by Sebastian Africano, International Director
Sometime in 2006 I stopped for gas as night fell close to the Palmerola U.S. military base in Central Honduras, and a man approached me from the highway. The man explained that he had just arrived from being deported from the U.S., and asked if I could spare some funds for him to catch a bus home to Northern Honduras – I gave him the equivalent of $0.50, and he thanked me and moved on. This was my first direct exposure to the impending crisis that has now reached astoundingly unsustainable levels in Central America.
This was the same year that Mexico escalated its drug war against narcotraffickers in that country, squeezing many of the lucrative drug routes out of the country and into Central America, seeking to take advantage of notoriously weak institutions, chronic poverty and the second biggest contiguous jungle in the Americas after the Amazon. Since then, murder rates from narco and gang activity in Honduras have tripled, deforestation rates have quintupled, and roughly 90% of the cocaine flights headed to U.S. markets have made Honduras their first stop.
Last week the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador met with U.S. political leaders in Washington D.C. to discuss the massive growth in migration to the U.S. from these countries, which has almost tripled in the past 10 years based on deportation rates. Now on the table are two politically contentious proposals – one is to increase U.S. counter-narcotics activities in the country, akin to the incredibly costly military pushes in Colombia in the 1980s and 1990s, and the other is to extend refugee status to thousands of fleeing Hondurans, which some argue would increase the flow of migrants, not stem it. Neither are ideal. Neither address the root of the problem. Neither will come easily or without loss of additional life.
For 16 years, Trees, Water & People has been working in Central America to improve environmental stewardship, economic opportunities and quality of life in marginalized communities. The people fleeing the region are the relatives, neighbors and friends of the communities that we have worked with and supported through these years, and with them they take the potential to develop and heal their country from the inside. The programs that TWP implements are a third proposal to the current border crisis – creating the conditions under which people want to stay and seek a sustainable future in their country, rather than take the colossal risk and cost of traveling the long road north.
Your support makes these programs possible, and contributes to the potential for a sustainable future in Central America. To all those who have donated to Trees, Water & People’s programs in the past, know that you have an advocate in this current crisis, and know that we are working tirelessly to expand alternatives to migration for the tens of thousands of Central Americans we reach every year. Thank you.