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Honduras: News & Updates

Honduras did not experience civil war in the 1980s, but its geography (bordering El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua) made it a key location for US military operations: training Salvadoran soldiers, a base for Nicaraguan contras, military exercises for US troops. The notorious Honduran death squad Battalion 316 was created, funded and trained by the US. The state-sponsored terror resulted in the forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of approximately 200 people during the 1980s. Many more were abducted and tortured. The 2009 military coup d’etat spawned a resurgence of state repression against the civilian population that continues today.

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For the past year or so, the news has been filled with stories about migrants coming to the U.S. from Central America. We want to understand why people were leaving their home countries. Many of the people expressed pride in their country. They love their home, and they don’t want to leave. But they also struggle. Jobs are hard to find, educational opportunities are limited, and gang activity is widespread. Many people feel they have no choice but to flee and try to start over in the U.S.
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A New York court has found Tony Hernandez - brother of Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez, former member of Honduran Congress - guilty today on four drug-trafficking related charges: conspiring to traffic cocaine into the U.S.; conspiring to traffic drugs using machine guns; using machine guns to traffic; and lying to federal agents.
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Although mostly centered on migration, talk of Latin American foreign policy has increased as the presidential primaries near. Presidential hopefuls have ripped into President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, especially focusing on his “zero tolerance” policy. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has called it “dead wrong” and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro has vowed to decriminalize migration and admit climate refugees who ask for asylum. But the truth is that even in a crowded pool of candidates fighting for the 2020 nomination, many have failed to address how they would work with Latin American countries to address the root causes that push Latin American and Caribbean migrants to seek a better life in the United States. As candidates gear up for the fourth presidential debate...here is what some Democratic presidential hopefuls (and former contenders) have said about Latin American foreign policy so far.
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Oscar Chacón is a co-founder and executive director of Alianza Americas. He tells us his story. In Honduras, femicide, political violence and military brutality are commonplace. Donald Trump's deal would trap people desperately seeking safety. The United Nations reported this February that 128 environmental defenders have been murdered in Honduras since 2010, and that this country has one of the highest rates of femicide in the world. The fact that only 2-5% of cases are ever successfully brought to justice, and high-ranking police officers have alleged ties to organized crime makes it hard for anyone to believe in the system.
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Outgoing Department of Homeland Security head Kevin McAleenan plans to announce during a trip to Central America this week the reinstatement of foreign aid that President Trump previously demanded be withheld, according to government documents obtained by the Washington Examiner. McAleenan, the acting secretary of DHS, is slated to formally announce the United States is reinstating roughly $150 million in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The forthcoming aid is primarily through Defense and State Department programs that support newly signed agreements McAleenan has recently entered with leaders from each of the three countries. The deals focus on addressing surges in recent years in the number of people from countries other than Mexico arriving at the southern border, as well as the underlying causes prompting hundreds of thousands to leave since last October.
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Hundreds of migrants from Africa, the Caribbean and Central America found themselves corralled in a migrant detention facility in southern Mexico on Sunday after a futile attempt to head north as part of a caravan aiming to reach the United States. Just before dusk, after having trudged more than 20 miles north, they were surrounded by hundreds of National Guard agents and police who persuaded the exhausted migrants to board vans back to Tapachula. Children cried, and women complained angrily about waiting months for papers. It was unclear if any would be deported.
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This story is a follow-up to a December 2018 report by Yahoo News (photojournalist Fabio Bucciarelli and videographer Francesca Tosarelli) of a family’s quest to seek asylum in the U.S. after fleeing violence in Honduras. Mirna Hernandez Mendez didn’t have much of a plan for what she would do once she got to the United States when she decided to make the treacherous journey to the US/Mexico border last fall. She just knew she couldn’t stay in Honduras. Rampant gang violence and corruption had made life in her home state of Colon unlivable for Mirna, a mother of six whose own mom and teenage son were both murdered by members of MS-13 (a gang that originated in Los Angeles in the 1980s and then, along with Central American refugees and immigrants, deported back to Central America by Reagan and subsequent administrations). She tried moving away from La Ceiba, the coastal city where she’d spent her whole life, to a more rural part of the state, but violence and threats only followed.
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Combat drug trafficking and climate change simultaneously: Drug trafficking and organized crime are fuelling deforestation in protected tropical forests and national parks across Central America, causing substantial economic losses. Traffickers are cutting down trees to build roads and airstrips to transport cocaine and are encroaching ever further into more remote forest areas to evade anti-narcotics operations, according to two separate studies on the problem. Environmental degradation caused by drug trafficking leads to losses of about $215 million annually in natural and cultural resources across Central America’s protected forest areas, showed estimates by report co-author Bernardo Aguilar-Gonzalez. Areas that are managed by communities record “very low forest losses”, they added. “Investing in community land rights and participatory governance in protected areas is a key strategy to combat drug trafficking and climate change simultaneously,” Aguilar-Gonzalez said in a statement.
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The government of the president of the United States, Donald Trump, declared in 2018 a “zero tolerance” policy on the border with Mexico before the growing arrival of undocumented immigrants, most of them from Central America. In July, the United States signed an immigration agreement with Guatemala and subsequently inked agreements with El Salvador and Honduras. US authorities said they also sought an understanding with Panama. Although the three governments reject that they are “safe third country” pacts — which would allow asylum seekers to be sent to another country to wait while their status is being processed — human rights associations claim the agreements do fall under that category.

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