The Foreign Minister of Honduras, Lisandro Rosales, said this Friday that human traffickers have used the immigration policy of President Joe Biden to promote the influx of undocumented immigrants to the United States.
He also indicated that “it affects a lot” to the Government of Honduras that President Juan Orlando Hernández has been singled out for drug trafficking in a New York court, when “all he has done” is to fight “head on” against organized crime.
Here is a summary of the interview with AFP after a bilateral dialogue in Washington between high-level delegations from both countries on migration, anti-corruption and reconstruction after hurricanes Eta and Iota.
The arrests of undocumented immigrants soared on the southern border of the United States, did the traffickers take advantage of the coming to power of Joe Biden to drive the migrants?
Unfortunately, the figures show that it does. In November, there were 10,000 Hondurans detained on the southern US border and in March there were 41,000, with an increase after the inauguration of President Biden (on January 20). The coyotes have taken advantage of the message that the issue of migration was going to be addressed in a comprehensive way and this has caused them to use children as a human shield.
How many Honduran minors have illegally crossed into the United States?
We have an unofficial preliminary figure of about 4,000 in the last two months, but it is increasing every day.
What do you attribute this new wave of migration to?
What we are seeing is that 98% of those detained on the southern border are from the areas impacted by Eta and Iota (last November), which in Honduras left about 2 billion dollars in losses.
What did you talk with Ricardo Zúñiga, Biden’s envoy for the Central American Northern Triangle?
He showed a special interest in migration, obviously, but also in the reconstruction plan and how the United States can help. I believe that we must take advantage of the reconstruction to generate opportunities that will take root for the citizens of Honduras.
US Congresswoman Norma Torres begged Biden not to divert funds to Central America due to “corruption” and “bad governance.”
31 years ago, the United States decided to channel its resources through NGOs and agencies that it has in the country; we do not receive a five from the United States Government directly. What we do want is for 100% or 98% to reach those who need it. Reduce bureaucracy and make projects aligned with the needs of the host countries.
President Hernández was accused of drug trafficking in a New York court in which his brother and former deputy was sentenced to life imprisonment for this crime. How does this affect the Government of Honduras?
It affects a lot, because this gives reputational damage to institutions that have proven completely the opposite. In 2011, 87% of the drugs that entered the United States passed through Honduras and now only 3%, so obviously someone’s business has been damaged and they want revenge. The problem is that confessed murderers are given credibility in a United States court and this allows them to say what they want against a president who has only done it to fight organized crime directly and head-on.
Isn’t the president’s brother responsible for drug trafficking?
I cannot know the ins and outs, but President Hernández has done the opposite of what has been said in the trials. Since 2014, there are 41 Hondurans for drug trafficking in United States prisons as a result of the extradition law that was approved when he was president of Congress.
Zúñiga is the son of a Honduran military and diplomat and the grandson of a former Honduran presidential candidate, did you know him?
Yes, of course, very good. His father worked very closely with my father, who was a general in the Armed Forces. I knew him as a child. I consider him very capable, very prepared and very aware of the situation in Honduras.
And why didn’t Zúñiga travel to Honduras as he did to Guatemala and El Salvador?
Because we had these meetings scheduled in Washington since February 4.
Doesn’t it have to do with the president’s brother’s sentence for drug trafficking?
It has absolutely nothing to do.
You asked the United States to grant a new Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Hondurans, in addition to the one in force since 1999, is there progress?
Secretary (of US Homeland Security, Alejandro) Mayorkas told me this week that they are analyzing the dates to grant a new TPS to Honduras due to the storms. He did not give us a date, but we hope it will be soon.