Child Refugees: The Consequences of the 2009 Coup in Honduras
The international community refused to legitimate the elections that brought to power a political rival of the deposed president, while the American people were focused on a golfer’s extramarital activities, allowing the U.S. government to endorse the presidency of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, whose administration subsequently committed all sorts of human rights atrocities in the name of fighting narcos.
Under the banner of the war on drugs, the U.S. government has increased military aid and training in Honduras in the years sincethe coup, providing hundreds of millions of dollars to a regime known to use death squads and attack defenseless campesinos, LGBT rights supporters, child advocates, political opponents and other critics of the regime. All the while the American people never paid Honduras any mind, which ensured that the U.S. government would never be held accountable for any of it.
To their credit, some members of Congress have voiced their concern over what’s happening in Honduras, even before 13,000 Honduran children seeking asylum showed up at the Rio Grande.
Still, it’s clear that the current refugee crisis was made possible only by the complete and willful ignorance of the American people. I say “willful” because most Americans have purposefully avoided learning anything about Central America, much less Honduras. The military coup came and went, and most Americans viewed it as they do disturbances in Sub-Saharan Africa — being of no importance or consequence to the United States and its way of life.
That’s how much of American foreign policy operates: out of sight, out of mind.
Now that conditions in Honduras have placed the country directly in sight of most Americans, suddenly everyone’s deeply concerned, wondering why and how. Now every newspaper and talk show is decrying the tragedy that is Honduras.
Which brings me to the last issue that needs to be cleared up.
Take it from the son and grandson of Honduran immigrants, the people of Honduras are not “backward.” That’s not why their government is evil, why violent gangs control their neighborhoods, and why women and children are fleeing by the tens of thousands. If Honduras seems “backward,” it’s only because it’s been kept back by the U.S. government and U.S. business interests, which have overthrown the sovereign will of the Honduran people whenever promising reforms were on the horizon.
Between the U.S. government, the American people and the Honduran government, I place the least amount of blame on the “thugocrats” in Tegucigalpa, because as the coup and the United States’ increased aid and training have shown, the Honduran government is only capable of doing what the U.S. government allows it to do.
And the U.S. government is only capable of doing what the American people allow it to do. If not, then the current state of democracy in the United States is no better than it is in Honduras.
But if the U.S. government is still answerable to the American people, then shame on them for looking the other way while their government subverted democracy in Honduras for so long.
And shame on them if they even consider turning their backs now on the children they’ve left nationless.
Hector Luis Alamo, Jr. is a Chicago-based writer. You can connect with him @HectorLuisAlamo.