Hello from Tegucigalpa. We’re just back from a couple of days in the Honduras-Nicaragua border zone, in the department of El Paraíso. An extraordinary number of migrants are passing through this zone right now, most of them after passing through the Darién Gap and Nicaragua.
After passing through the Darién Gap, Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, some U.S.-bound migrants get stranded en route as they struggle to raise money to pay bus fares.
At the beginning of this century, Venezuela was one of Latin America’s wealthier countries. Back then, the idea of its citizens using an image of their flag to evoke pity in Honduras—the 2nd or 3rd poorest nation in the hemisphere—would’ve been ludicrous.
I’m flying first thing Wednesday morning for a research trip to Honduras, a country where I have to admit I’ve done little work in recent years. The last time I was there was 2005 or 2006. I look forward to working again in Central America, where I started my career in the 1990s.
I’m sorry, of course, that it’s necessary to do so. Honduras is one of several countries on the route between the Darién Gap and Mexico, a route being transited by something like 1,000 people per day. (Honduras measured an average of 689 “irregular” migrants transiting the country during each of the first 112 days of 2023—mostly from Venezuela, Haiti, and Ecuador—but hundreds more per day probably evaded detection.)
With a few WOLA colleagues, I’ll be in the country’s two largest cities, and in zones along the Nicaraguan and Guatemalan borders. I’ve got a long list of research questions, which will form the backbone of a report I hope to publish as quickly as possible after our return. The outline’s “Roman numerals” so far are:
Migrants transiting Honduras
Honduran migrants returned
Honduran government response
How U.S. government policy shapes what migrants experience
Response of other international actors
I will post photos and impressions (for security reasons, after I leave a region) both here and at my Mastodon account.
I’m grateful to all who have agreed to meet with us in the coming days, and to those who’ve offered me some extremely useful advice as I prepared the trip.
This is the first time in many years that I’ve organized a trip to a place where I don’t already have a lot of relationships with people. In Honduras, I only have a few. But I expect to change that over the next several days.
Addendum added 8pm on April 25: Here’s the nationalities of migrants encountered by authorities in Honduras since January 2022. You can see a notable recent drop in Cuban migrants and increase in Venezuelan migrants. Both are subject to Title 42 expulsion into Mexico, but Venezuelans have become at least somewhat adept at using the “CBP One” app to make appointments for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Pleased to share a new WOLA Podcast episode with Geoff Ramsey, who until very recently—before making a move to the Atlantic Council—was WOLA’s director for Venezuela. I haven’t been paying close enough attention to the ongoing political negotiations between the Maduro government and the opposition, and this was an eye-opening overview.
About a quarter of Venezuela’s population has fled the country after years of economic crisis, corruption, and authoritarianism. Efforts to bring a return to accountable, democratic rule continue, most notably through a negotiated process facilitated by Norway.
There is little reason to expect a short-term outcome, says Geoff Ramsey, who until recently directed WOLA’s Venezuela Program. Ramsey is now a senior fellow for Venezuela and Colombia at the Atlantic Council.
In this episode of WOLA’s Podcast, Ramsey calls for patient support for the ongoing negotiations, implementation of a 2022 humanitarian agreement, a more strategically unified opposition, more engaged neighbors, and a clearer U.S. policy at a time when Venezuela is getting “less bandwidth” in Washington.
Above all, Geoff Ramsey cautions against expecting dramatic change anytime soon, as many did during the Trump administration. Bringing Venezuela back to rights-respecting democracy is a “long game,” with 2024 elections just one milestone along the way.
This isn’t quite all of U.S. aid. The budget request mentions some global aid programs (probably including some refugee aid) that also channel resources to the Western Hemisphere, without specifying how much individual regions and countries are getting. So that would be additional. In addition, probably 200 or 300 million dollars in assistance goes to the region’s security forces through the Defense budget, and that’s neither reported well nor reflected here.
So the real 2024 total for Latin America could be closer to $4 billion. At first glance I don’t see any dramatic changes in the proposed assistance, which has followed the same general outlines since Barack Obama’s second term.