How U.S. involvement in Central America pushes children and families to migrate.
There is no doubt that violence and extreme insecurity are significant and immediate driving factors in the migration of children and families from Central America today. Since the early 1990s, when the United States began deporting gang members to the region, gangs have proliferated in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—the three countries with the highest numbers of child migrants in recent months. But gangs are not the root cause of migration; they are merely a symptom of a long and continued history of U.S. intervention.
Any time Central American leaders sought to reduce poverty, redistribute unused lands, or tax foreign companies, the CIA removed those officials.
For over a century, the United States has looked to the Central American region, with its arable land and geopolitical significance, as its backyard and a source for cheap labor. In a January 1927 Memorandum, Undersecretary of State, Robert Olds declared that the United States controls “the destinies of Central America and we do so for the reason that the [U.S.] national interest absolutely dictates such a course… Central America has always understood that governments which we recognize and support stay in power, while those which we do not recognize and support fall.”
Indeed, U.S. intervention has been evident throughout the region: From orchestrating Panama’s independence from Colombia to building the Panama Canal for shorter transoceanic trade routes, to ousting presidents whose policies threatened U.S. companies’ local profits. Any time Central American leaders sought to reduce poverty, redistribute unused lands, or tax foreign companies, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and sometimes also its military, removed those officials and installed new U.S.-amenable presidents. This happened as early as 1909 to remove José Santos Zelaya in Nicaragua and again in 1954 to remove Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. As recently as 2009, the United States tacitly supported the coup against democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. In each of these cases, the region was politically, socially, and economically destabilized with dire consequences for vulnerable populations.