Honduran Foreign Minister: U.S. Should Address Root Causes Of Migration

Steve Inskeep talks with Honduran Foreign Minister Mireya Aguero de Corrales, who's in Washington to help find a solution to the thousands of Central American children arriving at the U.S. border.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Much of the leadership of Central America is in Washington. They're discussing their underage citizens who fled to the U.S. They're meeting leaders of Congress and the Administration. And three foreign ministers held a public presentation yesterday. Afterward, the foreign minister of Honduras sat down with us. Mireya Aguero de Corrales said everything about the crisis is more complex than it seems. Consider the city of San Pedro Sula. Drug crimes make it among the most violent cities in the world and a major source of migrant children even though it's prosperous.

MIREYA AGUERO CORRALES: I think it is important to go beyond the figures. If you go to San Pedro Sula - I don't know what the reports you have - of course, we do have this unacceptable, high homicide rate. But at the same time, you see a prosperous city. You know, it's the second largest city in Honduras. It's where the business centers are. Many international brand names have their maquilas there in San Pedro Sula.

INSKEEP: Are these factories and other businesses coexisting with the total lack of security in many neighborhoods?

CORRALES: Absolutely. I mean, this 70 percent of violent crimes in San Pedro Sula, they're absolutely related to drug trafficking. So if you are not related to that type of activities, you are not in the mainstream of violence at all. Of course, businesses have had to invest a lot in private security systems and so on.

INSKEEP: You used a figure in the talk - 20 percent of GDP is spent on security.

CORRALES: That is correct.

INSKEEP: Meaning what? How's that money - that's police? What else is it?

CORRALES: It's police. It's everything that we need to interdict drugs. In Honduras we have four areas of security that we address - prevention, combative crime, rehabilitation of criminals and also strengthening of institutions. So in those four areas, you know, we devote around $950 per capita a year to security. And when you make a comparison, you know, that 45 percent of Hondurans live with $1 a day, the figures are scandalous.

INSKEEP: Because you're meeting Obama Administration figures and leaders in Congress, it is fair to ask this - when you hear about the president's proposal to address the immediate crisis, do you think the United States is spending money in ways that will adequately address the problem?

CORRALES: I don't think so. You know, I think every country has the right to decide how they address what they think is a security issue. In migration, of course, for the United States is a security issue at this point. Although, look at it in a different way, I think that what it has been devoted to - border controls - could have been better spent in trying to change or trying to impact the root causes of the problem of migration. So this request of 3.7 billion dollars - which is, I think, what President Obama has requested from Congress - to us this is incomprehensible. You know, that - from that only $300 million were going to go only in programs that would help us to deal with the impact of repatriation and deportation problems.

INSKEEP: One other thing - often migration from Latin American countries toward the United States is seen as a safety valve for those countries. People who are not employed, who might be sources of instability or problems simply go away. And you have people who are now going away from Honduras. Do you really want them back? Do you want the kids back? Or would you rather they stay in the United States and continue going to the United States?

CORRALES: I think we have made, you know, every effort to receive them in a dignified way. We cannot deny any Honduran the right to have a place and to have a better life in Honduras if they can find it. They say they have fled from violence in Honduras. So many people that I have talked to personally, you know, they say that the problem is they cannot go back to their places of origin. So in a way, within their own country, you know, they are displaced.

INSKEEP: Oh, they can't go back to their neighborhood?

CORRALES: No, they cannot. So in a way, yes, we do want them back. But it's very hard for them to go back. And Hondurans understand that because what they say, you know, is that they left for particular reasons that were tied to particular circumstances in their country of origin.

INSKEEP: Foreign Minister Corrales, thank you very much.

CORRALES: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: She's the foreign minister of Honduras, one of many Central American officials visiting Washington this week.

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