Mainstream news reports have focused on the drama of the thousands of people walking from Honduras, and who have now entered Mexico, with the hope of reaching the United States. What is driving this mass displacement of people? What is Canada's role in this?
Left-wing Libertad y Refundación Congressman Jari Dixon has tweeted that the migrants are not "seeking the American dream" but "fleeing the Honduras nightmare."
On June 28, 2009, a military coup overthrew elected president Manuel Zelaya who had increased the minimum wage by 80 per cent, opposed new mining concessions, and aligned his country with the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America - Peoples' Trade Treaty, known as ALBA -- originally proposed as an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas)
Author-activist Yves Engler noted at that time that the Harper government did not call for Zelaya to be returned to power, did not announce plans to suspend aid to Honduras, nor did it exclude the Honduran military from its Military Training Assistance Program.
"From 1996 - 2006 Canadian companies were the world's second-biggest investors in Honduras, trailing only U.S. corporations in levels of foreign investment," according to Engler.
"Six months after the coup Ottawa endorsed an electoral farce and immediately recognized the new right-wing government," noted Engler.
That "election," held on November 29, 2009, brought the conservative National Party under Porfirio Lobo Sosa to power.
By October 2010, Canada and Honduras began bilateral negotiations on a free trade (a.k.a. investor rights) agreement. Those talks were concluded by August 2011. The deal was signed in November 2013 and came into force in October 2014.
A new mining law was also pushed through.
In 2012, U.S. political activist Jody Williams wrote:
"The proposed law would accelerate the licensing process for new mines in Honduras, including open-pit mines, and simplify the rules for mining companies planning to operate in Honduras. It would also reduce environmental standards and privilege water use by mining companies."
She added, "In creating this new law, the Honduran government has bent over backwards to meet the needs of Canadian and other mining companies, but has carried out almost no consultations with Honduran civil society and community organizations."
The Honduran Congress passed and ratified the law in January 2013.
Now Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, who like Lobo is also a member of the conservative National Party and ran in elections (in 2013 and 2017) rife with allegations of fraud, presides over a country where violence is rampant.
"For years, Honduras has had one of the highest per capita homicide rates in the world," writes Sandra Cuffe in Al Jazeera.
Cuffe adds, "Women and girls make up nearly half of the first wave of the northbound exodus, according to statistics released on Saturday by officials from a shelter in southern Mexico. Of the 5,109 people accounted for, 1,565 are women and 952 are girls."
Despite this, I can find no comments on Canada's Global Affairs website or from our self-described feminist prime minister on this situation.
As the migrants trudge through Chiapas, one would hope the Canadian government -- given its role in exacerbating the reasons for this mass displacement of people -- might step forward with a statement of apology and support.
Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.
Twitter photo via @pedroultreras
Help make rabble sustainable. Please consider supporting our work with a monthly donation. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.