Drugs, Poverty, Violence, and the Child Migrant Crisis

IMG_0957“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.” ― Herman Melville

Cause and effect! Choices made, whether good or bad, follow us forever and affect everyone in their path.  For several weeks, we have been bombarded with the Central American child migration crisis in the United States. I believe that this crisis cannot be solved without first delving into the causes.

According to statistics, 52,193 children made the treacherous journey to the U.S. border, fleeing mainly from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Why no Nicaraguan children?

The border patrol apprehension data indicates that there are several complicated factors, including; Guatemalan children from rural areas are seeking economic opportunities in the U.S. On the other hand, children from El Salvador and Honduras may be leaving because of extreme violence, where the risks of leaving are preferable to remaining at home.

Again, I ask, “Why no Nicaraguan children?”

birthday cake Does poverty beget violence? Virtually none of the children have come from Nicaragua, my adopted country, which borders Honduras and has staggering poverty, too.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) presented in Nicaragua on May 19, 2014 its Regional Report on Human Development for 2013-2014 on security matters and classified Nicaragua as “atypical” because of its low rates of homicide and robbery. Juan Pablo Gordillo, adviser on security at the Latin American Regional Services Center of the UNDP, said that, “The case of Nicaragua is an important achievement at the regional level,” adding that because Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, it breaks the myth that poverty causes violence. Nicaragua’s homicide rate dropped to 8.7 per 100,000 inhabitants. Honduras, with 92 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, has the highest murder rate in the world. El Salvador has 69, Guatemala 39, Panama 14.9 and Costa Rica 10.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. (The Nicaragua Network)

IMG_6027So, if it is a myth that poverty begets violence, and the Nicaraguan children thrive despite their poverty, where does this violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala originate? How did Nicaragua avoid the violence that its neighbors are experiencing?

Is the violence drug related? Fleeing Gangs  “With two major youth gangs and more organized crime syndicates operating with impunity in Central America, analysts say immigration authorities will have a difficult time keeping children at home unless the root causes of violence are addressed.” ( F.Robles, Fleeing Gangs, New York Times, July 9, 2014)

IMG_4970Yet, very few media sources give any indication where the root causes of the violence originated. Could choices the United States made in the 1980s be a contributing factor to the drug related violence in Central America?

Possibly, the problem with child migrants is a direct result of U.S. policy in the 1980s when our government trained and funded Salvadoran and Guatemalan military and police to prevent popular revolutions. More recently, the U.S. government backed and supported the coup against President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras.

IMG_1138How did Nicaragua escape the violence? Could it be because El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras were left with brutal and corrupt police forces and unstable governments, whereas Nicaragua, with its successful 1979 revolution, got rid of the U.S. backed  Somoza, and replaced the brutal National Guard with a new army and a new police force?

IMG_2839If we want to get to the root of the cause of the violence in Central America and the reasons for the child migration crisis at the United States border, we need to ask ourselves these questions:

1. Who consumes all those drugs that are causing the violence and corruption in Central America?
2. Who militarized the drug war?
3. Who funds and trains repressive militia in the countries from which the children are fleeing?

If you know the answer to these questions, then you understand that the United States has a responsibility to care for these children, harbor them, and keep them safe. Because choices made, whether good or bad, follow us forever and affect everyone in their path.

The crisis of child migration is affecting Nicaragua, too. Nicaragua and Central America’s Child Migrant Crisis.

Thanks to the Nicaragua Network for supplying much of this information.

34 thoughts on “Drugs, Poverty, Violence, and the Child Migrant Crisis

  1. As we’ve traveled through Mexico and Central America we also have had to work hard to reconcile our views of good and evil as we see the effects of US intervention and involvement in these countries. Mary Jordan makes a comment that I can only echo and repeat: “It has been a serious moral struggle for me to accept that the US is not only not the “peacekeeper” of the world but that for decades, my United States of America has been an aggressive tyrant and bully…”
    You’ve written a thought provoking and hugely disturbing post that only becomes more haunting once a child’s face is superimposed over the statistics… Anita

    • Anita, I am grateful to you for expressing your sincere thoughts on this issue. Living in Nicaragua, surrounded by poverty has opened my eyes to causes and effects. I think true understanding of this issue is difficult unless one has spent a great deal of time in Central America. I’ve seen many, many effects caused by U.S. interference, and it continues to worry me.

  2. I’ve been without Internet for days and am late to add something, but I can remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and fear of Communism getting an irreversible stronghold in the region and Central America that prompted much of the interventions that have had their consequences and always will. My heart goes out to these kids as well as the immigrants who pick our fields. The heartwarming aspect of this post are the beautiful family pictures of the Nicaraguan families who obviously take family very seriously. A thought provoking post. It’s a complicated issue and am pleased you raised these questions, Debbie.

  3. when one lives out of the usa and sees our country through foreign eyes, we can easily understand why so many people/countries do not like the usa. one great piece of advice a friend gave me (attorney in CR) was, ‘Be smart. Remember the world’s hatred of our country is greater than your kind heart…’ he taught me to see myself and anyone else living outside of the country the way that foreigners see us.

    you have written a very powerful post, and i’m so glad to see so much intelligent feedback.

    thanks, debbie! you’ve given us lots to ponder as we view our country through foreign eyes.


    • Z…I will always have a love/hate relationship with my home country. I think most people do. I do see things differently, now that I’ve had an opportunity to live in Nicaragua. I have a love/hate relationship with Nicaragua, too.

      I think what bothers me the most is that I feel powerless to make any changes in the U.S. When I was younger, I was idealistic and naive. I really thought that our country had our best interests at heart when making legislative decisions.
      I am not a political refugee. I am probably more of an economic refugee..financially we couldn’t afford to retire early in the states.

      This child migration crisis upsets me so much, because I understand why they are fleeing. I’ve seen the poverty and violence first hand. It is real…the U.S. played a part in it…and I am powerless to help. I guess that’s why I am blogging my frustrations.
      I honestly expected more controversial feedback. But, many of the people who responded either live abroad, or have traveled extensively, so they, too see the repercussions of the U.S. bullishness. Thanks Z.

      • i scrolled ‘back’ from your most-recent post, and i am surprised to see only seven ‘likes’ for this post.. i was pleased to see the feedback – all of it written with passion, which gives me comfort that not everyone suffers from apathy.

        thank you, amiga, for prompting others to have a voice and sharing their views.


  4. Debbie – Thank you very much for your well reasoned passionate post!

    While all of your points have merit, I believe that at least part of the reason for lower violence in Nicaragua (and Ecuador where we live) is explained by analyzing the pictures you have in your post. All of the children in these pictures are clearly loved and cherished by the adults you see with them.

    Here we never see a baby in a crib or playpen with a bottle propped up on a pillow or one left alone in front of a television “babysitter.” Children are not left alone to walk home from school nor do they come home to an empty house with instructions on what to heat up in the microwave for dinner. Instead we see babies held tenderly by both mothers and fathers. Little children are raised with extended family members by their side. The extended community also plays a role in raising and caring for children and young adults.

    We feel blessed to live among people who still love one another and consider all of us (even the gringos) to be a part of the communal family.

    I know that doesn’t answer all of your discussion issues, but I wanted to thank you for the beautiful faces shown in your photos.

    • John and Mary, you are both so perceptive. I’m glad you saw my point in posting these photos. You are right. Families are cherished in Latin America. Extended family members play an important part in raising and nurturing their loved ones. Now, I understand why many of these families from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are desperately trying to protect their children by sending them to the U.S. They have no other options. It is heartbreaking to watch these loving families be torn apart. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  5. THIS… is why I believe blogging is a powerful genre. To hear the points of view thoughtfully expressed in these comments, and to read the post that you carefully researched, Debbie, is powerful. I appreciate the potential positive impacts learning about the world in this manner could have… IF… “follow-the-money” interests could be cast aside so governments, policy-makers, corporate interests, etc. could read reports like this and make ethical, humanitarian, ecological… decisions.

    I think many Americans, like myself, want to help. And are mortified to know about the numbers of children affected by violence and plights the they face.

    Earlier in this conversation it was mentioned by cedelune-

    “Yet people still say that this is the “greatest country on earth”, the “land of the free” and the “home of the brave”. Brave? You’d have to be, to live here, but free? I don’t think so.”

    And by mary-
    “To see/read/listen to mainstream media is to be fed a comfortable pabulum, as these “news” sources are controlled by the same corporations which reap the profits from war. To keep Americans dumbed-down, the decision-making politicians along with mainstream media muddy the political waters with false flag “concerns” such as “right to bear arms” and “right to life.”

    In my opinion, both have valid points. The Patriot Act and resulting legislation since coupled with “profits-making at any cost mentality”… have stripped the American people of peaceful voice-and-action-based freedoms. As a result, the ability to help the influx of children seeking asylum is not ours. My husband and I were exploring what options we might have to help, and were soon dismayed when he printed off laws addressing assisting “illegal immigrants.” Anyone who assists faces harsh consequences and potential imprisonments for each count of helping someone who is in the country without proper documentation. This is a heart-breaking situation where the children are concerned.

    Debbie, I wondered what your perspective on this topic would be from your vantage point in Central America. You’ve opened an important dialogue; and ask important and pertinent questions. I wonder how this stream would be viewed if re-blogged for consideration by elected officials?


    • Jane, I am shocked to hear that there is no way individuals can help the child refugees. I’m going to look up the laws, too. It is disheartening and frustrating to feel powerless to help others in a time of need.
      I read the influx of daily media reports, and I am dismayed by the comments under the articles. I honestly don’t understand…I’ll never understand the hatred..the heartless…and the ‘stick your head in the sand’ attitudes. That’s why I blog. It’s the least that I can do to crack open a door to possible causes, probable consequences, and potential solutions. Sigh. I’ve written letters to editors and I’ve written my legislators, but I feel like I’m shouting to the deaf. Thanks so much, Jane, for leaving thought provoking comments.

  6. As a Canadian living in the U.S. (until I can move to Nicaragua, that is) I have been absolutely astonished at the vehemently negative responses, demonstrations and rage expressed here against these children coming across the border. Granted, some may be coming to seek economic opportunities, but anyone paying attention must know the degree of violence taking place in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, in recruiting young boys into gangs, and particularly towards girls and women, who are being raped and murdered at horrifying rates. From the first, I thought of these children as refugees from violence,rather than as “illegal immigrants”. I can certainly see how the news we are spoonfed dumbs down the issues and refocuses attention on immigration, so that we aren’t paying attention to the drug/weapons trade and the obscene profits being made by war-mongers, banks, and big industry on the backs of working people. I don’t know why we should be so surprised, really, since the U.S. was also one of the last countries to accept Jewish refugees from Europe during WWII. As as child, I saw the U.S. as a land of opportunity and the ability to make dreams come true. Maybe it was, back then. Now, it is on a slippery slope and I would rather not be around when it crashes. What has happened to Americans, that they can’t see these children for what they are and want to “send them back”? Yet people still say that this is the “greatest country on earth”, the “land of the free” and the “home of the brave”. Brave? You’d have to be, to live here, but free? I don’t think so.

    • Wow! Claire, you go girl! It’s an eye opener to hear from expats living in the U.S. It gives us a completely different perspective. What HAS happened to U.S. citizens that refuse to look at the refugee children for who they are is an extreme nationalistic, dangerous kind of patriotism. I fear for our country.

  7. Deb, you are so correct, if North Americans and Europeans would STOP consuming drugs and the US government would stop playing “world police” it would be a different story and as for Us Nicaraguans I can proudly say “it is not where you live IS how you live” being poor doesn’t mean you have to become a delinquent or promote violence

    • Jorge I appreciate your comments because you live and work in the U.S. and you are Nicaraguan. We need to hear more from you. You’ve experienced both sides and I am truly puzzled about the anger and hatred expressed by some people in the U.S. concerning these migrant children. I’d like to shake them and say, “You are partly to blame for this problem.” But, I won’t. Instead of casting blame, we need to find out the cause of the violence, and work peacefully to solve this problem. It’s a complicated problem with many factors, but I truly believe that the U.S. needs to accept some responsibility for the migrant children.

      • Deb, Most of the anger is because there is a HUGE anti-immigrant feeling from the usual trouble makers, most north americans don’t have a clue of what is going on; they don’t realize that this the product of NAFTA and wars funded by US intervention, guess who put the Taliban in power??? The USA of course, politicians have destroyed countries and as a result illegal immigration has become an issue plus let alone the fact the economy still bad. Most of these folks do the jobs that nobody wants to do such as: picking tomatoes, cleaning bathrooms etc, I have never seen An illegal alien take away a six-figure salary from a North American

  8. So true Anther question that might be asked is where are all the weapons coming from that are a key part of the gang and street violence in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador? The source too often comes from the north in a twisted version of free trade for the forementioned drugs.
    Yet another factor may be the narcotraffic-related youth gangs that have historic connections to both U.S. prison gangs and to the CIA’s sometime partnership in the 1980’s with cartels that provided funding to Nicaraguan contras.
    The chickens do indeed come home to roost.

    • Jon, I was going to ask that question in #4, but I forgot to include it. You are absolutely right! Where did all the weapons come from? We indeed live in a mad, mad, world. Thanks for your comments. You’ve included several other factors for the violence in Central America that need further investigation. Yep! The chickens come home to roost. haha I love that and it’s so appropriate for Central America.

  9. Deborah, I so totally agree. This is just the tip of the iceberg – and not merely a Latin America issue. The violence and terror instigated and propagated by the United States extends internationally with tragic results.

    Our generation was raised to believe that the USA was “the good guy.” I was nurtured in a safe, comforting environment of trust and with a firm belief that the USA is not only the greatest country in the world but also the watch dog and protector of Truth and Liberty worldwide. My father served in the Army in WWI, my husband Jim in the Navy in WWII, my previous brother-in-law was a Marine in Vietnam. Love. Protect. Die. For your country. For me, this was an internal, unshakable, belief.

    Thus, it has been a serious moral struggle for me to accept that the US is not only not the “peacekeeper” of the world but that for decades, my United States of America has been an aggressive tyrant and bully. It has been the instigator of violence and chaos in countries which were previously managing nicely on their own. The US invades and then finances domestic militia; it then imports and finances mercenary terrorists managed by their own operatives for the sole purpose of instigating regime change. And, yes, We The People – the taxpayers – provide massive funding which does not benefit us but provides colossal profits for international banking cartels and the military industrial complex with its affiliated corporations. The government that I have believed will protect me is bankrupting us individuals for the benefit of large banks and corporations.

    To see/read/listen to mainstream media is to be fed a comfortable pabulum, as these “news” sources are controlled by the same corporations which reap the profits from war. To keep Americans dumbed-down, the decision-making politicians along with mainstream media muddy the political waters with false flag “concerns” such as “right to bear arms” and “right to life.” If someone is concerned about the right to control a woman’s body and unborn child and yet they do not have concern about children coming to our country to escape the poverty and violence caused by our actions – that person needs to re-evaluate priorities.

    Don’t get me started….

    Thanks for your well-written, well-researched, and very readable article.

    • I am glad you see the truth, the Nicaraguan government is a white dove compare to the USA… And I am also a taxpayer that is not happy, I think we are headed to total world domination, God have mercy on Us

      • Jorge. No hay que morder la mano que te da de comer. Si no eres feliz en USA deberias regresar pronto a Nicaragua a lustrarle las botas a Mico-mandante.

        • No se trata de eso, pero la verdad duele, no te acuerdas que por culpa de Jimmy Carter tubimos que immigrar a USA?, si tu gobierno no se hubiera metido en lo que no le importa , jamas hubieramos immigrado a tu pais, que cara de piedra tienes, Nos deberian de reenvolsar Trilones de dolares por destruir a un pais y a miles de familias. El Señor va a castigar a los estados unidos y personas como tu

    • Mary, I can’t help but “get you started”. 🙂 Your thoughts and feelings are so important and relevant to our generation. My grandmother used to get Reader’s Digest ..with the BIG print…and I remember her reading me an article from it about a teacher cutting up the American flag. Her kids threw the pieces out the window and watched them gently float to the ground. After she finished reading the article, I cried. I was also raised to believe in the goodness of our country…patriotic flag waving…Pledge of Allegiance reciting…love it or leave it attitude…all the nationalistic, patriotic hoopla. Then, I became a “hippie”…a back-to-the lander…peacefully protesting “No More Nukes’..make love not war. Ahh..those were the days. Now, I’m just a “mature’ expat woman who tries to make sense of all the violence and hatred in the world today.

      Living in Nicaragua for 10 years has opened my eyes to the myths of poverty, the very real violence in Central America, and the plight of the migrant children. In my musings, I wonder how much the U.S. influenced the politics of Central American countries? What would have happened if the U.S. didn’t interfere, bully, and fight their way through countries with different “isms”…for example ‘socialism’?

      And our biased, politically full of poo poo, fear mongering media. Seriously, don’t get me started on that!! Yesterday, someone posted a picture on Facebook supposedly taken by a border control agent of a migrant child’s feet (they titled it “Illegal Immigrant”) wearing Nike shoes with President Obama’s “Yes, we can” campaign slogan. And their point is? to blame President Obama? to show the world that these children are wearing expensive Nike shoes? Oh for goodness sake! Give me a break from this madness or else I’m going to start posting pictures of the goodwill t-shirts given to Nicaragua with slogans like “Romney, our next President.” Yes. There was a big supply of these in the local goodwill store.

      Thanks Mary for your sincere thoughts. Every once in a while, I get the urge to rant and you’ve given me an opportunity. 🙂 Like Jon said, “The chickens have come home to roost.”

  10. If we have resources, don’t we have a responsibility to help the less fortunate, especially those in desperate circumstances?? If we helped cause the problem, even more so. I think they US has allowed greed to overtake the humanitarian spirit it used to have, which is very unfortunate.

    • Yes, Kris, we do have a responsibility to help. A friend who lives in Guatemala said that many of the migrant children’s families are so desperate to leave that they know to say, “We are seeking asylum from violence.” That way, they have a better chance of being accepted. Either way, the U.S. can’t ignore this problem,or block funds to provide for the care and safety of these children and their families. The violence is real, even if it’s not happening to everyone who has migrated. Thanks, Kris for your thoughts.

I'd love to read your ideas and thoughts below....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.