Thursday, June 10, 2021

VP Harris Is Right About Solving Central American Migration

 VP Harris may have been somewhat inartful in explaining USA's new strategy in addressing the Central American crisis at our southern border but she's right about solving some of the core causes of its people's migration to our country.

The USA border patrol and policy prescriptions to address longstanding border crises of desperate Central Americans seeking protection and new lives have been an abject failure.  It is time to refocus the reasons these good people are leaving their homes and families for a life free of deprivation, physical harm and abject poverty.

Americans have not a clue as to our history in abetting this human rights abuse in that region. I will lay out few historic facts to give my readers a flavor of our role in direct responsibility for this border crisis and more importantly, the abuse of millions of wonderful people just trying to survive.

On a macro level, since the very beginning of the 1900's it has been U.S. policy to support U.S. companies in their quest to exploit the agricultural resources of this region, including but not limited to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.  Among the specific companies are Dole, Chiquita and United Fruit, though there are many others complicit in essentially the colonization of this region by the U.S.A.

How, you ask?  They are just trying to supply us with fruits, bananas in particular, coffee and other stuff we need to sustain our lives, aren't they? Well, yes, but to do so here is what they have done, before I get to the role Central American and US administrations have played to enable this seemingly good work to sustain our diets.  These companies have supported right wing, oppressive governments there who return the favor with special privileges.  Like limiting or rolling back land reforms fought for by peasant/agricultural populations just trying to eke out a living on the land.  Like lobbying those right wing governments for tax policies to favor those companies over the basic need of their people for education, housing and fair employment to sustain life.  Like lobbying the US government for support to sustain tax policies in those countries and to train those government's military forces with such institutions as the School of Americas in repressing public uprisings for justice; yes,through cruel exercise of force and disappearance strategies.  Like direct U.S. military and CIA intervention to overturn left wing governments fairly elected by their people to bring reforms and democracy.  And similar interventions to protect and sustain the rule of right wing, despotic rulers dedicated to upper class domination and economic advantage.  These companies for over a century have turned to the local despots and supporting U.S. administrations to suppress attempts by workers to form unions to bargain for living wages and fair treatment of employees.  Simply put, I urge you to read the history detailing the role these companies have played to suppress democracy in this region and retain near slave-like labor to power their massive businesses.

Now our government's role, it really started with Teddy Roosevelt  who argued we have the right to police powers in this region to support our companies there.  His policies have extended to multinational corporations in recent decades. In El Salvador the U.S.A. helped suppress a popular rebellion n 1932 and again in 1944 there. In 1960 our beloved Pres. Eisenhower ended free elections there to support a right win despot.  From 1980 through 1992 they had a civil war in attempt to bring forth a left wing democracy resulting in the US extending temporary status to migrants from there, only to be stopped by Trump in 2018.  In 2003, El Salvador joined CAFTA, designed by the U.S. to provide favored  regulatory protections to U.S. companies and expand their influence.

In Honduras, 1911 we helped depose a left wing government; the next year special access was extended to US agricultural companies, who were granted rights to 1 million acres with protections provided by the U.S. military.  As recently as 1975, United Fruit attained reduced export taxes to aid their bottom line. Five years later we were training Contra rebels in suppression  tactics and global capital were granted trade favors.  Honduras entered CAFTA in 2005 and the country became a net importer of agricultural products from being a net exporter.  This was the beginning of the migration of peasant farmers to the USA. In 2009 a duly elected left wing government was ousted with support and endorsement from the U.S.

Finally, Guatemala, in 1920 the U.S. military intervened in a Guatemalan government attempt to oust United Fruit Company. In 1947 United fruit got our government to stop unionization of United Fruit. From 1954 through 1981 the CIA was enlisted to assure left wing administrations did not win free democratic elections and to sustain the rule of right wing governments. In 2006 Guatemala signs onto CAFTA, starting duty free US agricultural imports.  This starts their migration of small farmers to the US border.

This history was equally created by both Republican and Democrat administrations.

Yes, VP Harris might have more astutely worded her response to the question of whether she was "going to the border and when," which would have merely been an photo opportunity, not a meaningful action to address the root causes of the border crisis with Central American people. But she is right; it is high time, way overdue time to address the causes of this migration, which now includes drought conditions in the region, compounding the horrific effects on agriculturally dependent families as well as desperation for protections from drug dealing gangs engaged in violence and intimidation.  These are people desperate for safety and life sustaining employment. We are currently ill equipped to help them at the border and better equipped to help them right at home attain the life they so well deserve.  This is where they want to be if life there were sustainable and possible.  No one wants to leave home to start over if they can start over right at home.  

The Biden administration gets history right here and humbly admits our culpability in helping to create these migration and human rights crises.  Humility to admit error and past transgressions can go a long way toward a more just and livable America.

I want to credit Mark Putterman who did much of this timeline research and published it in Medium.