Will AMLO Respond to the Central American Exodus With Compassion—Or Militarization?

Mexico’s new progressive president says he has a just immigration plan. But critics say it’s flawed.

Heather Gies

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador President of Mexico speaks at a press conference on January 24, 2019 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Pedro Gonzalez Castillo/Getty Images)

As thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­cans con­tin­ued to join an exo­dus head­ed toward Mex­i­co and the Unit­ed States, gov­ern­ment offi­cials from the region met in San Sal­vador on Jan­u­ary 15 to dis­cuss the details of a for­eign assis­tance plan Mex­i­co ambi­tious­ly claims will address the root caus­es of migra­tion by fund­ing job-cre­ation and pover­ty-reduc­tion in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca and south­ern Mexico.

U.S. funding for the region continues to support state security forces with track records of human rights abuses and violent repression of social movements.

Fol­low­ing the exam­ple of the Mar­shall Plan for Euro­pean recon­struc­tion in the wake of World War II, the gov­ern­ment of Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent Andrés Manuel López Obrador is call­ing for the invest­ment of some $30 bil­lion over five years to stim­u­late eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment in the region. While details remain unclear, the North­ern Tri­an­gle coun­tries of El Sal­vador, Guatemala and Hon­duras signed a joint dec­la­ra­tion with Mex­i­co last month to kick off talks to define the ini­tia­tive, for­mal­ly called the Com­pre­hen­sive Devel­op­ment Plan. Mex­i­co has asked the Unit­ed States to pitch in, though so far the com­mit­ment has been paltry. 

Under the orig­i­nal Mar­shall Plan, offi­cial­ly called the Euro­pean Recov­ery Pro­gram, the Unit­ed States pumped near­ly $13 bil­lion into west­ern Europe between 1948 and 1951. The goal was to recon­struct Euro­pean nations dev­as­tat­ed by World War II, lib­er­al­ize trade and con­tain com­mu­nism in the ear­ly years of the Cold War. Noam Chom­sky has argued that the plan was craft­ed to serve U.S. cor­po­rate inter­ests and laid the ground­work for the rise of transna­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions, though it did con­tribute to Europe’s recov­ery. Along­side the eco­nom­ic agen­da, covert CIA oper­a­tions, financed with 5 per­cent of Mar­shall Plan funds, used a a net­work of false fronts” to under­mine social­ist and com­mu­nist labor unions and oth­er social organizations.

As part of his call for a Mar­shall Plan for Cen­tral Amer­i­ca, López Obrador, known as AMLO, has pro­posed pri­or­i­tiz­ing devel­op­ment over secu­ri­ty in the region, sig­nal­ing that sus­tain­able devel­op­ment in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca is tied to that of Mex­i­co. Mex­i­co says the plan aims to com­bat the dri­vers of migra­tion in a com­pre­hen­sive way” as part of a broad­er effort to ease restric­tive” immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy to improve con­di­tions for Cen­tral Amer­i­cans in tran­sit. Mean­while, secu­ri­ty remains the top pil­lar in the U.S. State Department’s strat­e­gy for Cen­tral Amer­i­ca, under which new fund­ing to the region will fall.

Endors­ing the agree­ment between Mex­i­co and the North­ern Tri­an­gle coun­tries, the Unit­ed Nations Eco­nom­ic Com­mis­sion for Latin Amer­i­ca and the Caribbean says the plan has the poten­tial to change the par­a­digm of migra­tion, devel­op­ment and coop­er­a­tion” in the region.

But crit­ics argue that while the sit­u­a­tions in the North­ern Tri­an­gle are indeed dire and require urgent atten­tion, the plan will like­ly fol­low in the foot­steps of oth­er region­al U.S.-backed ini­tia­tives that have failed to effec­tive­ly tack­le the under­ly­ing caus­es of migra­tion and — instead — pri­or­i­tized mil­i­ta­riza­tion and pri­vate prof­its. Mis­guid­ed pri­or­i­ties, com­pound­ed by weak and cor­rupt gov­ern­ment insti­tu­tions in the region, have led to a fund­ing mod­el that not only falls short of tack­ling root caus­es, but may exac­er­bate the inequal­i­ty, dis­place­ment and failed anti-vio­lence poli­cies that dri­ve peo­ple to flee their homes in their first place.

Dif­fi­cult conditions”

Deep insti­tu­tion­al crises in the gov­ern­ments of the region — root­ed at least in part in unre­al­ized promis­es of peace and democ­ra­cy after the end of U.S.-backed civ­il wars in the region — leaves many wary of region­al lead­ers’ will and abil­i­ty to effec­tive­ly admin­is­ter funds in ways that will ben­e­fit pop­u­la­tions in need. While the idea of a Mar­shall Plan for Cen­tral Amer­i­ca sounds promis­ing, it is unlike­ly to pro­duce mean­ing­ful results with­out rethink­ing the ways for­eign aid has been allo­cat­ed and admin­is­tered, crit­ics say.

I think it is very dif­fi­cult in these con­di­tions that any plan could change the sit­u­a­tions in our coun­tries,” Ursu­la Roldan, direc­tor of the Insti­tute for Research and Social Pro­jec­tion on Glob­al and Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Dynam­ics at the Rafael Lan­di­var Uni­ver­si­ty in Guatemala City, tells In These Times. First we would have to sta­bi­lize the region through deep­en­ing the fight against cor­rup­tion and through more legit­i­mate elections.”

The crises are deep. Guatemala is in the grips of a slow motion coup” set off by the government’s bid to uni­lat­er­al­ly boot a UN-backed anti-cor­rup­tion com­mis­sion out of the coun­try. Hon­duras is still reel­ing from a 2009 mil­i­tary coup and wide­ly-con­demned 2017 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, both tac­it­ly endorsed by the Unit­ed States and accom­pa­nied by wide­spread polit­i­cal vio­lence. And El Sal­vador, set to vote for a new pres­i­dent on Feb­ru­ary 3, remains locked into a 15-year-old iron fist” clam­p­down on gangs that has failed to rein in vio­lent crime.

Geoff Thale, vice pres­i­dent of Pro­grams at the Wash­ing­ton Office on Latin Amer­i­ca (WOLA), argues it’s time to fun­da­men­tal­ly rethink” for­eign aid plans for the region to yield mean­ing­ful results.

In prin­ci­ple, a Mar­shall Plan for Cen­tral Amer­i­ca is the right thing,” Thale tells In These Times. But there’s a long way from say­ing that it’s a good idea, to fig­ur­ing out how to actu­al­ly make it work in a way that gen­er­ates both devel­op­ment and equi­ty in the region, that is ade­quate fund­ed, and that is not rid­dled by cor­rup­tion and mis­man­age­ment in ways that make it ineffective.”

Gov­ern­ment of criminals”

Bar­to­lo Fuentes, a Hon­duran jour­nal­ist and for­mer mem­ber of Con­gress, tells In These Times that the south­ern Mex­i­co devel­op­ment por­tion of the Mar­shall Plan could be promis­ing. Fuentes helped get the word out last Octo­ber about the first big car­a­van from Hon­duras, made up of peo­ple flee­ing vio­lence, polit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion, pover­ty and unem­ploy­ment. Con­trary to Trump’s rhetoric, he says the idea of the car­a­van was nev­er to enter the Unit­ed States en masse or by force, and some 3,000 Cen­tral Amer­i­cans opt­ed to request asy­lum in south­ern Mexico.

Fuentes believes that if salaries are decent, employ­ment in Mex­i­co could be an attrac­tive option for some Hon­durans seek­ing eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties. He points to the Mex­i­can government’s Maya Train rail project as one poten­tial source of employ­ment for migrant work­ers. Indige­nous groups in Mex­i­co have reject­ed the project over the government’s fail­ure to con­sult their com­mu­ni­ties, while envi­ron­men­tal­ist warn of impacts on forests and wildlife habi­tat in south­ern states.

But Fuentes argues that invest­ment in Hon­duras admin­is­tered by the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Juan Orlan­do Hernán­dez —sworn in for a con­tro­ver­sial sec­ond term one year ago after a high­ly ques­tioned pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — would be a lost cause. We have a cor­rupt gov­ern­ment,” he says, rhyming off a raft of under­fund­ed pub­lic pro­grams like health and edu­ca­tion as well as a slew of high-pro­file gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion scan­dals, includ­ing the arrest of the president’s broth­er in Mia­mi on drug traf­fick­ing charges.

In few words, we need a change of gov­ern­ment,” says Fuentes. This is a gov­ern­ment of crim­i­nals. As long as those peo­ple [remain in pow­er], there will be no plan for pros­per­i­ty that real­ly works, nei­ther by Mex­i­co nor the Unit­ed States.”

Dou­bling down on failed policies

Fuentes’ crit­i­cism of the Unit­ed States ref­er­ences an ongo­ing region­al devel­op­ment ini­tia­tive osten­si­bly aimed at stem­ming migra­tion from the region, the Alliance for Pros­per­i­ty. Devel­oped under the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, the Alliance for Pros­per­i­ty includes plans to build a gas pipeline from Mex­i­co to Cen­tral Amer­i­ca, expand ener­gy infra­struc­ture and logis­tics cor­ri­dors, coor­di­nate bor­der secu­ri­ty across the region and attract for­eign investment.

Though ini­tial­ly billed as a $1 bil­lion per year plan over five years, the Unit­ed States has allo­cat­ed $2.1 bil­lion to the region since 2016. The North­ern Tri­an­gle gov­ern­ments have allo­cat­ed $7.7 bil­lion to the Alliance for Pros­per­i­ty in the same period.

Jour­nal­ist and author Dawn Paley report­ed two years ago that the plan, pro­posed as a solu­tion to the increase in unac­com­pa­nied Cen­tral Amer­i­can chil­dren arriv­ing in the Unit­ed States, was like­ly to deep­en the refugee cri­sis because it pro­posed the same kinds of cor­po­rate projects and mil­i­ta­rized secu­ri­ty that com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers in the region were fight­ing to stop. Far from improv­ing the sit­u­a­tion, four years on, we see increased social and envi­ron­men­tal con­flict, increased mil­i­ta­riza­tion, increased polar­iza­tion, increased pover­ty and an ongo­ing mass exo­dus,” she tells In These Times of the Alliance for Pros­per­i­ty.

In her book, Drug War Cap­i­tal­ism, Paley argues that the war on drugs in Latin Amer­i­ca has pro­vid­ed a pre­text for U.S.-backed mil­i­ta­riza­tion, which in turn push­es the fron­tiers of glob­al cap­i­tal­ism by open­ing up land and resources for for­eign invest­ment and extrac­tion. The 18-year-old, $10 bil­lion counter-nar­cotics and coun­terin­sur­gency pro­gram Plan Colom­bia, for exam­ple, sold free-mar­ket eco­nom­ic reforms and mil­i­tary aid as a pack­age deal. Back in 1998, Colombia’s then-Pres­i­dent Andrés Pas­trana Arango had called for a kind of Mar­shall Plan for Colom­bia. A year lat­er he forged Plan Colom­bia with then-Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton. Plan Colom­bia utter­ly failed to curb cocaine pro­duc­tion, while the human costs of the war soared. For­eign direct invest­ment hit a high in 2013 at rough­ly sev­en times the 2000 lev­el, and invest­ment in min­ing and oil in par­tic­u­lar bal­looned expo­nen­tial­ly. The Alliance for Pros­per­i­ty fol­lows a famil­iar playbook.

We don’t have many spe­cif­ic details about the pro­posed plan at this point,” Paley says of the new Mar­shall Plan, but based on the fact that fund­ing is sup­posed to come from inter­na­tion­al finan­cial insti­tu­tions and pri­vate investors as well as the U.S. and Mex­i­can gov­ern­ments, it’s unlike­ly we’ll see a depar­ture from the Alliance for Pros­per­i­ty.” The Inter-Amer­i­can Devel­op­ment Bank facil­i­tat­ed the cre­ation of the Alliance for Pros­per­i­ty and will con­tin­ue to be one of the part­ners with which U.S. sup­port for the Mar­shall Plan pro­pos­es to work close­ly,” along with the World Bank, Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund and pri­vate sec­tor part­ners such as the Over­seas Pri­vate Invest­ment Corporation.

Rights groups and researchers have warned mil­i­ta­rized secu­ri­ty, paired with devel­op­ment schemes designed to keep rich­es in the hands of transna­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions and local elites, often exac­er­bate con­di­tions that dri­ve peo­ple to flee home in the first place.

One of the things that has con­tin­u­ous­ly failed is invest­ment in secu­ri­ty, which means mil­i­ta­riza­tion, that doesn’t attend to the longer, his­tor­i­cal real­i­ties of a region that is com­plete­ly strat­i­fied,” Alex Vil­lal­pan­do, pro­fes­sor of Pan-African Stud­ies and Latin Amer­i­can Stud­ies at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty Los Ange­les, tells In These Times.

Many also have raised con­cern that U.S. fund­ing for the region con­tin­ues to sup­port state secu­ri­ty forces with track records of human rights abus­es and vio­lent repres­sion of social move­ments. More than 50 mem­bers of U.S. Con­gress, for exam­ple, have called for the Unit­ed States to more rig­or­ous­ly con­di­tion for­eign aid and loans to Hon­duras’ police and mil­i­tary in light of ram­pant impuni­ty for vio­lence against human rights defend­ers, epit­o­mized by the mur­der of inter­na­tion­al­ly-renowned indige­nous leader Berta Cáceres. In Guatemala, mil­i­tary jeeps the Unit­ed States donat­ed in the name of the war on drugs were deployed last year to intim­i­date the anti-cor­rup­tion com­mis­sion, The Inter­cept report­ed.

For Vil­lal­pan­do, any talk of a Mar­shall Plan for Cen­tral Amer­i­ca is shaped by a racial­ized log­ic” in the kind of rela­tion­ship the Unit­ed States has with Cen­tral Amer­i­ca com­pared to Europe. While the Unit­ed States saw Euro­pean coun­tries as impe­r­i­al allies” when the Mar­shall Plan was rolled out after World War II, Wash­ing­ton has long had a pater­nal­is­tic rela­tion­ship with Cen­tral Amer­i­ca, he explains.

That’s where the idea of a Mar­shall Plan falls,” Vil­lal­pan­do says. Cen­tral Amer­i­ca has been cru­cial to the U.S.’s devel­op­ment as an empire and as a glob­al cap­i­tal­ist power.”

A sor­did history

In response to AMLO’s push for the Cen­tral Amer­i­ca plan, the Unit­ed States pledged to pitch in $5.8 bil­lion for Cen­tral Amer­i­ca, though most of that sum recom­mits exist­ing funds, with over half com­ing from pri­vate invest­ment guar­an­tees. Wash­ing­ton says the aid pro­pos­es to pro­mote insti­tu­tion­al reforms and devel­op­ment” through pub­lic and pri­vate invest­ment in the name of pro­mot­ing a safer and more pros­per­ous Cen­tral Amer­i­ca.” Pri­vate invest­ment guar­an­tees for south­ern Mex­i­co total $4.8 bil­lion. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion will ask for just $180 mil­lion in new bilat­er­al assis­tance for the region for 2019.

WOLA’s Thale says the U.S. con­tri­bu­tion remains fic­tion­al” at this point. There’s almost no real new mon­ey in the pro­pos­al the admin­is­tra­tion made,” he tells In These Times. If this is a $30 bil­lion plan, we ought to be con­tribut­ing a larg­er share.”

Aquiles Mag­a­ña, exec­u­tive sec­re­tary of El Sal­vador’s Nation­al Coun­cil for the Pro­tec­tion and Devel­op­ment of Migrants and Their Fam­i­lies, believes that the Unit­ed States has a his­tor­i­cal respon­si­bil­i­ty” to address struc­tur­al caus­es of migra­tion after decades of inter­ven­tion in the region. Unlike oth­er crit­ics, he tells In These Times that the Alliance for Pros­per­i­ty and oth­er U.S. socio-eco­nom­ic invest­ments are a step in the right direc­tion. But he also argues that present-day fund­ing doesn’t mea­sure up to the hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in U.S. eco­nom­ic and mil­i­tary aid that propped up El Salvador’s dic­ta­tor­ship dur­ing the country’s 12-year civ­il war, when Wash­ing­ton also sent mil­i­tary advi­sors to sup­port the Sal­vado­ran mil­i­tary, sug­gest­ing the Unit­ed States should invest more in region­al development.

U.S. his­to­ry in neigh­bor­ing Guatemala and Hon­duras is sim­i­lar­ly sor­did. In 1954, a CIA-backed coup in Guatemala set the stage for 36 years of bru­tal civ­il war and geno­cide against Maya indige­nous peo­ples. The con­flict claimed 200,000 vic­tims most­ly at the hands of state forces and aligned death squads. Mean­while, Hon­duras served as the Cold War stag­ing ground for U.S. coun­terin­sur­gency strat­e­gy in the region, and in the 1980s a secret CIA-trained mil­i­tary unit ter­ror­ized, tor­tured and killed at least 184 dis­si­dents to dis­cour­age a rev­o­lu­tion­ary upris­ing on Hon­duran soil. In the years after the region’s peace accords, U.S. free trade poli­cies shaped the region’s economies, includ­ing under­min­ing local agri­cul­tur­al pro­duc­tion by flood­ing local mar­kets with cheap U.S. imports. In 2009, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion refused to cut aid to Hon­duras after the mil­i­tary coup and lat­er endorsed wide­ly boy­cotted elec­tions that took place under the coup régime. And most recent­ly, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion appears to be turn­ing a blind eye to con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis in Guatemala.

Cen­tral Amer­i­ca nev­er man­aged to deep­en its democ­ra­cies,” explains Rafael Lan­di­var University’s Roldan. She says pow­er­ful eco­nom­ic inter­ests under­mined the tran­si­tion to democ­ra­cy and the cre­ation of mean­ing­ful pub­lic poli­cies after the end of US-backed civ­il wars. 

Today we have co-opt­ed gov­ern­ments, a busi­ness sec­tor with too much pow­er, no checks and bal­ances on the exer­cise of pow­er, and illic­it forces that have con­trolled judi­cial and leg­isla­tive appa­ra­tus­es,” she says. What we need is to retake the path of demo­c­ra­t­ic recon­struc­tion in these countries.” 

The U.S. administration’s plans to request $180 mil­lion in new for­eign aid for the North­ern Tri­an­gle pales in com­par­i­son to Trump’s $5.7 bil­lion request to build 234 miles of a new phys­i­cal bar­ri­er” at the bor­der. Since the announce­ment of the Cen­tral Amer­i­ca aid, Trump has focused immi­gra­tion debate square­ly on the wall as the only way to com­bat what he calls a cri­sis” at the south­ern border.

Crit­ics argue that the only human­i­tar­i­an cri­sis is one of the Unit­ed States’ own mak­ing, as arti­fi­cial­ly slow pro­cess­ing of asy­lum-seek­ers left thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­cans in lim­bo at the US-Mex­i­co bor­der late last year. Tens of thou­sands more asy­lum-seek­ers liv­ing in the Unit­ed States will be impact­ed as the gov­ern­ment shut­down inter­rupts immi­gra­tion court hear­ings. Mean­while, deter­rence poli­cies — from Oba­ma-era efforts to tight­en Mexico’s south­ern bor­der through Pro­gra­ma Fron­tera Sur to Trump’s zero tol­er­ance” poli­cies — con­tin­ue to show no signs of slow­ing the Cen­tral Amer­i­can exodus.

A new paradigm?

Against the back­drop of the man­u­fac­tured bor­der cri­sis and years of mis­guid­ed U.S. respons­es to Cen­tral Amer­i­can migra­tion, WOLA’s Thale believes it is pos­i­tive that Mex­i­co is lead­ing the strategy.

But Berenice Valdez Rivera, pub­lic pol­i­cy coor­di­na­tor with the Insti­tute for Women in Migra­tion, a Mex­i­can social orga­ni­za­tion, stress­es that AMLO should learn from his predecessor’s mis­takes and move away from failed solu­tions of mil­i­ta­rized bor­ders and increased immi­gra­tion polic­ing. Inde­pen­dent of the Mar­shall Plan for the region, she believes Mexico’s pri­or­i­ties in respond­ing to the Cen­tral Amer­i­can exo­dus in the short term should include sim­pli­fy­ing process­es for Cen­tral Amer­i­cans to reg­u­lar­ize their sta­tus in Mex­i­co, reduc­ing immi­gra­tion patrols, and rais­ing aware­ness about and facil­i­tat­ing human­i­tar­i­an visa options.

With thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­cans on their doorstep, Mex­i­can immi­gra­tion author­i­ties will attend to for­eign­ers who arrive in Mex­i­can ter­ri­to­ry with full respect or their human rights, offer­ing them a humane recep­tion, reg­u­lar­iza­tion process­es so they can tran­sit the coun­try, as well as infor­ma­tion and ori­en­ta­tion,” Maris­sa Gon­za­lez Ramirez, a spokesper­son for Mexico’s Nation­al Insti­tute for Migra­tion, told In These Times.

Since the lat­est large group of Cen­tral Amer­i­cans arrived at its bor­der, Mex­i­can offi­cials have received over 12,000 requests for human­i­tar­i­an visas, includ­ing from 1,897 chil­dren and ado­les­cents. About three quar­ters of appli­cants are from Hon­duras. But only a frac­tion of appli­cants have received their visas. Mexico’s agree­ment with the North­ern Tri­an­gle coun­tries pro­pos­es to address all facets of migra­tion from root caus­es to tran­sit, asy­lum, and depor­ta­tion process­es. Although these moves appear to be mak­ing good on com­mit­ments to improve rights of migrants and refugees in tran­sit, Mex­i­co announced it has closed requests for human­i­tar­i­an visas. Some rights groups also have raised con­cern about pro­cess­ing times being slow­er than the five days expect­ed, not­ing the uncer­tain­ty has prompt­ed some Cen­tral Amer­i­cans to car­ry on with­out wait­ing for the visa. 

But simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, AMLO has attract­ed ire for push­ing a plan to cre­ate a 60,000-strong Nation­al Guard. Crit­ics say the force will con­tin­ue a mil­i­ta­rized pub­lic secu­ri­ty strat­e­gy that, far from con­tain­ing vio­lent crime, has per­pet­u­at­ed vio­lence and human rights abus­es since for­mer Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent Felipe Calderón launched the war on drugs” 12 years ago. Low­er House law­mak­ers over­whelm­ing­ly approved the plan, which now pass­es to the Sen­ate. AMLO has called for the final ver­sion of the Nation­al Guard to include a stronger role for the mil­i­tary. The move does not inspire con­fi­dence that AMLO is will­ing to take a clear step away from militarization.

As Cen­tral Amer­i­cans inter­est­ed in stay­ing in Mex­i­co have options to request asy­lum or one-year human­i­tar­i­an visas, it remains unclear what will hap­pen to refugees seek­ing asy­lum in the Unit­ed States under Trump’s Remain in Mex­i­co” plan. The pol­i­cy requires asy­lum-seek­ers to wait for their immi­gra­tion court dates in Mex­i­co, which could take years. Mex­i­co has crit­i­cized the pol­i­cy as uni­lat­er­al,” but nev­er­the­less has stat­ed the coun­try will accept asy­lum seek­ers returned to Mex­i­can ter­ri­to­ry. Immi­gra­tion lawyers and human rights groups slam Remain in Mex­i­co” as a logis­ti­cal night­mare that will put vul­ner­a­ble asy­lum-seek­ers at greater risk.

For Valdez Rivera, ensur­ing humane treat­ment of migrants and refugees in tran­sit through Mex­i­co as well as effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion of a Mar­shall Plan for the region will require the gov­ern­ment to work close­ly with human rights and social orga­ni­za­tions with decades of front­line expe­ri­ence with these communities.

Devel­op­ment doesn’t work with­out strength­en­ing insti­tu­tions,” she says. The Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment needs to be close to civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca and Mexico.”

Heather Gies is a free­lance jour­nal­ist who has writ­ten on human rights, social move­ments and envi­ron­men­tal issues for Al Jazeera, The Guardian, In These Times and Nation­al Geo­graph­ic. Fol­low her on twit­ter @HeatherGies.
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