democratic government were, well, brief.
John Negroponte, as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, worked closely with General Gustavo Alvarez and the CIA. He provided cover for Battalion 3-16, notorious for torture and massacres Honduran men, women and children.
The most recent example, and the cause of most of today’s exodus from Honduras is the overthrow of the democratically elected Honduran government in 2008, by General Vásquez who was trained at the U.S. School of the Americas (aka, School of the Assassins) at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
Given decades of Honduran military officers being trained by the U.S., and the Honduran military being equipped by the U.S., there is no doubt the U.S. sanctioned the coup; as evidenced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refusing to join numerous international demands to restore the democratic government of President Zelaya.
Today, Honduras in the murder capital of the world, with women disproportionately being targeted. Blowback.
U.S. intervention in El Salvador began in earnest in 1932, as the U.S. assisted military dictator Maximiliano Hernández in defeating peasant revolutionary leader Farabundo Martí, at the expense of as many as 40,000 Salvadoran lives, killed mostly by Hernández’ forces. Efforts to end a string of military dictatorships through free elections in 1960 were thwarted by President Eisenhower.
Ultimately, between 1980 and 1992, El Salvador was ravaged by U.S. backed military dictators urged on by Presidents Reagan and Bush to defeat a peasant led revolution. The most infamous atrocity of the war was the massacre of over 1,000 men, women and children at El Mozote in 1981 by the elite U.S. trained Atlacatl Battalion, that had been dubbed “the pride of the U.S. military team in El Salvador”.
As many as 80,000 men, women and children died, with the vast majority killed by U.S. trained military and death squads. The UN estimates 85 percent of those deaths were by the Salvadoran military and death squads.
The story in Guatemala begins in 1920, but the real tragedy is the destruction of ten years of democratic government in Guatemala by the CIA in 1954 upon orders of President Eisenhower. The ensuing civil wars are very similar to what was done to El Salvador with a U.S. trained and equipped military being responsible for the disappearance, torture, mutilations and deaths of tens of thousands of Guatemalans.
Our problem on the border is blowback.
To solve end our blowback problem, it is imperative we understand its roots. That means recognizing and admitting the history of U.S. interventions in Central America—the revolutions those interventions have spawned; and the economic exploitation and devastation reaped upon Central America by United Fruit, Dole, and numerous other U.S. based corporations that have impoverished the region.
Once we do that, we can begin to identify what needs to be done so the peoples of Central America do not need to flee their homes.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by writer and retired educator Samuel Freeman. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. Freeman can be reached by email via: [email protected]
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column is a file photo showing a demonstrator, with a Honduran flag on his shoulders, standing next to a bonfire near to the presidential house in Tegucigalpa, on Monday, June 29, 2009. At the time, Honduras’ new leaders were defying growing global pressure to reverse a military coup staged against elected President Manuel Zelaya. (File photo:AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)
Editor’s Note: Samuel Freeman has provided a bibliography for those interested in learning more about U.S. foreign policy in Central America. Here it is:
Johnson, Chalmers. “Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire.” New York: Holt, 2001
Kinzer, Stephen. “Overthrow.” New York: Times Books, 2007.
LeFeber, Walther. “Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America, 2nd ed.” New York: W.W. Norton, 1993.
Pastor, Robert. “Exiting the Whirlpool: U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Latin American and the Caribbean, 2nd ed.” Routledge: Milton, United Kingdom, 2001.
Tseng-Putterman, Mark. “A Century of U.S. Intervention Created the Immigration Crisis.” (Click here to read Tseng-Putterman’s piece).
Zunes, Stephen. “The U.S. Role in the Honduran Coup and Subsequent Violence.” (Click here to read Zunes’ piece).
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