Editor’s note: Documentary photographer Sean Hawkey, who shot these photos of women on the caravan, says, “Every woman I’ve spoken to has a horror story. It doesn’t come out immediately, but if I speak with them for half an hour, it emerges, painfully. Kidnap, rape, even rape of their children. One woman wept as she told me that ‘from the moment girls are born, men conspire to ruin their lives’. That was the reason she was escaping Honduras. All of these women have been walking for 11 days in ferocious heat, some carrying their children or pushing them in buggies. Are they criminals and gangsters?”
Members of the caravan of migrants and asylum seekers from Central America are revealing why people are getting up and walking out of their countries, heading for the U.S. They’re saying that they’re starving in Guatemala. They are leaving Honduras because they have been run out of business, lost their jobs or land and seek a better life. They are leaving because there is mass violence and it is no longer safe for women or for raising children. They’re coming up here because U.S. corporations have been down there wreaking havoc.
Each year, improved technologies make it possible for U.S.companies to produce more goods and services with fewer workers. How do corporations solve the problem of selling more when there are fewer buyers? They transfer that problem to Latin America by dumping their cheap, subsidized commodities on Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador tariff free, wiping out their local producers and ruining their economies. The corporate need for maximum profits stands in stark opposition to democracy and human rights. To enhance one is to diminish the other.
Corporations can sue whole governments under CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and recover billions of dollars in “lost profits,” even if the corporations illegally stole land, polluted the environment and caused injury or death. To guarantee rulings in favor of corporations, these “Investor State Settlement Dispute” suits take place in secret tribunals hosted by the World Bank, unaccountable to any democratic institution. Thus, corporate private property rights are elevated above any rights Central Americans have to life or liberty.
If legal measures like CAFTA aren’t enough, extralegal ones are used. According to a study by Global Witness, ”Nowhere are you more likely to be killed for standing up to companies that grab land and trashed the environment than in Honduras.” Anyone opposing corporations is assassinated or disappeared. If democratically elected governments attempt to intervene on behalf of their people, they are overthrown with a coup. Life has become so unbearable for human beings that they have no choice but to in mass get up and leave for fear of losing their lives. While human life attempting to survive encounters borders every step of the way, there are no borders that U.S. corporate profit is bound to respect.
When this caravan made up of women, children, and families reaches our southern border, will they again be in fear for their lives, met by bayonets and machine guns? Or shall we, as Americans, remember that it is the corporations who have lowered our wages here, foreclosed on our homes, closed our schools, denied us healthcare, polluted our water, made us homeless, suppressed our votes, and backed it all up with police terror.
In case any of us have forgotten, let this caravan of humanity be our reminder that all human beings, as a birthright, must have access to the tree of life—and any corporation or corporate run government who denies that access must be replaced.