Originally published in the Autumn 2019 edition of the Virginia Defender, printed October 28. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in this issue or download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.
Based on a talk Virginia Defender editor Phil Wilayto was invited to give at the Sept. 21 RPEC immigrant justice teach-in.
The past few years have seen a sharp increase in the number of people from Central America trying to immigrate to the United States. President Trump and other bigots call it an “invasion” and have enacted barbaric measures to try and terrify people from trying to cross the border.
So why do they come?
The Northern Triangle
According to the human rights organization Amnesty International, the Northern Triangle of Central America, composed of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, is considered one of the most dangerous places on earth, a situation that has caused unprecedented levels of migration.
And much of the violence and resulting poverty can be traced right back to U.S. foreign policy.
For many decades, these countries have been run by small, wealthy elites, known as oligarchs, propped up by the U.S. government because they allowed U.S. corporations to plunder their countries’ resources in return for being allowed to run corrupt regimes.
As an inevitable result, the people of these countries have fought back, by any means necessary.
From 1979 through 1992, El Salvador experienced a revolutionary upsurge, along with brutal government repression. Worried about losing its client government, the U.S. threatened to invade. It was dissuaded in part by a strong antiwar movement here at home, but its direct and indirect intervention kept the ruling clique in power.
Today El Salvador suffers from both poverty and an epidemic of violence.
Guatemala’s period of revolutionary war was from 1960 to 1996, which included a program of virtual government genocide directed at the native Mayan population. And like in El Salvador, a series of corrupt and brutal regimes have meant extreme poverty and widespread violence for the poor.
Honduras escaped the wars, but in 2009 was saddled with a corrupt and brutal government when Washington, under President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, supported a right-wing coup. The result was greatly exacerbated poverty and violence.
Nicaragua had its Sandinista Revolution in 1979, followed by the U.S.-backed “contra” war, but later electoral victories by the Sandinistas resulted in a high level of public peace and stability and a resulting low level of emigration out of the country. But now the Nicaraguan government is being targeted for “regime change,” along with Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. Why? Because these are the countries that exist outside the area of U.S. domination and exploitation.
The Caribbean country of Haiti is the most tragic case of all.
After the Haitian people threw off slavery and the yoke of French colonialism in 1804, President Thomas Jefferson, himself a slaveowner, imposed an economic blockade that lasted 30 years.
France demanded that the newly formed Haitian government repay it and French slaveholders for the ‘theft” of its enslaved people and the land it had turned into profitable sugar and coffee plantations.
The amount of money the French demanded was the modern equivalent of $21 billion. This extortionist debt was financed by French banks and Citibank. It took Haiti until just after the Second World War to pay it off.
The U.S. outright invaded Haiti in 1915 and occupied it until 1934. Then came the U.S. support for the Duvalier dictatorships, followed by a military government.
In 1990, the progressive former Catholic priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide became the country’s first democratically elected president, only to be overthrown in a coup, brought back to office by the U.S. – which thought it could control him – and then overthrown again in a coup engineered by Washington. The result has been a series of corrupt governments, violence and the worst poverty in the Western Hemisphere.
Trade, banks, climate & race
Add to U.S foreign policy the scourges of unfair trade practices, the role of U.S.- controlled international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and now the rapidly growing effects of climate change and you have a perfect storm of conditions that forces people to leave their homelands in hopes of simple survival.
And these are the people, victims of U.S. imperialism, who are the targets of an escalating government repression that is making the United States so hated throughout the world.
Then there’s the fact that when someone migrates from Mexico to Texas they are crossing a border that was imposed after the U.S. staged its criminal war of 1846-48. Half of Mexico was stolen. Mexicans didn’t cross the border, the border crossed them.. Further, many immigrants from Mexico and Central America are indigenous. This originally was their land. They are crossing into the land of the invaders and occupiers.
In order to understand virtually any problem we face today, it’s necessary to pay attention to international issues. For example, no recent international event had more effect on the U.S. than the Vietnam War. More than 58,000 U.S soldiers died, and more than that committed suicide after returning home. Drug addiction, prison, homelessness, generations of kids growing up without fathers – the war came back to us in so many ways.
Not to mention the cost of wars. As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, every bomb dropped in Vietnam exploded in the inner city, It’s even more true today, with wars in so many countries. Half your federal tax dollars go to past, present and future wars.
Information is power, and the 1 percent does not want us to be powerful.
Educate yourselves. Broaden your horizons.
And get involved.
If you want to learn more, please contact the Defenders at 804-644-5834, DefendersFJE@hotmail.com or on Facebook.
Categories: International & Antiwar News