Hunger and food insecurity are the driving force behind the recent exodus in Guatemala, say US officials, dismissing claims that a spike in gang violence is the key reason.
“The families appear to be fleeing a hunger crisis in Guatemala’s western highlands,” reported The Washington Post, citing officials at the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Thanks to last year’s drought and a devastating foliar disease affecting coffee plants, Guatemala’s coffee farming is also in crisis, leaving thousands of people in rural areas without an income.
“Food insecurity, not violence, seems to be a key push factor informing the decision to travel from Guatemala, where we have seen the largest growth in the migration flow this year,” reported the post quoting CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan as saying.
Guatemalans make up a bulk of the migrants seeking asylum in the United States this year, with authorities claiming to have arrested 42,000 members of Guatemalan families in the past 11 months alone.
Worried by the growing crowd of asylum-seekers in the country’s border with Mexico, McAleenan has launched a tour of Central American countries to see for himself the factors driving emigration.
“The decision made by a family from Central America to migrate to the United States is based on a range of regional factors, to include poverty and food insecurity,” he stated in a press release.
Two years ago, gang violence was the key reason behind emigration in Central America. However, murder rates have been decreased in recent years in Guatemala, according to Insight Crime.