The Migrant Caravan


A political tactic in the lead to elections

The notion of a group of migrants walking their way from Central America north to Mexico, and the United States is true. However, this is not necessarily a new phenomenon. For decades, people from Central America have been migrating north to the United States in search of security and prosperity. Questions remain regarding the nature of their origin and the reasons for their travelling, and why, if this has been going on for decades, is so important now.

First, their origins. The current caravan of migrants began in Honduras, a nation that has been experiencing turmoil since a coup d’état in 2009, but more on this below. What, most recently, began as a collection of approximately 160 people from a town in western Honduras, had grown through October to include more than 4 000 people, though numbers are estimated to be lower, as some migrants are becoming disillusioned with the trek or they find other opportunities. Due to the unofficial nature of the caravan, the numbers are hard to make out and are difficult to maintain as they move from town to town and across the national borders of Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. Some outlets have reported that the numbers have swelled with the rise of media awareness of the caravan, no doubt buoyed by the breathless alarmist pre-election warnings of President Trump.

Hondurans have been moving out of their home country since 2009, when the nation underwent a coup d’état which deposed democratically elected President Manuel Zalaya. Zelaya, largely seen as a progressive and reformist politician, oversaw modest economic reforms in Honduras and was charged with violating the constitution of Honduras by calling for a referendum over the constitution (the nature of the change is somewhat contested). Instead, the Supreme Court of Honduras issued a secret warrant for his arrest and had the army jail the president. The interim president, previously the head of the Honduran Congress, Roberto Micheletti exiled Manuel Zelaya. A new and widely derided election was held, electing a right-wing president, Pepe Lobo Sosa, who would take office and usher in waves of pro-business policy amid crackdowns of protests by community, union, and grassroots organizers. 

Between 2009 and 2015, 118 people were murdered and Honduras became the most dangerous country for environmental activists, according to Global Witness. Since 2009, 30 LGBTQ people have been murdered a year, compared to two a year from 1994 to 2008. The breakdown of a competent government has also seen the growth and expansion of organized crime and led to Honduras becoming the most violent country outside of a war zone in the world since the removal of Zelaya. 

Trends of poverty reduction and increasing prosperity also quickly reversed following the coup; poverty rising 13.2%, extreme poverty 26%, and unemployment rising from 6% to 14% between 2008 and 2012.

Zelaya has been allowed to return to Honduras, but some observers have pointed to the fact that during his exile, his attempts to garner international recognition of his ousting as a military coup were frustrated by then Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton. Secretary Clinton supported the military coup by refusing to acknowledge the ousting of Zelaya as a coup. Clinton is also known to have worked behind the scenes to expedite a new election without the participation of ousted President Zelaya, as found in a leaked correspondence between Secretary Clinton and US Embassies internationally. As in many cases of political and economic upheaval in Central and South America, American foreign policy has played a role.

The migrant caravan itself became a news item largely due to Fox News reporting of it on October 15, which was then retweeted by President Donald Trump, who, for a myriad of reasons, believed it would bolster support for his border wall. President Trump has made many claims about the migrant caravans, many outright lies as fact checked by a number of sources, not the least of which is that the caravan is populated by terrorists from the Middle East and members of ISIS. 

It has also been pointed out that the mass-coverage of the migrant caravan has corresponded with the midterm elections on November 6, and with the midterms completed, the coverage and Trump remarking on it have fallen off, revealing it to have been a political tactic in the lead to elections.