Before they meet with President Obama tomorrow on the border crisis, the presidents of Honduras and Guatemala are out making their positions known today.
The two presidents come to the U.S. to address the flow of migrant children at the southern border, taking to Capitol Hill to meet with congressmen, and speaking at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez said via a translator that while drug trafficking and lack of opportunity were the first cause of immigration, “ambiguity that has been the hallmark of the debate” over U.S. immigration reform has also been a factor.
“Here we have to say the coyotes, the smugglers, who are very much a part or organized crime networks perversely have sought to exploit those ambiguities,” he said. “And peddle a mistake…a totally wrong interpretation to the parents of these children and saying “You can get your kids into the U.S., we can do it for you.”
The president, only six months into his term, also said while they assume responsibility and share it with other Central American countries, it must also be a shared responsibility with the United States. He cited the successes of operations in Columbia and Mexico (Columbia Plan and Mérida Plan) as a root cause of the problem they are faced with today.
“A number of drug lords that have now settled in Central America and that have now linked up with…gangs in an unholy alliance as it were that has generated levels of violence that are unprecedented,” Hernandez said. “So what has helped Mexico, what has helped Colombia, alas has created a problem of gigantic proportions for us.”
Calling the smugglers the “human face of an enormous criminal monster that has one foot firmly in the camps of the drug lords and in Central America” but the second foot “in the United States under American jurisdiction.”
“Central America is on the very root between those who produce drugs and those who consume drugs massively,” Hernandez said. “You’ll see clearly in Honduras that most of the children have come from the most dangerous areas of our country, where drug lords and gangs are at the root of the greatest levels of violence.”
Honduras is the number one murder capital in the world.
President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala echoed a similar sentiment.
“Once again countries of Central America became transit corridors or warehouses for the drugs reaching the United States,” he said. “Between 2003 and 2013 we have seized 50,000 arms; 50,000 arms…which for the most part, come from the United States.”
And while Perez Molina said they have taken many steps in the 2.5 years he has been in office in reducing the violence and improving conditions in their country, investment from the United States could help the situation and the country.
“For the countries of Central America, the closeness with the USA is a closeness that we would like to view as a strength,” he said. “And we need the investment. We need the opportunity to create employment. And that will prevent for the need of the U.S. to have to invest the border patrolling, border security, border controls and the money that is invested in border processes.”
Hernandez of Honduras says his message to the people of the United States is to first remember “we are talking about children but as children, as minors, they are the most vulnerable and this should catch the attention and pull at the heartstrings of humanity at large.”