Trump threatens to cut Honduras aid unless it stops migrant caravan

By Nina Lakhani

Donald Trump has threatened to cut off millions of dollars of aid to Honduras if it fails to stop a group of as many as 2,000 migrants fleeing violence and poverty who are attempting to the reach the US border overland.

Guatemalan police detained the migrant caravan’s spokesman on Tuesday, a day after the group defied warnings from local authorities and crossed the border from Honduras.

Bartolo Fuentes, a former Honduran congressman, was arrested hours after Trump tweeted : “The United States has strongly informed the President of Honduras that if the large Caravan of people heading to the U.S. is not stopped and brought back to Honduras, no more money or aid will be given to Honduras, effective immediately!”

Honduras is a key ally in Central America, and US troops have been stationed in the country since 1954.

Last year, the US gave Honduras at least $181m in aid to finance security, anti-drug trafficking and poverty reduction programmes, according to the Washington Office for Latin America, a Washington DC-based group, more than any other Central American country.

But it was unclear what actions Trump had expected from Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez, given that migration is not a crime, and the caravan had already entered Guatemala when he tweeted his warning.

But Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales, who needs US support in hisbid to shut down UN-backed criminal cases against him, his family and political allies, may have calculated that it is in his interests to stop the migrants. Earlier this year, Morales followed Trump’s lead and authorized moving the Guatemalan embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The migrant caravan set off from the city of San Pedro Sula on Friday, in an attempt to make the grueling 3,000-mile overland journey to the US.

Honduras is the second poorest country in Latin America, after Haiti, and one of the most dangerous in the world. Forced migration has surged since a military-backed coup in 2009 unleashed a wave of organised crime, violence and environmentally destructive mega-projects.

Miriam Miranda, a leader of the Afro-Honduran Garifuna ethnic group, tweeted : “The #migrantcaravan is the result of the destruction of the country’s institutions and the transfer of resources to the political and economic mafia, and the foreign investors who control Honduras.”

Since the coup, Honduras has emerged as a major transit country for cocaine shipments from South American heading for the US market and the US has given Honduras at least $230m in security aid. Honduras is the country most visited by US special forces in the western hemisphere, with 21 US missions between 2008 and 2014.

The caravan, which includes scores of infants and children, spent the night in the Guatemalan border town Esquipulas where local people donated food and water. On Tuesday morning, the migrants resumed their march north.

This article provided by NewsEdge.