McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — As Hondura’s president-elect becomes the first woman to lead that fracturing Central American country later this week, a former U.S. ambassador to Honduras on Tuesday offered ways that Xiomara Castro and the United States can work together to stem the northern flow of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Castro’s inauguration is Thursday, but opposing factions in the country’s newly elected Congress are prompting protests and disintegrating trust in her leadership before she even takes office.
Reuters reports that Castro’s legislative plans suffered a severe blow Friday when about 18 members of her Liberty and Refoundation Party (Libre) broke ranks and collaborated with the ruling National Party to elect a Libre lawmaker as the president of Congress. The move broke an agreement to elect a lawmaker from the Partido Salvador de Honduras (PSH) party, and ally who helped Castro claim victory.
The U.S. Embassy has called for calm as protests have erupted throughout the capitol of Tegucigalpa. This comes just as Vice President Kamala Harris plans to lead a delegation to Honduras for the inauguration.
Harris was named by President Joe Biden as the point person to finding root causes and solutions to the growing number of migrants from the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, who every year trek north and try to cross into the United States.
New apprehension figures released Monday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection revealed DHS officials stopped over 175,000 unauthorized migrants at the Southwest border in December.
Castro’s presidency “should create an enormous opportunity for Honduras,” former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske said Tuesday during a call with media facilitated by the Atlantic Council, a nonprofit non-governmental organization.
“Her victory was really solid, a big win, record turnout,” Kubiske said. “The voters really wanted a change.”
This is an opportunity for Harris and the United States, as well as other nations to make inroads, she said, to help improve the economy, lower corruption within the country and help create more jobs that will entice residents of Honduras to stay in their country and not leave.
“Not all the governments in Central America are democratic and so Honduras presents a great opportunity for them,” she said. “The problems Honduras has had, affect other countries, including the United States.”
“Vice President Harris’ leadership of this delegation is important,” said Jason Marczak, senior director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council. “President-elect Castro assuming office this week converts Honduras into a potential very willing partner to a broader U.S. strategic engagement.”
Marczak noted that the number of encounters of Honduran nationals by DHS in December at Southwest land borders dropped to 18,00, down from a high of 45,000 encounters in July. But, he said, “Still tackling those root causes of migration is fundamental.”
Kubiske said previous agriculture-related programs to help Hondurans boost crop production proved successful in boosting the country’s GDP and reducing the need for families to migrate.
“It did raise the income since people, lots of people told me and told our staff that their husbands didn’t have to go to the U.S. anymore because they earned enough to stay home,” Kubiske said in response to a question from Border Report.
They also had urban-based programs with corporations in Honduras that helped to train students and offer them jobs upon graduation to help end the cycle of poverty plaguing so many families in Honduras.
She suggests Harris endeavor to recreate those programs and work with Castro’s new administration.
“We have had programs that worked very well that were aimed at creating jobs that kept people in the country,” she said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.