All posts by Mike Allison

Nayib Bukele comfortably ahead in the polls?

I recently spoke with Ximena Enríquez of Americas Quarterly about next year's presidential elections in Will El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele Be the Next Social Media President? El Salvador's two-party system has lost some steam over the last several years as Salvadorans have lost confidence in the FMLN and ARENA to resolve the country's problems. FMLN governance has been a disappointment and ARENA has done little to regain citizen trust.

There's a strong chance that former San Salvador mayor Nayib Bukele will capitalize on the two main parties' failures to become the first non-FMLN / non-ARENA president since Jose Napoleon Duarte (another former mayor of San Salvador). Although he might not be able to win a fist round victory against FMLN (Hugo Martinez) and ARENA (Carlos Calleja) candidates, recent public opinion polls have Bukele comfortably ahead by 30 percentage points.

You can read the entire story here.

‘A human tragedy’

I spoke with CNN's Catherine Shoichet in Forget conspiracy theories about migrants. Here's what experts say is going on. And it's not about the midterms. Here is some of what Catherine and I spoke about.
The situation is complicated, Allison said.
"There are contradictory things that we're still trying to tease out about the root causes," he said.
In Honduras, for example, the murder rate -- one factor analysts typically cite when they study why people migrate -- has been declining.
But despite the lingering questions about these large groups forming, Allison said the most important thing to do right now isn't to pinpoint why they're leaving; it's to address the humanitarian crisis that's emerging as they make the trek.
"These are people who really, with the information that they have available to them, have decided that this is their best opportunity. It's not something they take lightly. It's not something we should think they're being manipulated by Honduran politicians or US politicians to do," he said.
You can read the rest of the article here.

The caravan: Who is behind it, what internal factors provoke it, how to situate ourselves?

Fr. Ismael Moreno Coto (better known as Padre Melo) and Radio Progreso explain La caravana: ¿Quiénes la empujan, qué factores internos la provocan, cómo situarnos? Here is the English translation of The caravan: Who is behind it, what internal factors provoke it, how to situate ourselves? 
In the same way, these sectors feel beaten in their self-love when, feeling at ease in their privileges, the reality of the excluded unmasks their lies with a single demonstration. This is what the caravan has done. Just after the elites and the regime of Juan Orlando Hernández have invested millions of dollars in publicizing that the country is on the right track, that the economy is healthy, and that the people are happy with the social programs, then this caravan of thousands of citizens breaks out and creates the alternative news that goes around the world. 
The shame of the elites is transformed into accusations against the opposition while they conspire to look for scapegoats, which in the last days of October passed from blaming a specific person, to the radical political opposition, to the Democrats, to the businessman Soros, until finally deciding to blame their denominated “axis of evil” made up of Cuba, Venezuela and Ortega de Nicaragua. It is the answer to the shame that the Honduran elites experience while not accepting the extent that those who unmask them are those sectors that the elites believe do not deserve to be considered equal because they are second, third or fourth category citizens.
You can read the rest of the English translation here

Improving security is probably more likely than beating climate change.

Severe climate conditions have pushed Guatemalans off their lands. Not enough rain. Too much rain. Crops destroyed and a government incapable of providing any solutions. From National Geographic:
Today, towards the end of yet another “rainy season” that brought no rain, many rural communities seem trapped in a dizzying vortex of catastrophe. Years of erratic weather, failed harvests, and a chronic lack of employment opportunities have slowly chipped away at the strategies Guatemalan families have used successfully to cope with one or two years of successive droughts and crop failures. But now, entire villages seem to be collapsing from the inside out as more and more communities become stranded, hours away from the nearest town, with no food, no work, and no way to seek help.
The fact that many Guatemalans are fleeing because of economic insecurity and not direct physical violence is not something to celebrate. Improving security is probably more likely than beating back the effects of climate change.

Why the Honduran migrant exodus really took off

I've been saying for the last few days that the caravan started off as a few hundred Hondurans but that number then increased in number somewhat spontaneously. It turns out that characterization was only half right.

Jeff Ernst and Sarah Kinosian get to the bottom of the story in Forget Trump Hysteria, Here’s How the Migrant Caravan ‘Crisis’ Really Began.
ABOUT A MONTH AGO, when [Bartolo] Fuentes first became aware of small groups dispersed throughout Honduras that were organizing among themselves to make the trek north, he decided to help out, just as he had done with a previous migrant caravan last April—and indeed throughout his life.
At the time, all the groups combined numbered no more than 200 people, Fuentes says. As someone who had helped repatriate the bodies of many migrants who died in the journey al Norte, he was acutely aware of the dangers and wanted to help ensure the people’s safety.
“No one expected this human avalanche,” he told The Daily Beast in a phone call from the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.
But then a report on the country’s most-watched cable news channel, HCH, painted a picture of the caravan that changed everything. The anchors interviewed a woman who was supposedly part of the caravan. The woman talked about safety in numbers, called Fuentes the organizer and mentioned foreign assistance. The anchors, without any supporting evidence, then said that Fuentes would pay for the migrants’ food and transportation.
Fuentes was later interviewed by the anchors and strongly refuted what was said, but by then the damage was done.
So there is a mix of opportunity and false rumor. Many of those traveling north intended to do so anyway, even though perhaps they weren't planning on going at this moment. However, traveling with a large group of people was safer and cheaper than it they traveled on their own within the coming months. The HCH story also seems to have convinced many people that added benefits would be available for those heading north (foreign assistance).

None of this takes away from the fact that there is a humanitarian crisis in Honduras, and in much of Central America. There is also now a looming humanitarian crisis in Mexico with several thousand Honduran nationals relying upon the generosity of the Mexican people, following that of the Guatemalan people, to provide shelter, food, and water. The primary concern right now should be to address the needs of those in danger, not where they came from or where they are going or why.