Merida, October 24, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Journalists have joined Venezuela officials in ridiculing allegations made on Tuesday by US Vice President Mike Pence that Venezuela is financing the migrant caravan traversing Central America en route to the Mexican-US border.
Pence, in an interview with the Washington Post, claimed that US-allied Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez had told him that the 7000-strong migrant march is “organized by leftist groups in Honduras, financed by Venezuela, and sent north to challenge our sovereignty and challenge our border.”
.@costareports asks @VP Mike Pence about @realDonaldTrump’s claim that unknown Middle Easterners had infiltrated the migrant caravan heading to the U.S. border. “It’s inconceivable that there are not people of Middle Eastern descent,” Pence said. pic.twitter.com/7CRmyggfHG— Washington Post Live (@postlive) October 23, 2018
His accusations were backed up by outgoing US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who claimed that “Honduran politicians allied with Venezuelan & Cuban socialist dictators are encouraging the caravan to undermine US-friendly gov’t of Hernandez.”
Neither Pence nor Haley provided any evidence for their claims. Pence also echoed US President Trump’s remarks that there are Middle Eastern “terrorists” within the mass of migrants.
Trump has vowed to “do whatever we have to,” including using the US military, to stop the migrants from “violating” US territory. He has also recently cut billions of dollars of funding to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to punish them for failing to detain the march.
Speaking on the ground from the march, which currently finds itself en route to Mapastepec, Mexico, after a day’s rest in Huixtla close to the Mexican-Guatemalan border, Mexican journalist Jorge Ramos resolutely disproved Pence’s accusations. Ramos pointed out that the awful material conditions of the migrants prove that no external financing, let alone government backing, exists.
“It is ridiculous, completely ridiculous. I have spent the last 48 hours with these immigrants and they don’t have a single dollar. If they are being financed, I don’t see it, because they have nothing. There is no financing, and it’s not from Nicolas Maduro. The explanation is very simple; they are here due to violence and extreme poverty,” he reported.
“[Pence] is lying. There is no proof. (…) Here people don’t have a dollar to even pay for a bottle of water. This is a lie which the White House is saying maybe for political motives, but the reality here is not that [of external government backed financing],” he went on to claim.
Ramos also stated that he saw no-one from the Middle East, challenging Trump to “speak the truth and not create fear.”
Testimony from the immigrants confirmed that motives behind the 3500km-long procession include the search for a better quality of life and employment, as well as fleeing violence, crime, and extreme poverty. No interviewed migrants mentioned political motives or any connection to Venezuela.
Likewise, the man accused by the Honduran government of organising the march, Bartolo Fuentes, a leftist journalist and migrant rights activist from the Central American country, has since clarified that the procession was self-organised through social media.
He also stated that the impoverished Hondurans wanted to leave en masse to protect themselves from organised crime and that there were no political motives behind the procession. Fuentes additionally accused the Honduran and US governments of inventing “fictitious excuses” to shift the blame from the poverty which their policies have created in the region.
Venezuelan authorities have also responded to the accusations, with National Constituent Assembly (ANC) President Diosdado Cabello stating, “Imperialist cynicism has no limits and their lackeys repeat [their accusations] like parrots. They are blaming us for everything.”
Como una profecía autocumplida, resulta ahora q nuestro país es quien financia la “caravana” centroamericana que va rumbo a EE.UU., el cinismo imperial no tiene límites y sus lacayos repiten como loros. Nos culpan de todo porque no nos rendimos. Nosotros Venceremos!!— Diosdado Cabello R (@dcabellor) October 23, 2018
He also went on to criticise the visit of Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie to Peru, allegedly to inspect the conditions of the Venezuelan immigrants there, claiming that the move was concocted to distract attention away from the Honduran Caravan. Jolie’s visit was sponsored by the United Nations and NATO.
“Lights, camera, action: Angelina Jolie appears to give all of her ‘love’ to the caravan of Venezuelans in Peru, sorry, the Venezuelan diaspora. Such opportune news for the right wing press which don’t talk about the Central American migrants and the ‘love’ which they will receive when they get to the US,” Cabello added.
Whilst President Maduro is yet to respond to Pence’s accusations, he has previously called on the US government to open their border and “respect” the migrants.
Speaking Saturday, he also expressed his “pain” at what is happening, assigning blame to “capitalism” for creating the conditions which force citizens to migrate in such large numbers.
ANC Vice President, Tania Diaz, also showed solidarity with the migrants Wednesday, pointing out the hypocrisy between the media coverage of the migrant caravan and the Venezuelan migratory situation. Caracas has repeatedly claimed that a narrative of migratory humanitarian crisis is being used to justify a foreign intervention in the country.
“In Central America they don’t say ‘humanitarian crisis, massive exodus, catastrophe, diaspora’. There, it is a ‘caravan’, as if it were a party, and they are thousands which are fleeing poverty, violence, a lack of opportunities, hope, and the US government is closing the door to them.”
The migrant procession began in San Pedro Sula, Honduras October 13 with around 1000 people. It has since swelled to over 7,125 according to UN data. They are currently 2,734 kilometres short of El Paso, their final destination (on the US-Mexico border), which is approximately 555 walking hours away. It is unclear when the caravan is expected to arrive, and whether Mexican and US authorities will allow them to achieve their objective. Mexico is due to see a change in president this December 1, with the leftist Lopez Obrador taking over from US-backed Pena Nieto.
Since leaving Honduras, the migrants have crossed Guatemala, attracting interest from those in similar conditions who have joined the march. After a brief standoff with Mexican police on the Mexico-Guatemala border, they managed to cross into Mexico. A second, 1000-strong Caravan set off from Guatemala Tuesday, looking to join the first en route in Mexico.
Honduras has been one of the staunchest US allies in Latin America since 2009, when a US-instigated coup ousted then-president Manuel Zelaya. The country since has also been marred by violence and instability, as well as seeing a dive into poverty, with social leaders being targeted in political assassinations.