‘A perfect storm’ means more Central Americans in US

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Many people in Honduras and Guatemala started brewing their own locally roasted black coffee to help make ends meet

It has been more than six months since most customers walked out of España Coffee’s New York shop.

“The consumer still doesn’t have enough money to buy coffee,” the small Colombian cafe manager of the eponymous shop said.

Most of the customers were fleeing to the US, the manager, whose name Reuters have withheld to protect him from harm, told the news agency.

And their numbers have been increasing.

“I can tell you, this is like a perfect storm,” she said.

Mexico is slowly giving some hope to Central Americans, who are fleeing violence in their home countries. But that’s not working as well as planned.

The flow of people has gone up since early 2017, when a surge of migrants started flowing north from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The crisis has grown due to a combination of factors – not only worsening violence in Central America, but also the years of economic recession in the region.

Pressure on international funding

A sharp rise in the flow of migrants has put great pressure on international aid and economic packages in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the region’s three poorest countries.

The aid has been aimed at helping improve security and economic situation in the region, where according to the UN, nearly half of the country’s 6.5 million people live below the poverty line.

People across Central America are also struggling to meet the costs of social programs because of cuts made to government finances following three consecutive years of recession.

For a short time, more money was available thanks to increased support under the so-called Central American Regional Security Initiative, a $2.3bn US program aimed at reducing violence in Central America.

In El Salvador, the US was responsible for 61% of the total $906m US aid to the country in 2016. And 90% of that was spent on the purchase of weapons and for social programmes, according to a new report from a fiscal think tank in Washington.

That’s still a number that needs re-examination, the researchers say.

Image copyright AFP Image caption A man drinks coffee in a courtyard in San Salvador

One of the reasons why Central Americans are walking across the globe is because of deteriorating economic conditions, according to a report from aid groups Oxfam and the Inter-American Dialogue.

“Crime, violence and poor economic indicators are firmly coupled,” the report says.

The researchers say that in the wake of several years of recession, extra money sent home by migrants living in the US is lessening and the flow of refugees to the US is increasing.

These also illustrate one of the reasons why people are fleeing the violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

“Businesses are closing, industries close and security and public safety is declining,” the Oxfam and the Inter-American Dialogue report said.

The trend is the same in all three countries, and especially in El Salvador where 83% of people have a pessimistic outlook on the economic situation.

‘Necessary steps’

As reported by the BBC’s Louise O’Neill in El Salvador, the fears are echoed in other countries.

One women said it was like a bad dream when she left her small village because of the violence in El Salvador and fled to the US.

“Everything went bad. The violence, I saw mothers killed on the street, while I was watching from our windows. And everyone was afraid,” she told the BBC.

Another woman said she had barely attended to her small business, but she saw no other option than to flee the country because of the violence.

In Honduras, crime has had such a strong impact on businesses that 70% of small and medium sized Hondurans had lost some assets, according to a study by the bank Banco Cuscatlan.

“I was so afraid, that’s why I fled to the US because I wanted to save my daughter,” said a Honduran woman.

“All this violence has destroyed the country.”

The human rights group Human Rights Watch says the wars of the Northern Triangle countries have stripped indigenous communities of land and sacred sites, while destroying the very food source they rely on to survive.

“Some of the population have no income and no political rights. All they have are small food stores in their homes,” said Menio Sandoval, who fled to San Salvador after living in Honduras for years.

“People were in a terrible place. We left to work, but the time has come when we could not work any more,” said Claudio Arbelaez, a Honduran who also emigrated to the US.

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