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My Turn: U.S. bears responsibility for growing refugee crisis

People form both sides of the issue argue across police lines during a immigration demonstration outside the Border Patrol  facility  Friday, July 4, 2014 in Murrieta, Calif. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski)

People form both sides of the issue argue across police lines during a immigration demonstration outside the Border Patrol facility Friday, July 4, 2014 in Murrieta, Calif. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski)

I’ve been watching with sadness the angry mobs in Murrieta, Calif., preventing immigrant detainees, including children, from being housed by federal officials in Border Patrol detainee centers.

Living up north here, it’s easy to view Latin America as another world, isolated from the United States. But the sad truth is that the U.S. government has historically been quite involved in life in Latin America – overthrowing democratically elected governments, financing atrocities and pushing trade policies that undermine Latin American industries, dealing blows to local economies.

People leave Latin America because life there can be very hard. Poverty, political instability and recurring financial crises often conspire to make Latin American life more challenging than in the U.S., a wealthy country with lots of job opportunities.

I’ve read that the children streaming across the Texas border are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The problem of the children migrants is blowback from U.S. policy in the 1980s, when our government trained and funded Salvadoran and Guatemalan military and police to repress popular revolutions, and more recently when the United States supported the coup against President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras.

Those countries were left with brutal, corrupt armies and police forces.

By contrast, few if any children appear to be coming from Nicaragua.

Could it be that Nicaragua, despite its poverty, provides more security for its population than other Central American countries?

Check out the stats: lowest homicide rate, no death squads, little gang activity: “least violent country in Central America and safest in all the hemisphere.”

Perhaps we could shift gears, and, instead of sending military equipment to “fight” the “war” on drugs, we might look to the development model working in Nicaragua – support education, health and small farmers in Central America, and repeal the disastrous free-trade policies that are making the rich richer and the poor ready to head for the border.

That might help convince young people to stay home.

(Jack Bopp lives in Henniker.)

Jack, thanks for a good column. We can argue about details, but to my mind the thrust of what you wrote is "right on." Moreover, I greatly respect and admire the work you've been doing on the ground in Nicaragua for years. You didn't allude to that "hands-on" experience in your column.

Jack seems to be writing from a communist utopia when he claims that "free trade" policies cause poverty. He is under the delusion that U.S. trade policies have anything to do with free trade. The freedom to trade exists without government interference in the market place.

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