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Environmental Human Rights: Extracting Honduras, by James J Phillips

Extracting Honduras: 

Exploiting Resources and Forcing People to Flee

With a focus on Honduras, this book explores the deeper causes of the massive emigration of Central Americans to the United States. Going well beyond the frequently given reasons for migration—poverty, violence, state corruption—the author provides a detailed account of how the frenzied extraction of natural resources at the core of both the Honduran political economy and its colonial relationship to the United States created massive community displacement, dependency, poverty and vulnerability, and encouraged, over time, growing official corruption and violence, gang recruitment, drug trafficking, militarization of Honduran society, and the systematic repression of all popular protest and resistance.  These were the proximate conditions that now encourage people to flee the country, a decision that is often a matter of survival for the human spirit as well as the body. The book argues that this situation cannot be divorced from the essentially colonial (or imperial) extractive relationship of Honduras to the United States. Thus the usual policy of development aid and more investment to stem migration only worsens the conditions that create migration. The Central American immigration “crisis” shapes life in the United States as well as in Honduras, but not in the ways that populist politics imagines.

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Extracting Resources and Exporting Lives – With a military coup d’état in 2009, supported and cemented into place by the United States of North America, Honduras was “opened for business.”  Extractive industries invaded territories and communities throughout Honduras to plunder natural resources, facilitated by regime that is servile to the United States and its extractivist policy. This colonial relationship has produced massive dispossession and exportation of the people of Honduras who do not leave voluntarily; they are forced to flee.  Those who survive the journey north become shock absorbers for the economic deficit of Honduras; their remittances are a principal source of revenue representing nearly 20% of the Gross Domestic Product. For the regime that expels and “exports” them, they become contributors.  For them, their families and community there is a total loss of fundamental human rights. We acknowledge and extend our deep gratitude to Dr. James Phillips for showing the other side of the coin of this neo-colonial business in which our people are just one more commodity. Bertha Oliva, COFADEH