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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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The implications of the Monroe Doctrine in Mexico, Central America, and Honduras, highlighting the failures of US policies like the Merida Initiative and drug war strategies. It emphasizes the devastating impact on these regions, resulting in violence, human rights abuses, and corruption. The focus is on adopting new paradigms, shifting away from punitive drug policies to prioritize human well-being, domestically and internationally. It also sheds light on the US influence in Honduras, pointing out interventions, support for corrupt regimes, and obstructing reforms. Furthermore, it addresses immigration, stressing the need for a humane approach rather than militarization. Recommendations include investigating DEA activities, reforming drug policies, anti-militarism measures, non-interference in Honduran affairs, and prioritizing human rights in immigration reforms.

 
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Border security continues to be a hot button issue in Congress. And some congressional leaders are holding hostage other non-border issues because of their tough stance on immigration and desire to gut US asylum law. 

In last month’s newsletter, we shared an article about a one-page document that three Republican senators submitted to President Biden on November 6, summarizing the border and migration proposals they demand to include in the supplemental budget request that the president is submitting for the war in Ukraine, Israel/Gaza, and the US-Mexico border. The draconian measures include: ban asylum access for people who did not cross the border at ports of entry; ban asylum access for people who pass through other countries without seeking asylum there; heighten eligibility standards to pass a credible fear interview; expand migrant detention (including families and children); restrict temporary humanitarian parole.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) responded in a combined letter on December 14, denouncing that: “Republicans continue to hold funding for America’s allies hostage at the expense of migrants and to pass Trump-era border policies.”

Articles in this monthly newsletter: 1) ICE Air: update on removal flight trends. 2) How US Policy Toward Latin America Has Fueled Historic Numbers of Asylum Seekers. 3) WOLA Urges Congress to Protect Asylum and Update Obsolete Border Policies. 4) At the Border: Recent Incidents. 5) Governor Abbott Signs Law to Arrest Anyone in Texas without Immigration Papers.

See the Take Action items listed at the bottom of this newsletter. Our advocacy is needed to maintain some modicum of humanity in the nation’s immigration system and to address root causes of migration.  1) Stop Border Militarization. 2) Take Action Now Against Extreme Asylum Restrictions.  3) Help Migrants and Refugees in Cleveland. 


Read the full IRTF Migrant Justice Newsletter each month at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/blog .

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Honduran authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Daniel Atala Midence, the alleged mastermind behind the murder of Indigenous environmental leader Berta Cáceres. Cáceres, known for opposing the construction of an internationally financed hydroelectric dam, was assassinated in her home in 2016. Atala Midence, the former financial manager of the dam company Desa, is part of a powerful political and economic family. Desa's president, David Castillo, previously sentenced to 22 years and six months for his role in the assassination, also ran the company. Atala Midence, implicated in running operations, was excused from testifying in Castillo's trial due to being under investigation. The majority shareholders of Desa, Atala Midence's father and uncles, were not implicated. Cáceres's children welcomed the charges, seeking justice. Cáceres, coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh), opposed the Agua Zarca dam project and was murdered by hired hitmen. The dam, sanctioned after a 2009 coup, lacked compliance with environmental and community requirements. The current president, Xiomara Castro, has not commented on the case.

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In this monthly newsletter, we include the fiscal year-end numbers from Customs and Border Patrol. CBP reports 2,475,669 “encounters” of migrants at the US-Mexico border from OCT 2022-SEP 2023. That’s up about 100,000 from last fiscal year. 

Let’s be clear. There is no “border crisis.” But there is a humanitarian crisis at the border.

The numbers don’t justify any increased funding for CBP. Federal agents are not having to chase down tens of thousands of migrants along the river bank or into the desert along the 2,000 mile border. A large portion of the “encountered” migrants (roughly 30,000 per month) have actually turned themselves in voluntarily at ports-of-entry to request political asylum. Presenting themselves at ports of entry (i.e., the “legal” way to cross) are these nationalities in this order: Haiti, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru.

But the waiting time to schedule an appointment at the border crossing (via the CBP One app) and then waiting for the actual appointment—this is causing tens of thousands of migrants to seek humanitarian assistance on the Mexico side of the border as they sit it out and wait.

As burdensome as the asylum process is, a group of US senators is trying to make it worse. They are threatening to stall any supplemental budget request that Biden is submitting for the war in Ukraine, Israel/Gaza, and the US-Mexico border. They say that won’t approve any Biden request unless it contains new border restrictions, including: more detention, family and child detention, restrictions on humanitarian parole, and banning the right to asylum for migrants who do not present themselves at ports-of-entry (note: this is clearly an illegal provision that violates both domestic and international asylum law.). 

See the Take Action items listed at the bottom of this newsletter. Our advocacy is needed to maintain some modicum of humanity in the nation’s immigration system and to address root causes of migration. 

 

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Park ranger Adonias Cruz, part of a team monitoring illegal oil palm crops in Honduras, faced a death threat at his home. The dangerous nature of their work stems from groups involved in palm oil exploitation and drug trafficking. Palm oil, a lucrative export for Honduras, poses environmental risks, threatening biodiversity and water quality. The cultivation boom, fueled by financial incentives, has also led to illegal plantations, impacting national parks. Drug traffickers invest in oil palm to legitimize income, control territory, and exploit government incentives. Environmental activists, combating illegal plantations, face deadly consequences, with Honduras being the deadliest country for them. Despite efforts, including the establishment of the Green Battalion, logistical challenges and corruption hinder effective protection against illegal oil palm activities.

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Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is a facet of international law enabling private corporations to sue governments impeding their profits. This mechanism, embedded in bilateral investment treaties (BITs), often favors wealthy states, compelling less powerful nations to accept ISDS provisions for market access. ISDS allows corporations to challenge governmental actions, even those addressing public health or environmental concerns. The dystopian nature of ISDS is exemplified in the case of Honduras Próspera, a US company attempting to establish a libertarian enclave in Honduras. Despite the Honduran government's efforts to repeal laws facilitating this project, Honduras Próspera initiated an $11 billion ISDS case. Progressive International launched a campaign, denouncing this as 'corporate colonialism' and highlighting the broader threat to global South nations challenging corporate influence through democratic means. The situation underscores the ongoing struggle against neoliberalism and neocolonialism, emphasizing the importance of international solidarity to secure economic and political rights.

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Welcome to the vibrant celebration of human rights at the IRTF's 43rd Annual Commemoration Program, Fiesta De Derechos Humanos! As we gather to honor and reflect on the enduring pursuit of justice, this program book serves as a testament to the diverse voices advocating for human rights around the globe. Join us in commemorating the progress made and acknowledging the challenges that lie ahead in our collective journey towards a more just and equitable world. Through engaging narratives, powerful testimonials, and inspiring perspectives, Fiesta De Derechos Humanos encapsulates the essence of our shared commitment to fostering a world where human rights flourish for all.

To view the entire program book visit: https://tinyurl.com/Commemoration23

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On behalf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

 

Volunteers with the Rapid Response Network (RRN)—together with IRTF staff—write letters in response to six urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see https://www.irtfcleveland.org/content/rrn , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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You can read this monthly newsletter at https://www.irtfcleveland.org/blog.

When we hear about the Border Patrol apprehending people along the southern border, we tend to imagine people from Mexico or Central America. But the national origins of migrants are much more varied, and the Border Patrol isn’t exactly “apprehending” as many people because most are turning themselves in at ports-of-entry.

In this month’s newsletter, we report that 100% of Haitians encountered by the Border Patrol affirmatively presented themselves at ports-of-entry, as did 88% of Cubans and 96% of Russians. Although Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is reporting increases in the number of migrants it “encounters,” (an 82% increase from June to July; a 36% increase from July to  August), the numbers of migrants encountered by CBP are still well below the numbers from 2022.

Mexican nationals still top the numbers of encounters by CBP. But current trends indicate that Venezuelans might soon push them out of that number one spot.

To slow the migration of Venezuelans to the US, the Biden administration is taking some new steps. One: Biden signed an agreement with President Maduro to lift some of the economic sanctions on Venezuela and, in reciprocity, Maduro agreed to start accepting deportation flights of Venezuelans. Two: Biden announced in September that it will allow Venezuelans who entered the U.S. on or before July 31 to receive temporary protected status, allowing them to apply for a work visa and deferred deportation for 18 months. Three: Biden plans to spend $10 million in foreign aid to help Panama deport more migrants who do not qualify for asylum protections. Four: In June, the US opened two Safe Mobility Offices in Colombia (as it has in Costa Rica and Guatemala) to consider nationals from Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela for humanitarian protection or other legal pathways. Five: The US had made deals with Panama and Mexico to begin deporting citizens of Venezuela from their countries.

Since Venezuelans can no longer get visas to fly to places like Mexico, many are been voyaging through the deadly jungles of the Darién Gap that lies between Colombia and Panama. According to the government of Panamá, 334,000 migrants have made the trek since January; 60% have been Venezuelan. The $10 million Biden is offering to Panama (see above) is intended to push US border enforcement south from the US-Mexico border to the Panama-Colombia border.

Migration justice advocates continue to call for addressing structural issues in Latin America that are pushing emigration. Many of those issues are caused by, or exacerbated by, US policies (e.g., militarization of security forces, economic sanctions, mineral extraction, support for non-democratic regimes). Unless people see hope of real change and can envision raising their families in safe environments at home, migration will continue. But the US continues to respond with militarized borders, criminalization of migration, mass incarceration, and deportation.

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DONATE: Please consider supporting IRTF’s Migrant Justice work. Click HERE to donate. Thank you.

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Welcome to IRTF’s October 2023 newsletter on Migrant Justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border! After you’ve looked through the articles, we hope you can take a few minutes to see the TAKE ACTION items at the bottom.

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