A right to DREAM: The historical role of youth in the immigrant rights movement

Written by Heidi R. Woll

The movement to defend the rights of immigrants, particularly those of Latinx[1] undocumented immigrants, was spearheaded by youth in the 1980s and 1990s. Most of these youth, having arrived in the United States as children, found themselves in a precarious position when entering adulthood, when many of them discovered – either for the first time or not – that they would encounter significant difficulties when seeking employment or going to college, as well as when embarking on simpler tasks such as obtaining driver’s licenses or boarding flights.

Many of these same youth would also experience the childhood trauma of family separation, on account of the deportation of their parents and/or other family members. All of these distinctive issues ultimately led, and continue to lead, to many youth to be particularly conscious of their own “illegality” – especially when paired with the tangible hostility of many Americans, who view their existence on American soil, void of legal citizenship as “a threat to national sovereignty and the rule of law.”[2]

This essay therefore examines how a state of being formed a movement: How, by adopting the name of ‘Dreamers’ and exposing themselves to the country as a unified group, a vast number of undocumented Latinx youth reshaped their sociopolitical identities in the public sphere; from invaders to contributors, from ‘illegal’ to quintessentially American. This story is integral to the political movement to defend the rights of immigrants that underwent significant growth towards the end of the 20th century and is in full effect today. It also raises inherently difficult questions, particularly regarding the need to strike a political balance that accounts both for the economic viability of adopting a more open-border immigration system, and for the moral drive to hold true to the principles expounded by the founders of a country largely built by and for immigrants.

The role of these Latinx youth in the immigrant rights debate is, however, in a certain way, atypical. Walter Nicholls, author of The DREAMers: How the Undocumented Youth Movement Transformed the Immigrant Rights Debate, points out that the immigrant rights movement is exceptional to recent scholarship on immigration politics in the United States and Europe, which largely suggests that usually, “hostile environments would encourage undocumented immigrants to turn away from the public sphere of receiving countries.”[3] Following this behavioural trend, we would expect to find that DREAMers – the name often used to describe the undocumented youth referred to in this essay, along with non-Latinx undocumented youth – would become less politically active following Congress’s multiple failures to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. This act would have facilitated the granting of conditional and, meeting certain requirements, permanent residency for undocumented persons brought to the United States as minors; therefore, its failure to pass dealt a major blow to the undocumented youth whose lives it would have improved. Contrary to the hypothesis outlined by Nicholls, however, the DREAMer movement – largely led by the children of Latinx immigrants and supported by non-governmental organizations – appears to have provided a safe environment for youth to ‘come out’ as undocumented in spite of the increased risk of doing so since the declaration of the war on terror.

Illegal immigration through the southern border of the United States accelerated in the mid-1970s and even more in the first half of the 1980s, with “apprehension at the Mexican border ([at the time] 98 percent Mexican nationals), arrests of deportable aliens, deportations, and visa overstays all showing an upward trend.”[4] The number of annually apprehended illegal immigrants first surpassed one million in 1977, and by 1986 it had reached 1,670,000.[5] Still, the actual amount of illegal immigrants during this period, as with any other, is however very difficult to precisely quantify, since the clandestine nature of the illegal alien population makes it extremely difficult to count.[6]

The Immigration and Naturalization Service’s (INS) apprehension and deportation figures and studies of visa abuse “indicated that the Central American countries, particularly El Salvador, [had] become the major source of illegal immigrants after Mexico” by the late 1980s. Moreover, The State Department in 1985 “estimated illegal immigration from El Salvador and Guatemala in 1977 at 25,000 and 15,000 a year respectively; with 350,000 Salvadorans already in the United States illegally by 1980 when civil strife in that country began spurring the outflow.”[7]

In the introduction to Dreamers: An Immigrant Generation’s Fight for their American Dream (2015), Eileen Truax holds that “There are about eleven million undocumented people living in the United States. You can’t tell who they are just by looking at them, but we know they are here […] While it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly who’s undocumented and who’s not by sight, we know one thing with certainty: our daily lives wouldn’t be the same without them.”[8] The book goes on to explore the positive impacts of undocumented immigrants on everything from the American economy to their more personal effect on the lives of everyday Americans – showing that any given American is likely to have a DREAMer as a friend, neighbor, lover, even a fellow student or co-worker.

Philip Kasinitz (2008) went on to argue that “the answer to the question of what large-scale migration will mean for American society […] lies less with the immigrants themselves than with their ambivalently American children. […] This new “second generation” – the children of at least one immigrant parent born in the United States or who arrived by the age of 12 – accounted for one out of six 18- to 32-year-olds in the nation and one out of four of all Americans under 18. In many ways, they will define how today’s immigrant groups become tomorrow’s American ethnic groups.”[9] He explains that

Before 1965, immigrants to the United States were overwhelmingly European. Since then, most have come from other parts of the globe. Given how the United States has historically constructed racial categories, they are not generally regarded as “white.” Yet they are not African Americans either. Since the cleavage between the “white” descendants of immigrants and the “black” descendants of American slaves has so strongly marked big cities, the emergence of a large and rapidly growing group that does not fit easily into either of these categories has enormous potential consequences.”[10]

One of these consequences was the Sanctuary Movement, which began in late 1981 when a small number of churches started sheltering Central American illegal immigrants. The motives of the movement’s proponents were usually of a humanitarian nature. Congregations would give sanctuary to Guatemalans or Salvadorans at risk of being detained and deported by the INS; additionally, movement members would bring Salvadorans and Guatemalans into the US, traveling to Central America to accompany displaced communities, organizing caravans to move Salvadorans and Guatemalans to other parts of the US, and enabling undocumented refugees to testify publicly about their experiences. They lobbied Congress, raised bail bond money for detained Central Americans, and helped detainees file for political asylum.[11] While the sanctuary movement at this time was led both by church congregations and nonprofit legal organizations, it would echo later in the discussion of the current sanctuary movement for Central American migrants.

A New York Times Retro Report video entitled “Safe Haven: The Sanctuary Movement” describes the history of Rev. John Fyfe, who explained how, upon attempting to help undocumented migrants from Guatemala and El Salvador file for asylum, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) attempted to deport them on the grounds that they were economic migrants, rather than fleeing persecution. Seeing clear torture marks on their bodies, Fyfe hid them in the basement of his church. Though Fyfe and the many pastors that were involved in this initial movement were not youths, they displayed an interesting pattern of behavior, including a defiance towards authority that appears youthful in nature. “Afraid he might be arrested,” the report goes on to say, “Fyfe did something unexpected. He went public.” Fyfe goes on to explain, “if we went public with what we were doing, then maybe we would have a base of support.”[12]

The Central American youth that attended churches like Fyfe’s saw a supportive environment there, of a kind they had found nowhere else in the United States. Mario Rivas, for instance, was a young man that had been active in student politics back home in El Salvador. Growing up, he had worked with the local priest, who had organized “a kind of Christian base community for children” that played an integral part of the community in Ilopongo, Mario’s hometown, visiting the sick and elderly on Sundays to help with chores.

In contrast, Mario found that mass in the United States was “a cold place” and that the churches he attended lacked the social action commitment he associated with Christianity. He stopped attending until he found La Placita, a church founded by Fathers Olivares and Kennedy, the latter of which had met John Fyfe during his first assignment as a priest in a small parish in San Diego. Fyfe had asked him if that parish could be part of the Sanctuary network, and he accepted, though the refugee work needed to be kept covert since his superior worried about publicity. Years later, Father Kennedy, together with Father Olivares, formed the Centro Pastoral, which provided Central American refugees attending La Placita with somewhere to stay, medical care, legal services and other previously unmet needs.

For Mario, “the public declaration of sanctuary at La Placita in 1985” was a “historic moment,” since “it was a place where [they] could tell [their] own stories – a place from which [they] could challenge U.S. foreign policy toward Central America.”[13] La Placita also worked closely with the Sanctuary Committee of Southern California Inter-faith Task Force on Central America (SCITCA) to “coordinate speaking engagements by refugees in churches and other locations.”[14] Mario actively partook in the creation of the National Alliance of Sanctuary Committees, which promoted dialogue across the many Sanctuary communities across the U.S., emphasizing the link between the plight of refugees and U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Even more relevant to the role of youth in the Sanctuary movement was the decisive role that university student governments took in creating sanctuary campuses. By the end of 1985, the Sanctuary movement had spread to 10 colleges in California, with the Universities of California Berkeley, Irvine, and Los Angeles, California State University Northridge, and Pitzer and Pomona Colleges in Claremont pledging their support for the movement.

Pitzer and Pomona, as Chinchilla, Hamilton and Loucky note, were interesting cases. Several congregations in the Claremont area had already declared sanctuary beginning in 1982, with fifty Guatemalans and Salvadorans settled by May 1985. But unlike the other colleges, the Pitzer and Pomona student representatives themselves did not decide for the student body; instead, they cast a vote so that the student body could choose whether or not to make the colleges sanctuaries. The result was that more than 80% of the students at each college voted in favour.[15] The students invoked the Geneva Convention, as did the students at several other colleges, to defend their choice – as one Pomona student stated: “What we are doing is neither illegal nor an act of civil disobedience. We are upholding international law. We call upon our government to do the same.”[16] Following much debate, and spurred by the impetus of churchgoers and students all over the area, many cities started to issue resolutions supporting sanctuary: Berkeley issued such a resolution in February 1985, and the City Council of Los Angeles declared LA a sanctuary city on November 27th, 1985.[17]

The Sanctuary Movement was an essential precursor to the broader immigrant rights movement that developed in the 1990s and continues to develop into the 21st century. It helped to educate church congregations, college students and the general public about the plight of refugees, which may have also made them more ready to understand the issues of, for instance, Mexican and Central American migrants coming to the US out of economic necessity rather than immediate danger. This, accompanied with the progression of prior decades away from the heightened nationalism of the World Wars to a more global effort towards international cooperation, based on the prevalent shared socialist ideals of youth during and after the Vietnam War. The impression of a more globalized world, wherein the flow of people from one country to another is less a transgression and more a natural result of both economic and humanitarian necessity is emblematic of this new outlook.

Whereas the Sanctuary movement enabled the safeguarding of the undocumented immigrants and their children, spreading awareness about the injustice of their – and their countries’ – conditions, the immigrant rights movement took it one step further. While the first movement dealt mostly with the immigrants and their children, newcomers first coming to the United States, the 2000s, in particular, began to witness the unique circumstances of youth that had been brought to the United States at a very young age by their parents. As such, they were “undocumented involuntarily” – with no Social Security number, proof of residency or any document to legalize their presence in the country they had grown up in[18]. This situation carries on today for thousands of youth, referred to as the Dreamers – a reference, as previously mentioned, to the DREAM Act, a bill introduced in 2001 to the US Senate that, had it not failed, “would have granted undocumented youth conditional residency status and, after meeting a series of criteria—including graduating from college or serving in the military—[…] would [have made them] eligible for permanent residency.”[19]

A second group that the media has paid more and more attention to in recent years has been the unaccompanied minors arriving into the United States across the border with Mexico. Also undocumented, the treacherous journey north has become a risk that an increasing number of these minors are willing to take for the promise of a life free of violence, particularly at the hands of gangs like MS-13 and Barrio 18. But these youth and children are faced with an even higher threat of deportation than other illegal immigrants: As immigration attorney Nick Marritz explained to The Atlantic: “The government is trying to deport them as fast as it can. They’re putting them at the front of the line.”[20] The only legal support for unaccompanied minors is the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status law, or SIJS, which was enacted into law following a 1990 amendment of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

However, in 1997, a U.S. Senator from New Mexico claimed that the law was a “giant loophole,” telling Congress that “every visiting student from overseas can have a petition filed in a state court … declaring that they’re award and in need of foster care.”[21] An amendment was then passed that restricted the use of SIJS only to children that could prove that they were dependent upon the state because of “abuse, abandonment, or neglect.” This, Marritz argued, was not a problem, because most of the cases he dealt with did accurately fit that description. Still, this issue – including the broader debate over the failed passing of the DREAM Act – remains one of the immigrant rights movement’s biggest topics since it puts children with supportive parents or guardians at risk for deportation, although returning to their home country is not in their best interest.

The protests against unjust immigration legislation continued well into the 2000s. The year 2006, in particular, witnessed a number of massive demonstrations, specifically against the Sensenbrenner bill – a piece of legislation that would have criminalized assistance to undocumented immigrants in the U.S. that sought housing, food or medical services. On March 10, 2006, a crowd of over 100,000 protesters, filled Chicago’s downtown Loop with chants of “¡Sí se puede!” (translatable to ‘Yes we can!’ or ‘It can be done!’). Following this, demonstrations “cropped up in more than 140 cities in 39 states,” many of which naturally took place in Southern California. These manifestations also culminated in the May 1st “Day Without Immigrants,” when more than 500,000 rallied in Los Angeles to demand a pathway to citizenship, particularly for the immigrant youth that were in the foundation and the forefront of the movement.[22]

While it may not have prompted immediate legislative action, the 2006 protests triggered a change in the political climate regarding undocumented immigrants, especially among college students and youth who grew up with friends that were directly affected by the issues. Furthermore, many young people who “tasted political power for the first time in 2006” were then inspired “to promote the DREAM Act.” By 2010, regaining the attention of the country, they “mirrored LGBT advocates by broadcasting “coming out” stories about their status.” They also “organized marches, building occupations, and traffic blockades to keep their cause in the public eye.”[23]

All these images, arguments and the protests of undocumented immigrants in the United States point to an underlying notion that is highly convincing to youth in a globalized age: that the American Dream must apply to all. That the laws concerning undocumented immigrants, who often should qualify for asylum in the first place, are either outdated or morally unjust. That Central American and Mexican immigrants, undocumented and documented alike, have already demonstrated astounding contributions to American economy and society because their conditions meant that they needed to work harder to provide for their families.

For undocumented youth, the most important issues involve the constant threat of deportation, especially under the more severe Trump administration, and the barriers they face in obtaining higher education and employment. This past September’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy has put further strain on the prospects of Dreamers to be eligible for work permits and to receive deferred action from deportation. This action, in the midst of Donald Trump’s descent into very low public support (with a 38% approval rate in September) prompted further rebuttal from Dreamers and their supporters alike, with Facebook profile pictures changing to include a filter demonstrating support for DACA, and protesters gathering in Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and in front of Trump Tower in New York.[24] Many colleges continue to offer sanctuary to undocumented students in the age of Trump, yet protesters remain aware that the most vulnerable undocumented youth are those that cannot afford a lawyer to represent them – much less a college degree.

Still, those who document the immigrant rights movement today highlight that the discussion mostly poses the questions of what to do about the undocumented youth – from SIJS to the DREAM Act to DACA – and whether or not the United States has a humanitarian responsibility towards them, particularly due to past US foreign policy in Central America. Furthermore, as undocumented immigrants comprise not just newcomers, but also youth that have been in the country since their early childhood, the immigrant rights movement may be benefiting from the solidarity of not only the institutions that support undocumented migrants but their American peers as well.

While the opposition is undoubtedly vociferous, the undocumented youth that are ‘coming out’ appear to feel secure enough to do so, drawing this sense of security from the peer groups that support them and within the broader movement. They may also feel that coming out constitutes a sense of sacrifice for the movement since through this action, more people will find out how many of their most hard-working employees, closest friends, and nicest neighbors are – in fact – undocumented. This act of bravery on the part of these youth, and the support of their peers will hopefully continue to advance the movement towards better immigration legislation in the United States.

Bibliography

Print:

  •         Coutin, Susan Bibler. The Culture of Protest: Religious Activism and the U.S. Sanctuary Movement. Boulder: Westview Press, 1993.
  •         Kasinitz, Philip. Inheriting the City: the Children of Immigrants Come of Age. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2008.
  •         Nicholls, Walter. Dreamers: How the Undocumented Youth Movement Transformed the Immigrant Rights Debate. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2013.
  •         Pallares, Amalia. Family Activism: Immigrant Struggles and the Politics of Noncitizenship. Piscataway: Rutgers University Press, 2014.
  •         Simcox, David. U.S. Immigration in the 1980s: Reappraisal and Reform. Boulder & London: Westview Press, 1988.
  •         Truax, Eileen. Dreamers: an Immigrant Generation’s Fight for Their American Dream.Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 2015.

Web

[1] The use of the term ‘Latinx’ is flush with controversy, sparking discussion about ethnic and gender identity as well as privilege. I utilize it in this essay for the purpose of including more gender identities than the words ‘Latino’ and ‘Latina’ allow – namely, those individuals that identify as being transgender or otherwise outside the gender binary, but who still identify as ethnically Latinx. For more information, read Reyes (2017), in bibliography.

[2] Nicholls, 10

[3] Nicholls, 7-8

[4] Simcox, 23; for original source see “Surge of Illegal Aliens Taxes Southwest Towns’ Resources,” New York Times, March 9. 1986.

[5] Ibid, 24

[6] Ibid, 25

[7] Ibid, 24-25

[8] Truax, 1

[9] Kasinitz, 1

[10] Kasinitz, 3

[11] Coutin, 3

[12] Haberman, 5:05

[13] Chinchilla et al, 113

[14] Ibid, 114

[15] Ibid, 116

[16] Ibid, 117. Originally quoted by Valle (1985).

[17] Ibid, 117.

[18] Truax, 4

[19] Martinez (2015)

[20] Phippen (2015)

[21] Ibid

[22] Ibid

[23] Ibid

[24] Meghan Keneally (2017)

 

Brain Drain in Colombia

Written by Juan C. Gomez on December 13, 2017

Introduction

Migration is an extraordinarily complex issue that has gained immense international attention by world leaders in recent years, specifically how migration impacts countries that receive immigrants en masse, such as the United States. Migration’s impact, however, is not only felt by countries that receive migrants but also from migrant’s home country. Migration can have varying effects (positive and negative) on the sending country and can impact how the state develops economically, socially, and politically. The intersection between migration and development is a complicated nexus of factors, including the impacts of migration patterns on development. One interesting migration phenomenon that greatly impacts development is known as brain drain. Brain drain is an exodus of high-skilled immigrants (college education or higher) from developing to developed countries. Brain drain creates an economic loss in developing countries in two ways: investment loss of educating future migrants and weakening of high-skilled economic sectors. In the long-term these economic consequences weaken prospects for developing countries to create prolonged economic growth and advancement. [1]

This paper will analyze a case study of the brain drain phenomenon in Colombia and see how the emigration of highly skilled migrants to the United States has impacted the economic development of the country. I will be primarily concerned with the emigration of high-skilled workers in STEM fields and the economic consequences their loss has on growth, inequality, and poverty. Further, I will also address governmental responses to brain drain and how the Colombian government has attempted to incentivize these high-skilled workers to share knowledge, practices, and research with their domestic counterparts.

Through an analysis of brain drain, this paper will answer the following two-part question: How has the brain drain phenomenon impacted Colombia’s economic development and how has the Colombian government responded to such phenomenon? I will answer the first part of the question through an analysis of emigration of highly educated workers from the 1980s until today. Due to limited research, I will primarily focus on the emigration of workers in STEM fields as there is more extensive research on these migrants. Further, the government has established programs and policies specifically targeting these groups. Economic development will be measured by how it impacts STEM economic sectors in Colombia.

The second part of the question will address how the government has responded to this emigration and what policies they have implemented to reverse the detrimental consequences of brain drain. The bulk of this analysis will be done using the Caldas network (Colombian Network of Scientists and Engineers Abroad) which was established by the Colombian government in 1991 to create a network where migrants in developed countries could interact with scientists and engineers back in Colombia. This network sought to establish joint projects, conferences, and events between the diaspora groups and intellectuals back in Colombia.[2] The program was an attempt to mitigate the effects of brain drain and instead utilize these migrants to help support STEM sectors of the economy.

Background information

To properly analyze how the emigration of high skilled workers has impacted Colombia’s development I will give historical, social, and economic context of Colombia and its migratory patterns to the United States. During the latter half of the 20th century, Colombia faced increasing political and economic turmoil.[3] The economic and political crisis throughout the 1980s and 1990s produced a stagnant economy and high chronic unemployment. Following the turn of the century, however, economic prospects for Colombia have grown significantly. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has grown from $95 billion in 2003 to $270 billion in 2012 and there is rapid economic growth in cities that were historically plagued by high levels of poverty and violence.[4] Further, a fifty-year armed conflict between the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), a guerilla-Marxist group in southern Colombia, and the National Government has ceased and both parties are negotiating a peace agreement.[5]

The economic and political conditions throughout the latter half of the 20th century led to a tremendous growth in the migration of Colombians to the United States. Since 2013, there are an estimated 1.1 million people of Colombian origin living in the United States, a 131% increase from 1990.[6] Education is a crucial and appropriate demographic characteristic to consider in analyzing the brain drain effect. Thirty four percent of Colombian migrants had a bachelor’s degree, comparable to the average US population of 30%. [7]  Between 1970 and 1980 there was a 66% increase of migrants from Colombia who were professionals or technicians, while between 1980 and 1990 there was a 77% increase in this migration.[8] Continuing higher education is also an important motivation for migration of Colombians; the plurality of these migrants went to the United States and are enrolled in doctoral or postdoctoral studies. Nearly three quarters of these migrants completed their undergraduate studies and pursued higher levels of education abroad.[9]

Migrants with education and experience in the STEM field are also a significant portion of highly-educated Colombian emigrants. An estimated 4% of Colombia’s scientists and engineers had migrated to the United States as of 1997.[10] Furthermore, Colombia also has the largest number of physicians working in the United States in the entirety of South America.[11] Nearly 6% of the national population of physicians had migrated to the United States.[12] Not only is Colombia sending a large quantity of its STEM workers to the United States, but they are also qualitatively amongst the best workers in their fields. According to a study, 17.4% of migrant physicians had outstanding scores equivalent to the United States, while the general control only had 3 to 5 % meeting this criterion.[13] The emigration of the most educated people in Colombia poses a problem, as the people who qualitatively are the most prepared and prosperous are leaving at a higher rate than their less successful counterparts. Colombian migrants view the United States and other developed nations as a place with opportunities to expand their educational opportunities and achieve higher levels of income.

The Colombian government has been aware of the exodus of highly educated workers and sought measures to reduce the negative effects that result from it. As a result, Colciencas, a “governmental agency in charge of national research management and funding” established the Caldas Network in 1991.[14] Previous government efforts were focused on incentivizing the return of these highly-skilled migrants, but these policies largely failed because the Colombian government could not create an adequate incentive for migrants to return to worse economic and social conditions.[15] The goal of this agency was to create a brain circulation between the diaspora groups in STEM fields and those in Colombia. Brain circulation is information flow between diaspora and home groups to help alleviate the effects of brain drain and instead turn these high-skilled migrants into a positive asset for national development. Instead of pushing for these migrants to return home, they encouraged them to share projects, ideas, and information with scientists and engineers at home. The utilization of migrants as positive agents of change for underdeveloped STEM sectors was also paralleled by an aggressive expansion of research and development in Colombia. During the 1990s there was a 400% increase in research and activities funding as well as the creation of the National System of Science and Technology which sought to increase research and development in STEM. [16] It is evident that the integration of migrants into a STEM network was not the only policy the government sought. Instead, they used migrants as a part of a larger holistic plan to expand science and technology research to expand domestic STEM sectors.

The expansion of technology also helped facilitate the feasibility and effectiveness of the Caldas network. R-Caldas was created in 1993 to discuss academic information between Colombian scientists and engineers.[17] This network exchanges substantial academic papers that discuss a wide variety of topics: there are an estimated 71 specialized groups within R-Caldas.[18] Further, since its inception there have been constant number of members but an exponential increase in the number of messages amongst them.[19] The expansion of technology and the internet specifically has allowed these networks to be more successful and create sustained academic discussions between diaspora intellectual groups and their Colombian counterparts.

The success of this program is uncertain due to research limitations, but there is some concrete evidence about the possible benefits of the Caldas program. It has successfully created ties and ease of communication between intellectuals abroad and at home, establishing permanent relations that have led to join venture projects. Further, these research projects have created closer ties with global universities and local Colombian ones.[20] Although the Caldas network has created a flexible network that spurs intellectual sharing directly with diaspora groups, it still has flaws that limit its full potential. The main flaw of the program is the heterogeneity of the diaspora group.[21] The expansion of key scientific sectors using this network is limited by the heterogeneity of the migrants’ academic specialty, spanning over nearly 300 thematic issues.[22] Due to the vastness of the intellectual specialization, growth of certain STEM industries is difficult because there are not enough intellectuals working in a single field of study. These migrants are spread throughout different STEM sectors and physical locations, limiting the feasibility and effectiveness of an all-encompassing approach to bring these migrants into national discussion.

Theoretical Application

Migration

There is a plethora of theories attempting to explain what initially causes migrants to move. The neoclassical theory is best at explaining why Colombian high-skilled migrants decided to move to the United States. According to the neoclassical theory, migrants make the individual decision to migrate to maximize their income.[23] This applies most specifically in regard to high-skilled migrants, who go to countries where the rate of return for their human capital is the highest.[24] High-skilled Colombian migrants can expect a higher level of income in the United States, and that is what pushes them to migrate. Although this theory can be applied to explain why high-skilled migrants emigrate, there exist broader concerns outside of purely economic ones that the neoclassical theory cannot adequately encompass. Many of these migrants choose to leave the country for educational reasons, to expand their research in countries that have greater opportunities for than Colombia.[25] Economics does play a factor in this decision, as developed countries can provide higher earnings for the research done, but it is not the sole motivating factor. A sense of improvement in the academic arena and prestige also play an important role in pulling these migrants to highly developed countries, particularly the United States.

Assimilation

Assimilation is the integration of an immigrant into the socioeconomic culture of the country they migrated to. Assimilation, however, is not a uniform occurrence and strongly depends on the economic and social conditions of the immigrant.[26] Assimilation can occur at three levels: upward mobility to the middle class, downward mobility towards impoverishment, and personal economic growth while retaining traditional cultural ties.[27] Based on demographic characteristics, high-skilled Colombian immigrants typically assimilate upwardly into the white middle class. High levels of education ease assimilation because of the selective nature of their migration pattern. Migrants who possess a high level of education and migrate will have an easier time adjusting to the host country and most likely will live in middle-class neighborhoods. Evidence of this assimilation is limited by research constraints but data has shown that demographic indicators such as average education, age, employment, and marriage are comparable with average national levels in the United States. These demographic indicators are often higher in Colombian migrants than the general Hispanic immigrant community.[28] Furthermore, assimilation for second generation Colombians is much easier, especially because nearly 57% of them have a parent from an origin outside Colombia, particularly the United States. [29] Many first generation Colombians marry outside their nationality to “white America” which makes assimilation for their children a much easier phenomenon.

Development

Colombia’s emigration of high-skilled migrants effects can be analyzed through two different, but complementary theories: world system analysis and state theory. The creation of the Caldas Network can be seen as an attempt by the Colombian government to create a developmental state. A developmental state is one where the government bureaucracy is free from special public interests but is also linked to society and understands the needs of its citizens, a concept known as embedded autonomy.[30] Colombia’s network is an attempt to form a developmental state which cooperates with diaspora and non-migrant groups to create a network that is mutually beneficial for both parties. The success of this attempt as a developmental state, however, is hindered by Colombia’s position in the global hierarchy. World Systems Analysis argues that there is a strict hierarchy of wealth among core, semi-periphery, and periphery countries.[31] Core countries are one that have the highest level of income, followed by the semi-periphery, with the periphery at the lowest level. For the purposes of this discussion, Colombia will be considered a semi-periphery country because of its upper middle-income GDP per capita and regional military and political influence.  As a semi-periphery country, its development path is limited because the hierarchy of wealth is a rigid structure and if a country makes too much economic gain it will be pushed down by the core. Using this analysis, no matter how the Colombian government reacts to brain drain it will not end the long-run inequality inherent in the world order. This analysis can be applied to the emigration of physicians from Colombia. The physicians at the top of their academic and medical fields are also the ones who are migrating disproportionately to the United States, creating a double negative effect of the brain drain. Essentially, World Systems analysis implies that the unfair labor and income stratification of the world gives Colombia little prospect for upward relative mobility. World systems analysis would argue Colombia is a semi-periphery state that is attempting to make the best out of a bad situation and use its resources to mitigate the worse effects of its brain drain, while in the long-run maintaining its position on the hierarchy of wealth.

Transnationalism

The theory of Transnationalism belongs to a different sphere of the migration development nexus. It is the space where migrants participate in social, economic, political, and cultural practices across borders of the country they reside in and their home country.[32] Of particular importance is how transnationalism occurs in the economic, political, and social spheres and how these spheres are constantly evolving according to the actions of the migrants. Transnationalism also occurs at many different levels, from political institutions and grassroots activities.[33] In Colombia’s case, these institutions and organizations are very powerful in helping establish and continue transnational networks between highly educated individuals. For example, A state level organization like the Caldas Network attempts to establish a permanent network so that diaspora intellectuals can cooperate and share knowledge with non-migrants. This Colombian governmental policy can be seen as an attempt to proliferate their knowledge economy. The knowledge economy is an idea developed from a World Bank Report that argues through the expansion of knowledge economy as a pathway to development, this would allow developing countries to leapfrog light industrialization and move towards high-tech industry.[34] Colombia is attempting to follow this knowledge for development model through the use of transnational networks.

Conclusion

The conclusive data on how brain drain has impacted Colombia is uncertain, but there is evidence of its impact on certain economic spheres, particularly the healthcare industry. The healthcare industry in Colombia is more vulnerable to brain drain compared to other sectors because of the double negative effect of the brain drain. The combination of large number of physician emigrants and the quality of those physicians weakens the growth of a strong and advanced healthcare industry. People who would be at the top of their fields in Colombia instead move to the United States. This problem is further exacerbated because emigration of physicians weakens the rural healthcare sector, limiting the scarce healthcare opportunities that rural citizens have access to.  This helps entrench inequality further as this physician emigration produces “an exodus of physicians from poor, rural areas.”[37] The physician emigration has negatively impacted the advancement of the healthcare industry and widened a rural-urban gap of healthcare access.  Due to limited evidence, an analysis of brain drain on other economic sectors is not feasible. However, the physician case showcases that emigration can not only widen economic opportunities between countries but also within them.

The government’s ability to react to the brain drain phenomenon has led to an increase in transnational activities between diaspora groups and domestic ones, but success has been limited and the program has met with structural issues due to the heterogeneity of its members. The Caldas network is a positive move towards the incorporation of migrants into a national development plan, but it needs a more dynamic approach to adapt itself properly to different fields of study and projects. The Colombian government initiated steps in the 1990s towards mitigating the negative effects of brain drain, but it needs to develop new and innovative networks to create a brain gain from the emigration of high-skilled workers.

 

Bibliography:

  1.     Meyer, J., Charum, J., Bernal, D., Gaillard, J., Granés, J., Leon, J., Montenegro, A., Morales, A., Murcia, C., Narvaez-Berthelemot, N., Stella Parrado, L. and Schlemmer, B. (1997). Turning Brain Drain into Brain Gain: The Colombian Experience of the Diaspora Option. Science, Technology and Society, 2(2): 285-315. Accessed December 3, 2017.
  2.     Meyer, Jean-Baptiste. “Network Approach versus Brain Drain: Lessons from the Diaspora.” International Migration 39, no. 5 (2001): 91-110. Accessed December 3, 2017. doi:10.1111/1468-2435.00173.
  3.     Astor, Avraham, Tasleem Akhtar, María Alexandra Matallana, Vasantha Muthuswamy, Folarin A. Olowu, Veronica Tallo, and Reidar K. Lie. “Physician migration: Views from professionals in Colombia, Nigeria, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.” Social Science & Medicine 61, no. 12 (2005): 2492-500. Accessed December 5, 2017. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.05.003.
  4.     Rosselli, D. , Otero, A. and Maza, G. (2001), Colombian physician brain drain. Medical Education, 35: 809–810. Accessed December 5, 2017. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2923.2001.1014f.x.
  5.     Pellegrino, Adela. “Trends in Latin American Skilled Migration: “Brain Drain” or “Brain Exchange”?” International Migration 39, no. 5 (2001): 111-32. Accessed December 7, 2017. doi:10.1111/1468-2435.00174.
  6.     López, Gustavo. “Hispanics of Colombian Origin in the United States, 2013.” Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project. September 15, 2015. Accessed December 7, 2017. http://www.pewhispanic.org/2015/09/15/hispanics-of-colombian-origin-in-the-united-states-2013/.
  7.     “The Colombian Diaspora in the United States.” Migration Policy Institute, May 2015, 1-14. Accessed December 8, 2017. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/select-diaspora-populations-united-states.
  8.     Granés, José, Alvaro Morales, and Jean-Baptiste Meyer. “Potentialities and Limitations of the Caldas Network of Colombian Researchers Abroad: Case Studies of Joint International Projects.” International scientific migrations, 1996, 1-9. Accessed December 5, 2017.
  9.     Massey, Douglas S., Joaquín Arango, Graeme Hugo, Ali Kouaouci, Adela Pellegrino, and J. Edward. Taylor. Worlds in motion: understanding international migration at the end of the millennium. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2009. Accessed December 5, 2017.
  10.  Portes, Alejandro, and Min Zhou. “The New Second Generation: Segmented Assimilation and Its Variants.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 530 (1993): 74-96. Accessed December 5, 2017. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1047678.
  11.  de Haas, Hein. 2010. “Migration and Development: A Theoretical Perspective.” International Migration Review 44:227–264.
  12.  Evans, Peter B. “Predatory, Developmental, and Other Apparatuses: A Comparative Political Economy Perspective on the Third World State.” Sociological Forum 4, no. 4 (1989): 561-87. http://www.jstor.org/stable/684425.
  13.  Arrighi, Giovanni. “The Developmentalist Illusion: A Reconceptualization of the Semiperiphery.” In Semiperipheral States in the World Economy, 11-42. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.
  14.  Levitt, Peggy, and B. Nadya Jaworsky. “Transnational Migration Studies: Past Developments and Future Trends.” Annual Review of Sociology 33, no. 1 (2007): 129-56. Accessed December 5, 2017. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.33.040406.131816.
  15.  Radhakrishnan, Smitha. “Rethinking knowledge for development: Transnational knowledge professionals and the “new” India.” Theory and Society 36, no. 2 (2007): 141-59. Accessed December 6, 2017. doi:10.1007/s11186-007-9024-2.

 

[1] Pellegrino, Adela. “Trends in Latin American Skilled Migration: “Brain Drain” or “Brain Exchange”?” International Migration 39, no. 5 (2001): 112. Accessed December 7, 2017. doi:10.1111/1468-2435.00174.

 

[2] Granés, José, Alvaro Morales, and Jean-Baptiste Meyer. “Potentialities and Limitations of the Caldas Network of Colombian Researchers Abroad: Case Studies of Joint International Projects.” International scientific migrations, 1996, 1-2. Accessed December 5, 2017.

[3] “The Colombian Diaspora in the United States.” Migration Policy Institute, May 2015, 3. Accessed December 8, 2017. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/select-diaspora-populations-united-states.

[4] Ibid. 3

[5] Ibid. 3

[6] López, Gustavo. “Hispanics of Colombian Origin in the United States, 2013.” Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project. September 15, 2015. Accessed December 7, 2017. http://www.pewhispanic.org/2015/09/15/hispanics-of-colombian-origin-in-the-united-states-2013/.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Pellegrino, Adela. “Trends in Latin American Skilled Migration: “Brain Drain” or “Brain Exchange”?” International Migration 39, no. 5 (2001): 127. Accessed December 7, 2017. doi:10.1111/1468-2435.00174.

[9] Meyer, J., Charum, J., Bernal, D., Gaillard, J., Granés, J., Leon, J., Montenegro, A., Morales, A., Murcia, C., Narvaez-Berthelemot, N., Stella Parrado, L. and Schlemmer, B. (1997). Turning Brain Drain into Brain Gain: The Colombian Experience of the Diaspora Option. Science, Technology and Society, 2(2): 294. Accessed December 3, 2017.

[10] Pellegrino, Adela. “Trends in Latin American Skilled Migration: “Brain Drain” or “Brain Exchange”?” International Migration 39, no. 5 (2001): 128. Accessed December 7, 2017. doi:10.1111/1468-2435.00174.

[11] Astor, Avraham, Tasleem Akhtar, María Alexandra Matallana, Vasantha Muthuswamy, Folarin A. Olowu, Veronica Tallo, and Reidar K. Lie. “Physician migration: Views from professionals in Colombia, Nigeria, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.” Social Science & Medicine 61, no. 12 (2005): 2493. Accessed December 5, 2017. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.05.003.

[12] Rosselli, D. , Otero, A. and Maza, G. (2001), Colombian physician brain drain. Medical Education, 35: 809–810. Accessed December 5, 2017. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2923.2001.1014f.x.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Meyer, J., Charum, J., Bernal, D., Gaillard, J., Granés, J., Leon, J., Montenegro, A., Morales, A., Murcia, C., Narvaez-Berthelemot, N., Stella Parrado, L. and Schlemmer, B. (1997). Turning Brain Drain into Brain Gain: The Colombian Experience of the Diaspora Option. Science, Technology and Society, 2(2): 289. Accessed December 3, 2017.

[15] Granés, José, Alvaro Morales, and Jean-Baptiste Meyer. “Potentialities and Limitations of the Caldas Network of Colombian Researchers Abroad: Case Studies of Joint International Projects.” International scientific migrations, 1996, 1. Accessed December 5, 2017.

[16] Meyer, J., Charum, J., Bernal, D., Gaillard, J., Granés, J., Leon, J., Montenegro, A., Morales, A., Murcia, C., Narvaez-Berthelemot, N., Stella Parrado, L. and Schlemmer, B. (1997). Turning Brain Drain into Brain Gain: The Colombian Experience of the Diaspora Option. Science, Technology and Society, 2(2): 291. Accessed December 3, 2017.

[17] Ibid. 299

[18] Ibid. 300-301

[19] Ibid. 300

[20] Ibid. 309

[21] Ibid. 311

[22] Ibid. 296

[23] Massey, Douglas S., Joaquín Arango, Graeme Hugo, Ali Kouaouci, Adela Pellegrino, and J. Edward. Taylor. Worlds in motion: understanding international migration at the end of the millennium. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2009: 17 Accessed December 5, 2017.

[24] Ibid. 19

[25] Meyer, Jean-Baptiste. “Network Approach versus Brain Drain: Lessons from the Diaspora.” International Migration 39, no. 5 (2001): 99 Accessed December 3, 2017. doi:10.1111/1468-2435.00173.

[26] Portes, Alejandro, and Min Zhou. “The New Second Generation: Segmented Assimilation and Its Variants.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 530 (1993): 48. Accessed December 5, 2017. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1047678.

[27] Ibid. 48

[28] “The Colombian Diaspora in the United States.” Migration Policy Institute, May 2015, 1-14. Accessed December 8, 2017. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/select-diaspora-populations-united-states.

[29] Ibid. 3

[30] Evans, Peter B. “Predatory, Developmental, and Other Apparatuses: A Comparative Political Economy Perspective on the Third World State.” Sociological Forum 4, no. 4 (1989): 575. http://www.jstor.org/stable/684425.

[31] Arrighi, Giovanni. “The Developmentalist Illusion: A Reconceptualization of the Semiperiphery.” In Semiperipheral States in the World Economy, 11-42. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

[32] Levitt, Peggy, and B. Nadya Jaworsky. “Transnational Migration Studies: Past Developments and Future Trends.” Annual Review of Sociology 33, no. 1 (2007): 130. Accessed December 5, 2017. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.33.040406.131816.

[34] Radhakrishnan, Smitha. “Rethinking knowledge for development: Transnational knowledge professionals and the “new” India.” Theory and Society 36, no. 2 (2007): 142. Accessed December 6, 2017. doi:10.1007/s11186-007-9024-2.

[35] Massey, Douglas S., Joaquín Arango, Graeme Hugo, Ali Kouaouci, Adela Pellegrino, and J. Edward. Taylor. Worlds in motion: understanding international migration at the end of the millennium. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2009: 224. Accessed December 5, 2017.

[36] Astor, Avraham, Tasleem Akhtar, María Alexandra Matallana, Vasantha Muthuswamy, Folarin A. Olowu, Veronica Tallo, and Reidar K. Lie. “Physician migration: Views from professionals in Colombia, Nigeria, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.” Social Science & Medicine 61, no. 12 (2005): 2495. Accessed December 5, 2017. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.05.003.

[37] Ibid. 2498

 

 

Discussing the Mexican Elections with Professor Christy Thornton

Welcome to the third episode of the Hopkins Podcast on Foreign Affairs! Today we discuss the upcoming Mexican elections of July 2018 and what their potential effects on the world will be. We are joined by special guest Christy Thornton, assistant professor of Latin American Studies and Sociology at Johns Hopkins University.

 

Analyzing the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Through Realism

written by Elizabeth Goldstone on December 8, 2017

The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, UNODA,  phrases the situation well: “Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous weapons on earth.”[1]

Though one can analyze this topic through constructivism and liberalism, realism is the most comprehensive theory of international relations through which one can understand the refusal by these nuclear states to sign the ban treaty. In this paper, a brief background on the recent ban treaty will be provided, and a discussion will follow on advantages and disadvantages of using realism to explain this phenomenon. Furthermore, I will elaborate on the disadvantages, and state whether constructivism or liberalism would be the better choice for analysis in these cases. Concepts of realism I will discuss in this paper are “states wanting survival,” “balance of threat,” “balance of power,” and “anarchy in the international system.”

While nuclear weapons have only been used twice throughout history at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “about 22,000 [nuclear weapons] reportedly remain in our world today.”[2] Midway through the Cold War, global citizens began to question why countries continued to keep and create nuclear weapons when world powers had largely accepted after World War II that nuclear weapons were dangerous. In 1968, the United States had 31,000 nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union had 6,000, Great Britain had 400, France had 30, and China had 5.[3] Never have more nuclear weapons existed at one time.[4] In response to this situation, the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was created by the UN. The international community had concluded, “that the proliferation of nuclear weapons would seriously enhance the danger of nuclear war.”[5] This Treaty is the only multilateral treaty of its kind aimed at the goal of disarmament, with all five nuclear-weapons states as signatories.[6]

Other treaties followed. This paper will focus specifically on the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (UNTPNW), signed on July 7, 2017. This treaty prohibits “nuclear weapons use, threat of use, testing, development, production, possession, transfer, and stationing in a different country.”[7] The analysis in this paper will show that realist theories of international relations best explain why nuclear powers did not sign this particular treaty.

The first realist concept I will analyze is that of “states wanting survival.” According to offensive realist, John Mearsheimer, states naturally strive to be hegemons – having power equals having security.[8] Mearsheimer summarizes this point of view in his 2001 book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. He writes that “given the difficulty of determining how much power is enough for today and tomorrow, great powers recognize that the best way to ensure their security is to achieve hegemony now, thus eliminating any possibility of a challenge by another great power.”[9] I would argue that there is no greater form of power in our current world than having nuclear weapons; therefore, having nuclear weapons makes a state safe, and a country that wants to stay safe would not willingly sign a treaty that would reduce their safety.

The first and perhaps most obvious reason nuclear weapons would nearly ensure a state’s survival is that nuclear weapons are a deterrent.[10] Thomas Schelling, an International Relations professor and author of Arms and Influence, concisely defines deterrence as “preventing an action.”[11] In this case, that action is a nuclear strike. If a country has nuclear weapons, realist theory dictates that no other country will attack them, since there is risk that the country will retaliate and nuclear war would ensue, leading to world mass destruction. No country wants to risk their own destruction; therefore, neither a non-nuclear nor nuclear state would risk their own safety by attacking a nuclear state.[12] If a nuclear state signed the UNTPNW and was forced to give up their nuclear weapons, they would be relinquishing the main deterrent that ensures their continued survival. This leads to my next point: what if one nuclear state signs the treaty and another does not? The nuclear state that signed would be virtually defenseless against the latter nuclear power that refrained from signing. Quite simply, a country cannot protect itself from nuclear weapons with guns.

Furthermore, since states are primarily concerned with security and survival in the “dark brooding world of neo-realism in which states can’t trust one another,”[13] they “must always be prepared to gear up for conflict.”[14] It is reasonable to assume that since the nuclear states did not sign the treaty, they are unwilling to discount the possibility of future nuclear war.

Kenneth Waltz, a defensive realist, says, “states seek to ensure their survival” since “it is a prerequisite to achieving any goals that states may have.”[15] A goal that nuclear states currently have is to prevent North Korea from gaining hegemony. Stephen Walt’s “balance-of-threat” realism asserts that nations form alliances based on perceived threat.[16] The issue of North Korean perceived aggression is relevant because together, nuclear states use deterrence tactics to protect themselves. Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said, “We have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?”[17] It is illogical for nuclear states to sign the UNTPNW when they truly believe North Korea is a threat.

Differing from the type of relations the United States has with North Korea, Russia is at odds with America in a way similar to the Cold War. “Balance of power” realism explains at least why the United States and Russia would not sign the UNTPNW. Balance of power dictates that states will shift their foreign policies in order to keep one state from becoming a global hegemon and having more power than the other states.[18] Robert Jervis, a Columbia University professor, extrapolates upon this definition to discuss the current situation involving nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia. He writes that having nuclear weapons is preventing a war with Russia since the United States and Russia are evenly matched in present nuclear capability and therefore “balanced”. Presently, the only way the Russians would attack the United States would be if the “Russians are so highly motivated to expand that they would be willing to accept any level of destruction as long as they ended up ahead of the West and so were able to dominate the postwar world.”[19]

Even if one did not align with the realist theory of “states wanting survival” and one argued that Russia was indifferent about being destroyed in the process of United-States-takeover, “It is hard to have any sense of what the postwar world would look like, but geography alone should caution against believing that either the United States or Russia could easily dominate the other.”[20] By this logic, signing the UNTPNW would not make sense for America or Russia, for if nuclear weapons were out of the picture, one side could potentially start a conventional conflict in an attempt to win a conventional war. Furthermore, if a conventional war was sparked in the aftermath of nuclear weapons being destroyed and a side won this war, the distance between Russia and the United States would make control of one nation by the other impossible.[21]

The international system would also be affected if the nuclear states signed the UNTPNW. Kenneth Waltz discusses the anarchical international system in “The Origins of War in Neorealist Theory” when he writes, “For the purpose of developing a theory, states are cast as unitary actors wanting at least to survive, and are taken to be the system’s constituent units. The essential structural quality of the system is anarchy – the  absence of a central monopoly of legitimate force.”[22] New measures would need to be taken to ensure that all signatories follow each part of the Treaty. The treaty mandates that signatory states cannot “develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”[23] How could the international community be sure that the nuclear states, even if they signed the UNTPNW, were fully disarming?

It is my opinion that, in relation to the international system of anarchy, the nuclear states did not sign the UNTPNW because they are not willing to take the risk of fully disarming when there is no confirmation that the rest of the nuclear states are doing the same. To quote Mearsheimer, “Indeed, central wars are likely when there is an especially powerful country in the system. A preponderant power, according to this perspective, is a potential hegemon. It has the wherewithal to make a run at dominating the system, which is the best guarantee of survival in international anarchy. Therefore, it will not be satisfied with the status quo, but instead will look for opportunities to gain hegemony.”[24] I would argue that in the eyes of the state, it makes little sense to sign a treaty that cannot be enforced by any form of international government, and such a government does not exist in the current anarchical sphere of internationalism.

While realism provides the best lens through which to understand why the nuclear states did not sign the UNTPNW, there are disadvantages to using realism that can be explained better as seen through constructivist and liberalist ideology. First, I will discuss reasons the nuclear states refused to sign the UNTPNW best understood through constructivism. In brief, constructivists argue that “individual agents and social structures” matter in the explanations of international outcomes, and that the relationship between the two is “reciprocal and reflexive.” Constructivists are concerned with “norms, identity, and ideas,” and believe that agents’ conceptions of the world are shaped by “the intersubjective structures created and sustained by their activities.”[25]

Signing the UNTPNW, and therefore relinquishing all nuclear weapons, is unthinkable for some nations because to give up nuclear power would be to lose a part of those nations’ identities.[26] For example, I would argue that North Korea would have nothing of significance to their identity if they halted their nuclear tests since there would be no more socially constructed threat to other nations of a nuclear attack by North Korea. If North Korea no longer had nuclear weapons and was no longer considered dangerous, who would “care” about them on the global stage? Therefore, North Korea would never sign the UNTPNW, for their “nuclear identity” would be lost. In relating constructivism to the social relationship that develops between states, Alexander Wendt writes, “500 British nuclear weapons are less threatening to the United States than 5 North Korean nuclear weapons,”[27] even though North Korea has stated they do not intend to launch a first strike.[28] Only 5 nuclear weapons from such an unpredictable nation are enough to deter the rest of the world, including countries that have been on the world stage for centuries. This shows that great powers’ fear of North Korea and North Korea’s “nuclear identity” have been socially constructed by the numerous (sometimes exaggerated) threats, and historically constructed by the past decade of continued militaristic rhetoric coming from within North Korea aimed at the outside world.

Another constructivist interpretation explaining why the nuclear states did not sign the UNTPNW is Nina Tannenwald’s idea of the “nuclear taboo.” Tannenwald said in an interview, “a taboo against the use of nuclear weapons has developed since 1945. [It’s] a normative prohibition on the use of nuclear weapons. It is associated with a sense of moral opprobrium regarding such weapons.[29] Tannenwald argues that nuclear weapons have not been used since 1945 due to socially constructed moral concerns. There is clear historical and social significance here, as the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was traumatic for both the victims and the perpetrators.[30] Tannenwald theorizes that countries will not use nuclear weapons again, despite having the ability to do so. Signing the UNTPNW would be irrelevant for a nuclear state since using the weapons is unforeseeable anyway.[31]

A final way to view the refusal by nuclear states to sign the UNTPNW is through liberalism. Two tenets of liberalism are that international organizations and non-governmental actors are key in shaping state preferences and policy choices and that mutual benefits and international cooperation are necessary for global societal progress.[32] A prominent international organization, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), was a pushback force during the creation of the UNTPNW. Powerful NATO countries urged less influential members along with non-NATO countries to boycott the signing.[33] In a statement released by the NATO council regarding the UNTPNW, it was explained that “Seeking to ban nuclear weapons through a treaty that will not engage any state actually possessing nuclear weapons will not be effective, will not reduce nuclear arsenals, and will neither enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and stability.”[34] NATO doubts that the treaty will effectively create peace, so NATO states (mainly those with nuclear weapons) pressured countries to refrain from signing. The Netherlands, the only NATO member that participated in the conference, wouldn’t sign.[35] This exemplifies liberalism since it is a time when NATO, an international organization, dictated a course of action that affected international policy choices.[36]

As for the principle that economic benefits and international cooperation are vital, many nuclear states did not sign the treaty for financial reasons. Free trade and transport, a concept that embodies mutual benefits, is limited in the UNTPNW. A signatory cannot allow “any stationing…or deployment of any…nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.”[37] Nuclear states (many of whom support free market trade) were not eager to sign a treaty that restricted trade in any sense.

Despite valid advantages of using constructivism and liberalism to explain the refusal by nuclear states to sign the UNTPNW, the advantages of using realism are more compelling and numerous. While it is true that constructivism and liberalism provide helpful theories of analysis, realism offers a broader, more comprehensive, and more applicable range of explanations. Moreover, a government’s primary job is to protect its citizens and keep the nation strong; this is exactly what realism stresses through the four realist tenets of wanting survival, balance of threat, balance of power, and international anarchy.

 

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  1. Accessed December 8, 2017. http://mearsheimer.uchicago.edu/pdfs/StructuralRealism.pdf.

———. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York, NY: W. W. Norton, 2001.

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Walt, Stephen M. “Alliance Formation and the Balance of World Power.” International Security 9, no.

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———. Theory of International Politics. 2010. Reprint, Long Grove, IL: Waveland

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[1] United Nations. “United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs.” United Nations.      https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Norris, Robert S., and Hans M. Kristensen. “Global Nuclear Weapons Inventories, 1945-2010.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 2, 2016. Accessed      December 7, 2017. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2968/066004008.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).” 2005 Review
Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear
Weapons, May 22, 2005. Accessed December 7, 2017. http://www.un.org/en/
conf/npt/2005/npttreaty.html.

[6]United Nations. “Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).”
UNODA. https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/npt/.

[7]Gladstone, Rick. “A Treaty Is Reached to Ban Nuclear Arms. Now Comes the Hard
Part.” NY Times (New York, NY), July 7, 2017, Americas. Accessed December
8, 2017.

[8] Mearshiemer, John. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York, NY: W. W.
Norton, 2001.

[9] Ibid

[10] Schelling, Thomas C. Arms and Influence. 2008 ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University
Press, 1966.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13]Jehangir, Hamza. “Realism, Liberalism and the Possibilities of Peace.”
E-International Relations. Last modified February 19, 2012. Accessed
December 8, 2017. http://www.e-ir.info/2012/02/19/
realism-liberalism-and-the-possibilities-of-peace/.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Waltz, Kenneth N. Theory of International Politics. 2010. Reprint, Long
Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 1979.

[16] Walt, Stephen M. “Alliance Formation and the Balance of World Power.”
International Security 9, no. 4 (Spring 1985): 3-43. doi:10.2307/2538540.

[17]Gladstone, Rick. “A Treaty Is Reached to Ban Nuclear Arms. Now Comes the Hard
Part.” NY Times (New York, NY), July 7, 2017, Americas. Accessed December 8, 2017.

[18] Mearsheimer, John. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York, NY: W. W.
Norton, 2001.

[19] Jervis, Robert. The Meaning of the Nuclear Revolution. Ithaca and London:
Cornell University Press, 1989. Accessed December 8, 2017.
https://ares.library.jhu.edu/aresCMS/ares.dll?Action=10&Type=10&Value=333343.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22]Waltz, Kenneth N. “The Origins of War in Neorealist Theory.” Journal of

Interdisciplinary History 18, no. 4 (Spring 1988): 615-28. Accessed

December 8, 2017. http://users.metu.edu.tr/utuba/Waltz.pdf.

[23] ICAN. “UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (full text).”

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. http://www.icanw.org/

treaty-on-the-prohibition-of-nuclear-weapons/.

[24]Mearsheimer, John. Structural Realism to International Relations Theories:

     Discipline and Diversity, by Tim Dunne, Milja Kurki, and Steve Smith,

71-88. 3rd ed. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013. Accessed December

8, 2017. http://mearsheimer.uchicago.edu/pdfs/StructuralRealism.pdf.

[25] Jackson, Patrick Thaddeus, and Daniel H. Nexon. “Whence Causal Mechanisms? A

Comment on Legro.” Dialogue IO 1, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 81-101. Accessed

December 8, 2017. doi:10.1017.S7777777702000079.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Hurd, Ian. “Constructivism.” Oxford Academic, January 18, 2008. Accessed

December 8, 2017. http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/~ihu355/Home_files/

17-Smit-Snidal-c17.pdf.

[28] Dorell, Oren. “North Korea Won’t Strike U.S. First despite Inflammatory Threats,

Experts Say.” USA Today, November 17, 2017. Accessed December 8, 2017.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/11/17/

north-korea-wont-strike-united-states-first-despite-inflammatory-threats/

872508001/.

[29]Tannenwald, Nina. “The Nuclear Taboo.” Interview. Soka Gakkai International, no.

62 (October 2010): 8-9. Accessed December 8, 2017. http://www.sgi.org/

resources/sgi-quarterly-magazine/1010_62.html.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32]Shiraev, Eric B. “The Liberal Perspective.” In International Relations, by Eric

  1. Shiraev and Vladislav M. Zubok. 2nd ed. N.p.: Oxford University Press,

2015.

[33]  North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “North Atlantic Council Statement on the
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.” News release. September 20,
2017. Accessed December 8, 2017. https://www.nato.int/cps/ua/natohq/
news_146954.htm.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Gladstone, Rick. “A Treaty Is Reached to Ban Nuclear Arms. Now Comes the Hard
Part.” NY Times (New York, NY), July 7, 2017, Americas. Accessed December
8, 2017.

[36] Shiraev, Eric B. “The Liberal Perspective.” In International Relations, by Eric

  1. Shiraev and Vladislav M. Zubok. 2nd ed. N.p.: Oxford University Press,

2015.

[37] ICAN. “UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (full text).”

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. http://www.icanw.org/

treaty-on-the-prohibition-of-nuclear-weapons/.

Honduras’ Election Fraud: Are the U.S. & Canada to Blame?

 

Written by Allie McManus on December 11, 2017

Introduction

Latin America has a history of external influences proven to be detrimental to its society, from Spanish colonialism to U.S. fruit companies. Today, this pattern of economic extraction continues, but a surprising new agent engages in the same behavior– Canada. Fatigued by centuries of imperialism impeding true autonomy, Latin American countries today continue to struggle ineffective self-governance.

This paper will focus specifically on Honduras, where on November 26, 2017, protests broke out across the country in response to government manipulation and voter fraud in the re-election of President Juan Orlando Hérnandez. Protests continue internationally by organizations such as the European Union and the Organization of American States, who have questioned the legitimacy and transparency of the Honduran electoral commission. Squelching the voice of the Honduran populace either through the election of illegitimate political actors or the improper removal of legitimately elected officials by a series of military coups–as recent as eight years ago–Honduras remains a democratically fragile state.

Given the desire of international businesses to protect their interests in Honduras and other Latin American countries, it comes as no surprise that the propagation of illegitimate political actors and military coups would be fomented abroad. Each of the three Honduran military coups (1963, 1975, and 2009) was supported by international powers. A battle-weary populace jaded by the undue influence of foreign actors continues to yield a wavering democracy.

In this paper, I will argue that Honduras’ democratic fragility, and the current allegations of election fraud, are the result of centuries of economic imperialist intervention from Spanish colonialism to modern U.S. and Canadian economic imperialism.

History of ‘Imperialism’ in Honduras

Spanish Colonialism

The history of imperialism in Honduras began when the Spanish crown colonized San Gil de Buenavista in 1502 (Leonard 2011, pg. xxiii). The Spanish strategy for colonization was highly effective: they captured Limpera, the indigenous’ leader, to subdue the opposition. As the Spanish acquired the wealth of the indigenous peoples, they appropriated control of the existing methods of taxation, tribute, and forced labor, transferring power from the former leader to themselves, a new societal elite. It wasn’t, however, just the creation of a social elite that created a new order. The Spanish also created a web of institutions designed to exploit the indigenous population, such as encomienda, mitas, repartimiento, and trajin. These economic structures created a new subclass that turned the indigenous into indentured servants (Acemoglu & Robinson 2012). The Spanish, at the inception of colonial rule, constructed institutions that centralized power for the interests of the new elite while marginalizing the indigenous.

“Banana Republic”

In 1821, Honduras gained independence from the Spanish crown (Leonard 2011) yet the small nation remained an economic colony of the industrial powers. Ellen Meiksins Wood, a prolific Marxist theorist, posits that today “capitalist imperialism has become almost entirely a matter of economic domination, in which market imperatives, manipulated by the dominant capitalist powers, are made to do the work no longer done by imperial states or colonial settlers” (Wood 2003). In particular, it is maintained that throughout the twentieth century, the world hegemon, the United States, used ‘market imperatives’ such as inexpensive labor in autocratic states to control the fate of Honduran politics in its favor.

U.S. economic imperialism began in Honduras at the dawn of the banana industry when major U.S. multinationals, like United Fruit Co. and Standard Fruit Co., took control of Honduran telecommunications and national newspapers (Bucheli 2008). United Fruit Co. financed the presidential campaign of Tiburcio Carias out of fear that emerging left-leaning worker’s policies would damage the growing industry. Carias was subsequently elected and his presidency led to a military dictatorship until 1949 (Bucheli & Kim 2012). Carias jailed and exiled his opponents, outlawed the Communist Party, and fortified the military, leaving a long-lasting impact that damaged any hope of developing democratic institutions (Leonard 2011, pg. 113). Meanwhile, the U.S. ratified the “Good Neighbor Policy” in 1933, agreeing to nonintervention in Latin America, while legislating certain trade agreements to decrease tariffs abroad to stimulate U.S. industry during the Great Depression (Leonard 2011, pg. 116). On paper, the U.S. claimed that they kept their hands out of Latin American politics, but the reality was much different: the United States supported General Carias dictatorship (Fenner 2012).

In the 1950’s, in response to imbalanced and unfair U.S. policies, several communist and populist organizations emerged in Honduras. In 1957, Ramón Villeda Morales, an anti-American, left-leaning physician became president on the platform for increased welfare for the country’s poor. Morales initiated a new national labor code that provided an increased minimum wage, improved working conditions, mandatory severance pay, vacations, workmen’s compensation, and maternity leave (Leonard 2011, pg. 144). These policies not only threatened profit margins for banana companies but also alarmed the U.S. government who was amidst the Cold War on an anti-communism ideology. In 1963, the United States was “decisive” in delivering a coup in Honduras — ousting President Morales weeks before an upcoming election and replacing him with Oswaldo López Arellano (Coatsworth 2017; Buceli 2008; Leonard 2011).

Just like with Carias, López Arellano’s dictatorship was fraught with human rights abuses and a buttressing of the foreign Banana industry. Under his leadership, United Fruit Co. and Standard Fruit Co. did not pay income tax on their gains in the country (Leonard 2011, pg. 151). Several years later, a number of Honduran press releases discovered that Arellano had received a $1.25 million bribe from United Fruit Company to lower a banana export tax (The New York Times, 1975). Displeased with his corruption, the military found it essential to overthrow Arellano, which only continued to weaken the leadership in Honduras and facilitated yet another military dictatorship.

The 2009 Coup

In the next fifty years, Honduras was unable to free itself from the shackles of external influence. Fast-forward to the twenty-first century and similar patterns of economic imperialism continue to persist. It is argued that the 2009 Honduran coup and subsequent international support was the product of U.S. and Canadian fears that their economic interests were in jeopardy.

On June 28, 2009, José Manuel Zelaya, the democratically elected President of Honduras was deposed by the military, forced into exile, and replaced by Roberto Micheletti (Leonard 2011, pg. 174). Five months later, in November 2009, a second election was managed by the pro-coup supporters and Porfirio Lobo emerged as the new leader. There are several problems with this Lobo’s administration. The first problem goes to the very structure of the administration, where many whom Lobo appointed initiated the undemocratic coup, an act that threatens democratic order. The second is the cessation of fundamental human rights and state-sponsored repression under Lobo’s administration. In 2010, Human Rights Watch released a report stating “at least eight journalists and ten members of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) – a political group that opposed the 2009 coup and advocated the reinstatement of Zelaya – have been killed since President Lobo assumed power on January 27, 2010. There has also been a significant increase in threats against journalists and opposition members during this period” (Honduras: Ongoing Attacks Foster Climate of Intimidation 2010).

The U.S. Role in 2009 Coup

Despite the obvious threat to democracy and lack of protection for journalists and free speech, the Americans and Canadians have prioritized their economic interests above their democratic responsibility by supporting President Lobo.

The previously ousted President Zelaya created too much risk for U.S. business interests through his economic reforms to support small landowners, raising the minimum wage by sixty percent, and lowering interest rates (Valle 2013). He also sought to limit the monopolistic behavior of U.S. mining companies operating in the country by banning open-pit mining and the use of several toxic substances (COHA 2015). Zelaya’s policies are remarkably reminiscent of those of policies of President Morales who was ousted in 1963 for similar reasons.

Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State of the U.S., writes in her book Hard Choices that she admits her desire to prevent Zelaya’s return:  “In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary Espinosa in Mexico. We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot” (Clinton 2014). Equally, in July 2013, four years after the coup, President Obama met with President Lobo at the White House and praised him for leadership and “restoration of democratic practices” in Honduras (“Obama Meets Honduran President Lobo” 2015). Yet, in contrast, and what might be most telling, is Honduran scholar Dona Frank’s opinion in Foreign Affairs magazine (2013) where he offers that U.S. support for coup loyalists opens the door for further “violence and anarchy.”
The Canadian Role in 2009 Coup

Canada has thirty-seven companies operating in Honduras totaling $26.8 million CAD a year in business volume (Honduras – Export Development Canada, 2017). Canada imports manufactured and industrial raw materials, fuels, machinery, and transport equipment, and food and animal products (Gordon & Webber, 2016). Most striking is that ninety percent of Canada’s foreign mining investment is limited to one country: Honduras (Escalera-Flexhaug 2017).

As Zelaya built ties with other center-left governments in Latin America, the Canadian government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, sought to end Honduran protectionist policies. When Zelaya was ousted, the Canadian government made no effort to condemn those preventing the democratically elected president from returning. Rather, Peter Kent, the Canadian Minister of State for the Americas, stated in a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) program that Zelaya’s “attempts to re-enter the country… [are]…very unhelpful to the situation” (“Rights Action Coup Alert #41” 2009).

Post-coup, Canadians positioned themselves as mediators between Zelaya’s forces and the dictatorship with the affirmation of the “Tegucigalpa-San José Accord.” This deal is particularly alarming because it affirmed “national unity” between Zelaya and the dictatorship. Post-signing, Neil Reeder, the Canadian Ambassador to Honduras, reported that “as a long-standing aid, trade, and investment partner with Honduras, we were delighted with this outcome,” (Reeder 2009), an explicit demonstration of Canadian powers to push for an unequal and unjust resolution to resume its trade and support its economic interests.

Neil Reeder, Canadian Member of Parliament, speaking to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, condemned Zelaya’s ousting but stated:

we should not deny the people of Honduras the opportunity to benefit from a free-trade agreement with us….There is a lot of potential for them to profit from Canadian markets, in that they can export their food products to Canada…We saw this with Costa Rica, for example, or in the small Central American countries that have huge export potential, which helps the national economy, creates jobs and attracts Canadian investments. This is already going on in Honduras, but I think that a free-trade agreement will increase confidence” (House of Commons Canada, 2011).  

Despite President Lobo’s relationship to the 2009 coup and gross human rights violations, House of Commons members and other Canadian officials were delighted with the new President because of his willingness to facilitate Canadian business interests. In 2011, President Lobo held an investment conference called “Honduras is Open for Business” attended by many Canadian investors (Escalera-Flexhaug, 2014). Former Canadian Ambassador to Central America Cameron Mackay published an op-ed piece in the Honduran Daily titled “Canada and Honduras, working together” where he says he is “pleased that Honduras is under the leadership of Porfirio Lobo” (Mackay, 2014).

Indeed Canadian political theorists Todd Gordon and Jeffrey Webber’s attack Canada’s veritable incongruity of words versus actions in their book “Blood of Extraction” (2016) where they the authors argue that “Canadian interests are fraught with contradiction and instability in Latin America and require state protection if they are not to be undermined. Providing such protection is the overarching goal of Canadian foreign policy in the region – whether it’s diplomatic, developmental, or security form—to ensure the successful expansion of Canadian capital in its relentless and insatiable drive for profit” (pg. 3). Herein lies the very essence of introverted political interests with little regard for the institutional development of marginalized nations.  

While approaching their extractive economic interests is different, both the Americans and Canadians have remarkably similar intents, particularly after the 2009 coup.

Election Fraud in 2017

This pattern continues into the present. This November 26 in a national election for the presidency, Salvador Nasrella (Kahn 2017) challenged incumbent Juan Orlando Hernández, who National Public Radio (NPR) calls “a close U.S. ally,” After the first partial results were released, Nasralla lead by 3.3%. Immediately counting stopped for 36 hours and then resumed with paradoxically with Hernández leading, causing suspicions since Congress, controlled by Hernandez’s party, appoints the election tribunal. (“Honduras election: Opposition candidate Nasralla rejects poll count”). The Organization of American States (OAS) released a statement that “irregularities, errors and systematic problems” with the election process meant they could not be certain of the results (“OAS says Honduran vote results in doubt due to ‘irregularities'”, 2017).

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in the capital, Tegucigalpa, to protest manipulation of the vote count (“Honduras Election”). Across social media, videos were shared of young protesters being killed or beaten by security forces. A ten-day curfew was imposed, but law enforcement ignored the curfew to join in the protest (Kahn 2017).

Despite the irregularities in the voting process, little mention is given to President Hernandez’s “Supreme Court Packed” group of individuals who overturned recent legislation on term limits enabling Hernandez to continue to remain in office (Kahn 2017). These actions were found to be egregious even to the countries that participated in this centuries-long paradigm, including the United States Department Official who advised Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Central America, Juan Gonzalez: “the electoral commission should find a way to be transparent and make sure that the O.A.S. and the E.U. have as much access as possible,” said that the final result should have “international validation,” he said (Malkin, 2017).

Equally, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, called for “all parties to resolve any disagreement peacefully, transparently, and in line with the highest democratic and human rights standards. Participatory, transparent, and credible electoral processes are cornerstones of democracy” (Government of Canada, 2017).

Conclusion

Centuries ago, Spanish economic structures in the name of commerce sapped economic and political potential among the Latin countries to create perpetual dependence, instability, and a permanent underclass. In North America, it was impossible for the British to coerce the indigenous to work and as a result, they were forced to complete the work themselves (Acemoglu & Robinson 2012). The British realized that it’s only option was to create economically viable institutions that incentivized investment and hard work (ibid).

U.S. and Canadian involvement in Honduras served only to advance a centuries-old structure of instability in its political economy, creating the recipe for modern institutional failure. As Acemoglu and Robinson (2012) write in their book Why Nations Fail, contrary to the political and economic stability enjoyed in the developed world, these same foreign nations (to protect their financial interests in the developing world) create a different incentive for its political leaders. Their foreign policy towards Honduras for example, prioritizing economic interests, sets a precedent for further anarchy. The Spanish colonial regime created the institutions used to exploit those who lived in the colonies, and later in history, power shifted to U.S. and Canadian interests, who then capitalized on pre-existing institutions to perpetuate this dynamic.

For centuries, Honduras and its people have been denied political transparency, accountability, and political power of, by, and for the people.  As a result, these institutional weaknesses materialize into an unraveling democratic crisis. Despite their condemnation, the United States and Canada are responsible for the perpetuation of institutions that facilitate the present situation in Honduras.

 

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