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Hondurans Closely Following Fate Of Migrant Caravan And Trump's Threats To Cut Aid


Now to the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras. That's where that caravan of thousands of migrants heading to the U.S. border began. Most of the migrants say they're fleeing violence and poverty. And as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, many people still in Honduras are closely following the caravan's fate.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Radio and TV news are glued to the migrants' journey...



KAHN: ...Reporting every stop and start as the thousands continue their march north to the U.S. border. It's a massive exodus, says Ismael Moreno, a Jesuit priest in the northwestern town of Progreso. He says the flight of thousands out of Honduras shouldn't be a shock to anyone.

ISMAEL MORENO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "This caravan phenomenon is like a pressure cooker that exploded," says Moreno, who's better known as Padre Melo on his nightly radio program.


MORENO: "America Libre."

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Padre Melo says people are frustrated.

MORENO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "That frustration has been accumulating for years. People have no opportunities, no jobs. But they have plenty of crime and violence," he says.

MORENO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "At some point, the pot had to boil over. We're at that moment right now," he says. Miriam Calderon, who was waiting outside the radio station, has a son currently with the caravan in southern Mexico.

MIRIAM CALDERON: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: She breaks down while talking about why her 18-year-old son, Anderson, left.

CALDERON: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: She says, "back in June, gang members took a liking to his girlfriend and threatened to kill him. He wanted to flee then, but I wouldn't let him go," she says.

CALDERON: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "But when he couldn't find any steady work and word of the caravan spread, he insisted on leaving," she says. "He wanted to help us out with sending money home." Money sent from Hondurans abroad accounts for as much as a fifth of the economic output for the country, Latin America's poorest after Haiti. President Trump has said he will stop the caravan from entering the U.S. and will send 5,200 troops to the southern border. He's also threatened to end all foreign aid to the region.

Some in Honduras think cutting off U.S. aid wouldn't be such a bad idea. Daniel Pacheco is an evangelical pastor who lives and works in one of the most violent neighborhoods in the northern industrial city of San Pedro Sula.

DANIEL PACHECO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: He says the problem is citizens just don't know how much the U.S. gives to Honduras, where exactly the money goes. And, he adds, it rarely trickles down directly to them. Corruption, especially within Honduras' national police force, is notorious.

GEOFF THALE: It is not very transparent, but it's not clear to me that we're handing significant amounts of cash to the government of Honduras.

KAHN: Geoff Thale is with WOLA, a Washington, D.C.,-based think tank focusing on Latin America. According to its analysis, last year Honduras received nearly $200 million in aid from the U.S. About a third of those funds now go to security, justice and violence prevention.

THALE: Cutting that aid is likely to continue or increase insecurity, continue or increase all of the kinds of things that drive people to leave in the first place. So it just doesn't make any sense.

KAHN: If it were up to Padre Melo of Radio Progreso, he says the U.S. should pull all of its aid.

MORENO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Without the money, we Hondurans who rely too much on the U.S. anyway would be forced to solve our own problems." Carrie Kahn, NPR News, San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.