Is Climate the Real Cause of Caravans?

January 7, 2019

Dear Dittoheads,

If you really hate the idea of scary brown people moving out of the global tropics, and coming to get your mama, –  you should do something about climate change.


Copán, Honduras (CNN) – Each night after her husband left, Delmi Amparo Hernández walked to a neighbor’s house to look for him on the TV news. He had fled their mountaintop community here in rural Honduras without a phone because no one in the family could afford one. Their floor was made of dirt, they grew their own food. Watching coverage of the migrant caravan heading for the United States was Hernández’s only way to know if he was alive.

What she saw in the broadcasts were visions from hell. Families jumping from bridges, getting kidnapped along dusty roads, dodging tear gas cannons fired by police from richer nations. How could this be? She continued scanning, hoping to find him, hoping not to.
She had begged Germán Ramírez not to go, but her 30-year-old husband had his reasons. The town’s corn and bean crops had failed during a years-long drought. There was no work aside from farming. No money for irrigation. Their four children, ages 3 to 13, had little to eat.
Ramírez told his wife that he had no choice but to leave with the “caravan” of thousands that had formed in Honduras and would make its way north. This was their chance, she recalled him saying that day. He could go with the group, find work, send back money.
It was this or risk starvation.

The couple’s tragic story, as well as others I heard on a recent four-day trip to western Honduras, complicates two narratives being told about the migrant caravan.
To hear President Trump tell it, Central American “Gang Members and some very bad people” are attempting to storm the United States at its southern border. “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you,” the President wrote on Twitter. American news reports, meanwhile, largely have focused on high rates of violent crime in Honduras and El Salvador that have driven families to seek asylum as refugees in the United States.
Overlooked is this factor: climate change.
The “dry corridor” of Central America, which includes parts of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, has been hit with an unusual drought for the last five years. Crops are failing. Starvation is lurking. More than two million people in the region are at risk for hunger, according to an August report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

“Under normal circumstances, without any change in rain patterns, people are already struggling,” said Edwin Castellanos, dean of research at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala and a global authority on climate change in Central America. “In some of these dry areas, we have seen events of children actually dying out of hunger. So, it is that extreme.”
This drought has been longer and more intense than those seen before in the dry corridor, Castellanos said. The failure of critical springtime rains is also new, he said, and is causing such problems for farmers whose crops depend on that water.
Subsistence crops like corn and beans are all but dying. Our crew saw beans the size of Tic Tacs. And shriveled, partially blackened ears of corn could fit inside your palm.

Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, said in a speech on Friday that drought and crop failures in Honduras and Guatemala “directly translate into who’s arriving at our border.”
Studies have not definitively tied this particular drought to climate change, but computer models show droughts like the one happening now are becoming more common as the world warms.
Thousands have risked their lives to flee these circumstances.
And previously unpublished data shows people started leaving certain areas of Honduras amid crop failures — even as homicide rates were declining.
Take Copán, the region of Honduras that Germán Ramírez fled in October.
In fiscal year 2012, around the start of the drought, only about 20 family members from Copán were apprehended by the US Border Patrol while trying to cross the US-Mexico border, according to a data analysis of records shared with CNN by Stephanie Leutert, director of the Mexico Security Initiative at The University of Texas at Austin. Then drought hit, its cumulative effects growing as the years wore on. In 2017, about 1,450 family members from Copán were apprehended by US authorities at the border, the data show. In fiscal year 2018, with the data ending in September, the number of migrants picked up was more than 2,500.

Not just climate, but hellish working conditions engineered for large corporate convenience.


RAXRUHA, Guatemala, Jan 6 (Reuters) – In the poor, hot region of Guatemala that was home to a seven-year-old migrant girl before she died in U.S. border custody last month, palm oil cultivation is taking over from subsistence farming, adding to pressure on people to leave.

Many villagers around the municipality of Raxruha have sold land to palm oil producers, residents and local officials say, helping to make Guatemala one of the world’s biggest exporters of the versatile product in the space of just a few years.

Supporters of the industry say it has created jobs and investment in an area where poverty and violence have long been the main drivers of migration.

But critics say farmers have given up land that long fed them, with many then entering a state of co-dependency with palm oil companies that have become major employers, but do not pay well enough to stop people migrating.

Cesar Castro, Raxruha’s mayor, said money raised from land sales had been used to pay people smugglers, a major factor in a surge in families leaving Guatemala.

“These people get the money, and they go to the United States, and the vast majority come back to find more poverty and end up employed as workers on their own land,” Castro said.

More than 50,000 Guatemalans were apprehended in family groups at the U.S.-Mexico border in the 2018 fiscal year, more than double the year before, U.S. government data shows. Most get deported.

Jakelin Caal, who died in U.S. custody after succumbing to a fever, left Raxruha with her father because he was struggling to earn enough to support his family as a corn farmer, relatives said. Smugglers tell families that having children with them can make it easier to enter the United States.

While her father had not sold his land, others in the family have worked on palm plantations that surround their village.

“The work’s a killer,” said Dorrian Caal, Jakelin’s uncle. “You have to get up at 3 a.m. and you get home at 10 at night, and with the little you’re paid, it’s not enough.

Dorrian said he earned 60 quetzales ($7.80) a day working from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. last year for local producer Industria Chiquibul, which has been listed as a supplier by international commodities purchasers including ADM and Cargill .

That would be below the 90 quetzales stipulated as the daily minimum wage for the agricultural sector in 2018. The National Council for Displaced People of Guatemala, a labor rights group, lodged a complaint with Cargill about the wages in 2016.

Local farmer Jose Maria Ical said the company agreed to raise its wages to 91 quetzales after repeated workers’ complaints.

Chiquibul did not reply to repeated requests for comment on this article. Questioned on Chiquibul, ADM said it set high standards for its suppliers of palm oil, without making any specific reference to the company in its reply.



9 Responses to “Is Climate the Real Cause of Caravans?”

  1. Ron Benenati Says:

    she is far better than donald trump at spinning lies.
    One of the truly great BS artists of all times

  2. doldrom Says:

    Actually this is the first time I am reading about drought & climate change in connection with central America. Have seen a lot of analysis of many factors, but not the weather/climate.

    The tale of cash crops supplanting subsistence crops and changing land ownership practices is sadly all to familiar.

  3. rabiddoomsayer Says:

    The real enemies of the people arrive in limosines. Sarah seeks only to distract the sheeple.

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