human rights, International Relations, migration, U.S. Relations

Thousands of Migrants March Towards Saftey

S2AAFCGVLAI6RA5C2HB5UKGWWY_103943202_migrants_caravan_route_4_640-ncOn October 13, 1,500 Honduran refugees began the long arduous journey from one of the most violent capital cities in the world in search of respite and peace. The majority of those seeking a chance for survival were young people, women and their babies.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras or People without Borders, who organized the foot march says the aim is to draw attention to the plight facing the migrants at home and the dangers they run during their attempts to reach safety in the US.

Every single migrant had his or her own personal reason for fleeing. For some, especially the young people, it was direct threats or acts of violence towards themselves or their loved ones. For others, it was the oppressive Honduran government that has been opposing people’s justice movements, or it was the fear of what would become of their children because of unemployment and starvation.

Two days later on October 15th, the caravan had grown to an estimated 3,500 by the time it reached the Guatemalan border.

Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua all belong to a migratory convention called The Central America-4 Free Mobility Agreement (CA-4), it is akin to the Schengen agreement in Europe, which allows nationals from 26 countries in the Schengen area to legally enter and reside in each other’s countries. Though this agreement exists, officials in Guatemala and El Salvador have met the caravan with hostility and armed suppression.

Citizens of Honduras and other Centro American countries have been paying the price of U.S. foreign policy atrocities since the beginning of the cold war, with their lives and that of their loved ones. Since the 2009 Honduran coup d’état that put economic elites in charge of the most important sectors of society, the country has been on a never-ending binge of oppression and violence. While this instability has no doubt strengthened the rise of gang violence in the streets, the government’s own tactics of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, protest suppression and the jailing of political prisoners have added to the upheaval happening at this very moment.

On Sunday October 21, as the 7,000 person strong caravan reached the Mexican border of Tapachula in the State of Chiapas, Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets, expressing anger towards central american governments inability to halt the progression of the foot march.

“Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them,” Trump wrote.

An estimated 258 million people, approximately 3 per cent of the world’s population, currently live outside their country of origin, many of whose migration is characterized by varying degrees of compulsion. Migration is a fundamental human right. We have no right to forbid or stigmatise, we only have the power to try to do so.

Follow the stories: #CaravanaMigrante

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Economy, Public Health, violence

Cities: El Salvador’s Growing Problem

Urbanization is something that every country faces at one point or another in its development. The US, for example, experienced urbanization during the industrial revolution and on to the early 20th century. Today, many developing countries are also experiencing it. Because it is part of the path to development, urbanization is an indicator worth analyzing in the context of El Salvador as it becomes increasingly problematic, specifically in terms of poverty, violence and health.

 

As nations’ economies move from rural farms to more modern technologies, cities begin to form as hubs for commerce and other economic activity. Urbanization’s momentum grows when even more poor people then decide to relocate to the city in an effort to find better opportunities. This can be seen from Mexico City to Shanghai. Problems arise, however, when cities begin to get overcrowded and the poor create squatting communities along the outside of the cities. Often times these individuals have no rights to the land; more so, living conditions in these communities are terrible.

 

El Salvador has cities that are not unlike those of other developing countries. In fact, about 60.3% of Salvadorans now live in urban areas. El Salvador’s main urban hubs are San Salvador, San Miguel, and Santa Ana. While Salvadorans decide to go to cities to pursue better lives, city life is often not that glamorous. Typically, urban homes are made out of bricks and cement. Homes in the slums however, are essentially huts made out of aluminum, plastic, and cardboard. It is important to note that these homes are especially susceptible to constant flooding in the rainy season. There are also instances where the single water source in these communities is contaminated.

 

Urban poverty in El Salvador currently stands at 56%; that is, more than half of those living in cities are barely able to afford to survive. Fewer job opportunities and high costs of living explain why urban poverty is so widespread. Even so, the urban population in El Salvador is growing by about 1.9% each year while the rural population is only rising at 0.6% each year. It becomes a problem when far too many Salvadorans are living in the cities because the government is not able to provide the necessary services to everyone.

 

Another problem related to urbanization is urban violence. Poverty alone does not explain why crime in cities is more common. It seems that inequality, which is more distinguishable in urban areas, is also a key indicator of crime. Inequality, coupled with daily living conditions, is likely to result in conflict and violence. Violence specifically affects developing countries by stifling necessary economic growth. Urban conflict drains financial capital by requiring greater investments in judicial services and healthcare. Human capital is also reduced by the presence of persistent violence. Deaths and reductions in life expectancy, lower levels of personal security, fewer educational opportunities and lower productivity in the workplace all function to weaken the labor force. Lastly, social capital is also reduced through the ongoing fear and lack of trust within communities that result in less coordination.

 

Health is yet another problem affected by urban growth; slums are inherently unhealthy living arrangements. Because these individuals do not own the land and are residing in informal communities, they cannot demand better living standards from the government. Living in city slums, like those in San Salvador, Santa Ana, and San Miguel, where there has been little to no urban planning also facilitates the spread of illnesses. More than that, traffic accidents and pollution, two seemingly trivial consequences of urbanization, account for an alarmingly high number of deaths and illnesses.

 

While the government has not done much to address the issue of living conditions in the cities and slums, it has attempted to address the issue of crime. As a result of its high crime rates, El Salvador has passed a substantial number of laws aimed at reducing crime. With mixed success, the government has remained dedicated to fighting crime since El Salvador became one of the ten most crime-ridden countries in the world. With that said, the government has done little to address the issues of poverty and health in the growing urban areas.

 

Indeed, urbanization signals progress, however it comes with its own unique set of problems. El Salvador does not have the necessary mechanisms in place to offer everyone in the cities the resources and services they need to pursue a better life. Instead, urban poverty is growing and living conditions continue to deteriorate. Poverty, violence, and health are all variables that interact with one another to create the reality of city life in El Salvador today. As such, one of these factors cannot be remedied without the other two being addressed as well. The government will be forced to address it in the coming years as more and more Salvadorans continue to move to the cities.

 

Elections 2009

Who Will Pay for the Financial Crisis?

Interview with Dagoberto Gutierrez

One of ARENA’s campaign strategies has been to emphasize its good political and economic relationship with the United States, while painting Mauricio Funes as the puppet of a radical communist FMLN whose goal is to implement a Chavez-style economy in El Salvador. When our delegation met with Dagoberto Gutierrez, one of the signers of the 1992 Peace Accords and a political analyst at the Universidad Luterano (Lutheran University), he offered a very different view of the nation’s two largest parties.

Gutierrez described the FMLN as drifting towards the center in order to court voters, and in the process giving up several of the more radical planks of its platform. According to Gutierrez, neither candidate would threaten El Salvador’s relationship with the US, or challenge the nation’s oligarchy in any significant way.

However, Gutierrez stressed that this election is nevertheless very important. He believes the difference between the parties is in how the financial crisis will be handled. He says “if ARENA wins, the poor will be the ones to pay for the crisis. But if the FMLN wins, then there is a chance that the poor won’t be the ones [to pay for the crisis.]”

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