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What does it mean to be a criminal?

 

Amongst many definitions, the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a criminal as someone who has committed a “grave offense especially against morality”.

 

I ask this because as a Honduran, I found myself inquiring why our eloquent president Donald J. Trump, more than once, called my people criminals on the acclaimed political journal of Twitter over the past few days. I am, of course, talking about the Honduran migrant caravan walking their way to the United States. But before we delve into this matter, let’s discuss the whole criminal matter a little further.

 

I am putting no effort in hiding my bias, anger, frustration, and absolute indignation about the way the US government has handled this matter, so bear with me as we get off topic and learn some general history about criminals.

In the 1980’s, the Mayan Genocide took place in Guatemala carried out by a government fully supported and almost fully financed by the United States of America. This was thanks to Ronald Reagan’s blind anti-communist campaign. Ronald Reagan is a criminal.

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/05/19/what-guilt-does-the-us-…

 

From 1976 to 1983, the United States supported and financed Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina’s Dirty War which is responsible for the disappearance, torture, and murder of over 30,000 people. Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, all presidents involved, are criminals.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/17/opinion/americas-role-in-argentinas-d…

 

United States fully supported and financed the overthrow of democratically elected Salvador Allende for Augusto Pinochet, the man responsible for interning as much as 80,000 people, executing and torturing thousands of them. Despite warnings of severe human rights violations under the Pinochet regime, the US kept supporting him for years. Seven different US governments, from 1973 to 1990, are criminals.

 

The United States has played a key role in Central American politics since the 1900’s. Two wonderful examples are El Salvador’s bloody civil war in the 1980’s, or control over Honduran elections supporting whichever leader no matter how corrupt or unethical (as long as it’s not a communist) that will benefit US control over foreign export. The government of the United States of America, which involves thousands of people all over the country, are criminals.

 

The information mentioned above does not even begin to encompass the whole of US atrocities in the Americas. And when looking at the definition of a criminal, US leaders throughout the years fit it much better than those migrating. Though it would be unfair to call migrants mere victims, they are people running from a country that cannot meet their needs because of government corruption, gang violence, and US influence.

 

They are not walking over to the United States as a tourist group in search of an adventure. They have experienced what the majority in this country will never even be exposed to. The place they are leaving behind is their home, and the majority of those in the caravan do not want to leave their home. When you, your parents, your own children and family have no access to decent education, how can you be expected to thrive? “Uneducated indians” they’re called, but what can you do when you get robbed on your way to school? Or your teachers quit showing up because they don’t get paid? When you are scared for your life everytime you walk outside, and your brothers’ or sisters’ lives were claimed by a gang? When you can’t afford to eat anything but tortillas every day, or you share a room with more than 20 people? What would you do if you couldn’t protest without getting violently stopped by the police with tear gas and guns? Would you leave your home if they lay your sick child in a plastic chair in the hospital and your grandmother on the floor because there are no hospital beds? What if they stole the one and only chemotherapy machine in your city public hospital and you cannot get treatment that you probably couldn’t afford anyways? Would you cry if your brother died in the waiting room because there weren’t enough staff to treat you? Would you get angry if as a doctor or nurse you had take your own medicine to give to patients because the government doesn’t provide it? Would you walk away if your leaders, those you elected with a deep desire and hope for change, only continue to get richer and richer while your daughter’s indigenous black hair turns blonde due to malnutrition? Would you migrate to a promise land of freedom and prosperity if you were part of the 66% living in poverty? You probably wouldn’t, because chances are if you’re reading this article, you have never experienced the kinds of oppression all at once that would inspire you to walk 2,109 miles, or 4,128,000 steps to a place that might just allow you to feed your child.

 

People of the United States of America, you cannot even begin to comprehend. Violence and government corruption do not even slightly encompass what it’s really like to be Honduran. And whether you want to believe it or not, we do try. We try to make it, we work hard, study, fight, protest. We tried, our parents and grandparents tried, but it didn’t work. United States of America, do not believe Trump. You do not know what it’s like to be stripped of hope like that. We aren’t criminals, and though you can’t be completely blamed for our situation, you cannot deny that your powerful nation of freedom grows as we, one by one, take our last breaths.  

 

The purpose of this piece is not to instill guilt, attack, or even to make you feel bad about those coming. The purpose is to inform you, to give you an insight into why migration happens to begin with so you use that information as you interpret situations like the caravan. I ask that when you see the media, when you hear or read what our loud president says about my people, just remember criminals are usually the ones winning, the ones with the upper hand, they have no reason to migrate.

 

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