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Hondurans protest the military coup against Manuel Zelaya outside the presidential palace in June 2009. (Photo: AFP)

Refused Right to Seek Asylum, Honduran Refugees Demand Reparations for Destructive US Foreign Policy in Central America

"It may seem like a lot of money to you. But it is a small sum compared to everything the United States has stolen from Honduras."

Julia Conley

A month after arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in hopes of being granted asylum in the U.S, about 100 refugees from Honduras marched to the U.S. Consulate in the border city of Tijuana on Tuesday to tell officials that they will return to home—but only if the country that's refused to observe their right to asylum pays them reparations for the destruction and destabilization its foreign policy has caused in their home country and throughout Central America.

The group demanded $50,000 each from the U.S. government in return for turning back to their home country, asking the the U.S. answer its request within 72 hours. The sum would be enough, the group reasoned, for each asylum-seeker to start a small business or otherwise rebuild their life in a country where two-thirds of the population live in poverty and one in five people survive on less than $2 per day. 

The letter condemned the United States' foreign policy in Honduras—including the 2009 military coup backed by the Obama administration—which has contributed to the circumstances that many are fleeing now.

"We remind you that if the U.S. does not want more migration, it should put a stop to the economic, political, and military intervention in our territory," wrote the asylum-seekers in the letter, which Common Dreams obtained. "Therefore, we ask you to take away your 13 military bases and all their extractive companies that offend and loot our native land."

"If you do not want our entry into the United States, we ask you to...give us a sum of $50,000, so that each one of us can return to our homeland," the letter continued.

Following the 2009 military coup d'etat which ousted the democratically-elected Manuel Zelaya, the Obama administration supported an election that legitimized the new coup government. Police used tear gas, water cannons, and rubber as well as live bullets to disperse demonstrations by Zelaya's supporters after the coup—aggression that represented the beginning of a dark new period for the country.

The pro-business coup government has turned the country into the world's most dangerous for environmental activists, with more than 100 people killed in conflicts with powerful mining and logging interests since 2010, and the murder rate of LGBTQ Hondurans has exploded as well. Wages have declined since the coup, while the education and healthcare systems have faced severe funding cuts.

"It may seem like a lot of money to you," organizer Alfonso Guerrero Ulloa told the San Diego Union-Tribune of the $50,000 sum the group demanded from the United States. "But it is a small sum compared to everything the United States has stolen from Honduras."

A second letter, delivered by another group of asylum-seekers, called for the U.S. to process asylum requests far more quickly than officials currently are, allowing 300 asylum seekers into the country per day rather than the 40-100 who are being admitted currently while thousands languish in shelters and a makeshift tent city in Tijuana.

"Families, women, and children who have fled our countries continue to suffer and the civil society of Tijuana continue to be forces to confront this humanitarian crisis, a refugee crisis caused in great part by decades of U.S. intervention in Central America," wrote the asylum-seekers.


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