THERE WAS SOMETHING UNSETTLING about the self-perception of the killer. After a six hour drive from his home in Allen, Texas to the Mexican border at El Paso, his head swimming with fever dreams of invading Hispanic hordes, twenty-one-year old Patrick Crusius walked up to a Walmart frequented by Latinos and, raising an AK-47 style assault rifle to his shoulder, opened fire. It took less than six minutes to carry out the deed, in which he slaughtered twenty three people and injured dozens more. The manifesto he released the day of the attack invoked The Great Replacement theory—the conspiracy that global Jewish elites are importing immigrants to destroy the white race. It then paid homage to the killer who gunned down fifty-one Muslims in a New Zealand mosque. But the second paragraph of the poorly-worded treatise contained an unexpected tribute: he invoked, as his antecedents, the slain Native Americans.
“The natives didn’t take the invasion of Europeans seriously,” Crusius wrote, making an absurd comparison between the European genocide of natives in the past to the influx of Latinos in the present, “now what’s left [of native Americans] is just a shadow of what was.”
Hundreds began trickling out of the northern city of San Pedro Sula on foot on 9 December – the first US-bound caravan since early October, and potentially the start of a new wave of Central American migrants that would test Joe Biden’s commitment to moving on from the anti-migration policies of the Trump era.
SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS – In a drug house in the heart of a slum controlled by the MS-13 street gang in the city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, a gang member saunters in and dumps his product on the table.
On one side is cocaine, each portion twisted into wraps of parchment paper. On the other lie several dozen impeccable plastic baggies of the gang’s newest cash-cow: a powerful strain of chemically-altered marijuana known as Krispy, or Tiburón (which means “shark” in English).
It’s unclear what chemicals or substances have made the new drug so addictive, but the gang has been making a killing off it.
A friend who runs a non-profit helping schoolchildren in Honduras invited me to give this online lecture and Q&A about systematic injustices in that country. I’m no expert on these issues. But I like to think that, after a year and a half of periodically reporting on and studying them, that I am an eager student. I’ve learned a lot. Attached below is the link to the Youtube of my talk.
AS HONDURAS ENDURES it’s second storm in as many weeks, international aid agencies and local volunteer groups are scrambling the best responses they can to assist people displaced by flooding and landslides.
But aid experts and rights activists, as well as local residents and politicians, say longer-term problems are being neglected in a country where years of devastating drought have caused mass hunger and are leading thousands of Hondurans to flee annually towards the United States.
Yamely Cáceres was displaced from her Chamalecón neighbourhood in San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras after flooding from Hurricane Eta, and then prevented from returning due to resurgent floods from Hurricane Iota, which crashed through the region from 16-18 November.
“People are losing everything,” Cáceres, who is now living under a highway overpass, told The New Humanitarian via WhatsApp. “They’re already losing so much with the El Niño droughts before this. I bet more and more people are going to leave after this.”
VICTORIA DEL PORTETE, an Ecuadorian town, had decided the time had come for a vote.
Residents of the marshy Andean village came to the parish council building in 2011 to vote “yes” or “no” on the following question: are you in agreement with mining activity in the wetlands and watershed of Kimsacocha? The results, counted by hand, became undeniable by day’s end. Ninety-three percent of the participants said they didn’t want foreign gold extraction in the vicinity of their watershed. “No one and nothing will stop our fight in defense of water and in defense of our territories,” one organizer said afterward, “to construct a better Ecuador, without mining in our territories.”
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa arrived at the village not long after with an entourage of apparatchiks and pro-government reporters. Correa reprimanded the anti-mining activists for their “lies,” painting the electoral outcome as the result of rural zealotry. Those who voted no, he said, suffered from “mental fundamentalisms.”
ONE OF THE EARLIEST MEMORIES I can recall in the birth of my political consciousness came on a blustery fall night, when I was a sophomore in high school. The exact details remain murky, almost indistinguishable in my memory from the countless weekend nights I spent at my dad’s house in that era. But one variation, looking back now, set that night apart from all the others. Not long after sunset, my dad, his friend and I had sunken into the ripped leather couches set adjacent to the TV, the living room littered with empty cans of beer, unfolded Taco Bell wrappers, the camo hunting equipment and shotguns in their plastic padlocked cases all laid out on the dusty, leather cover of the pool table. As my dad and his friend nursed Bud Lights, we sat back, talked, and watched a riot unfold on CNN.
Ferguson, at over a thousand miles away from us, had never once before figured into my mind. Now it was a lightning rod in the national imagination. Footage of that chaotic night—one of several disturbances that convulsed the Missouri town in the year after Michael Brown was killed, though I regret not remembering which one it was—was being live-streamed onto the TV from a news helicopter circling above town. Panning shots captured scenes of people, far below, running over cars, piling like amoebas into intersections where they brought traffic to a standstill, gathering in crowds that stretched out of sight around the police station. Darren Wilson, the officer who pumped seven bullets into the black boys back, was to be proclaimed innocent. And there were police everywhere: stolid lines of officers in tactical military gear, silhouetted by floodlights against a backdrop of armored vehicles and snipers. The livestream would be intercut with an anchor with a microphone, shuffling crowds of people chanting behind them, assuring that those carrying out peaceful protests constituted the majority. But the footage always returned to the helicopter, to the broken windows and overturned cars and raging flames of incinerated buildings. To the hazy scrim of teargas. Ferguson, an American town, burning.
Photos and investigation by Seth Berry; words by me.
LOCAL PASTOR OMAR GUZMAN convened his nightly vigil on a dirt intersection on a recent evening in Triunfo de la Cruz, a dusty hamlet on Honduras’ windblown Caribbean coast. It was several weeks since the forced disappearance of five black Honduran, or “Garifuna,” men from this community, and local residents have been praying ever since.
Twelve armed men in police uniforms and balaclavas entered the town in the predawn hours of July 19 in unmarked, brand-new pickups, despite a COVID-19 curfew. They abducted the five men at gunpoint. Eyewitnesses reported the assailants wore uniforms of the “DPI,” or the investigative arm of the Honduran National Police, but seemed disorganized and amateur. They forced the men into their trucks and drove off into the night. Nothing has been seen or heard since of either the masked men or their captors.
ARNOVIS, AT TWENTY-TWO, had been content with living a quiet life. He worked the night shift at a turtle hatchery on a remote Salvadoran island. He lived with his family and five year old in the thatched home he grew up in. Ahead of him lay a future that appeared uneventful and peaceful.
But that future became impossible after a perceived slight at a soccer game threw him afoul of MS-13, a violent street gang that’d taken root on the island. “Sos tumba,” gang members warned him on anonymous phone calls—“You’re dead.” Facing imminent death in El Salvador, Arnovis was forced to flee, soon thrusting him into the nightmare that is our global border regime.
In The Dispossessed, John Washington, an activist with No More Deaths–No Mas Muertos, longtime Spanish translator, and journalist, takes Arnovis’s story—his harrowing escapes from El Salvador and repeated rejections for asylum in the US—and uses it breathe feverish life into that nightmarish global border system. By illustrating the life of a man torn apart by asylum, Washington paints a jolting vision of a world of cleaved by global economic apartheid.
“You can’t really wipe out the dreaded drug business for three simple reasons. People need the jobs. The government needs the money. And in the end the police and soldiers all join the business.”
—Charles Bowden, June, 2011 talk at the Commonwealth Club
PICTURE, FOR A MOMENT, the image of a drug trafficker:
His bristling mustache, his shadow-darkened eyes, his demure-looking harem of scantily-clad lovers. Imagine, for a moment, his studded leather boots, and the sharp glint of sunlight off his immaculate gold rings. His expression lies hidden. He contemplates the world from within a blue halo of cigar smoke. If the myths are true, he lives in a sprawling, walled-off mansion, replete with animals and ringed with armed guards. His gunmen can square off with the toughest of militaries, and anyone can be killed when he so desires. No politician lays beyond the temptation of his bribes. The immiseration of entire societies in Latin America is attributable to him, and him alone. He looms above them like a specter: an evil narco-squid whose vast tentacular reach leaves nothing—no person, place, nor institution—uncorrupted.
The above narrative, fanciful, flamboyant, almost cartoonish in nature, can be found on ample display in decades-old cultural industry of drug-themed books, movies, and TV-shows. But that same narrative is reflected with mirror-like precision in sober government discourses justifying drug wars. Despite yielding little asides from increased drug usage and bloodshed of unprecedented scale, Oswaldo Zavala notes with suspicion, governments continue advocating for those wars with that same narrative. With the narrative of the Cartels, the Drug Wars—and vast cultural industry sustained by mythologizing them—continue amassing profits with no end in sight.