By RICARDO CASTILLO
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is visiting Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Friday, Oct. 19. Pompeo is in a political tour visiting Panama and Mexico. apparently to discuss the volatile political and security situations both in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Yet surely Venezuela and Nicaragua can be ranked as priorities number two and three when confronted with the problems Honduras is causing these days in the North American region.
As Pompeo arrives in Mexico City, at least 3,000 – according to U.N. figures – Hondurans have fled their nation in an exodus to the United States, via Guatemala and Mexico.
Here in Mexico, red lights and sirens are definitely blaring for the administration of President Peña Nieto as the Hondurans line up to enter the nation via the Tapachula border along Guatemala. Peña Nieto has ordered 200 members of the Federal Police to guard immigration authorities in Tapachula – and other minor points of entry – to let the Hondurans into the nation, on a one-by-one basis and not as a group. Plus, there are Mexican troops stationed along the border.
In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump is going berserk over the thought of having the 3,000 Hondurans arrive at the U.S. border and apply for political asylum. Here’s Trump’s warning shot to Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado:
The United States has strongly informed the president of Honduras that if the large caravan of people heading to the United States is not stopped and brought back to Honduras, no more money or aid will be given to Honduras, effective immediately!”
In Guatemala, police arrested first and released later the leader of the Honduran caravan and former Honduras congressman Bartolo Fuentes, the visible head and organizer of the group that left Honduras last Saturday Oct. 13. Fuentes, however, is closely watched and “may be deported” at any time, according to a Guatemalan immigration official.
Guatemala President Jimmy Morales has declared the group “a risk” to his nation and is doing everything possible to speed up their passing through his country, where they are staying at the border point Tecún Umán, across the border from Tapachula.
Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations (SRE) Luis Videgaray – who’s also slated to meet with Pompeo – has issued orders to expedite red tape for each of the applicants, who in turn will be interned for a while in Mexico in a detention center for refugees until their visas are cleared or denied.
In Honduras, President Hernández is pleading with the caravan to return home, claiming the only objective of caravan leader Fuentes and other political sectors is to “alter the governance, stability and peace in Honduras and the United States with false promises of getting them a humanitarian visa to travel through Mexican territory and seek asylum in the United States.”
Most of the caravan members, made up of men, women and several hundred children, claim that they are fleeing from unemployment, hunger and the myriad of criminal gangs in their nation. Should they fail to get an entry visa into the United States, at least half of them would stay in Mexico, claiming they cannot return to Honduras because there their lives are in danger. One caravan member was quoted as saying that this caravan is only “the tip of the iceberg,” as more similar cavalcades of migrants will ensue.
Both the Mexican Foreign Relations Secretariat and the Interior Secretariat (SeGob, which oversees all immigration issues) have issued press releases making it clear that “every person who enters into the country in on irregular basis will be rescued (sic) and subjected to administrative procedure and in, should it be warranted, be returned to his/her country of origin in a secure and orderly manner.”
On Wednesday, Oct 17, in Tijuana, at the San Diego border, there were reports of the arrival of approximately 100 Honduran migrants in two charter buses. Apparently, the news of this first arrival of the caravan members is what provoked Trump to write the above-quoted tweet, also claiming he will shut down the border if the migrants keep arriving.
In Mexico, President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) made a statement that irked even his staunchest supporters, saying that as president he will issue visas and find jobs for all asylum seekers. Of course, this statement only made the Peña Nieto administration shudder. The current government considers that promise as one more empty phrase from AMLO, who will be sworn in until Dec. 1. The Peña Nieto administration thinks that AMLO has no business now in getting involved in the handling of this diplomatic hot potato.
The only clear reality of the Honduran exodus is that it is pitching nations against each other. So far, about 450 of the caravan members have been issued a humanitarian visa to El Salvador and Guatemalan President Morales says that a massive migration movement would destabilize his country, both economically and politically.
If this is indeed “the tip of the iceberg,” the only indisputable fact is that Venezuela and Nicaragua may have their own acute problems, but they are not yet at the stage of crumbling apart the way Honduras seems to be.