This week on Hold your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group experts Tiziano Breda and Ivan Briscoe about politics in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras and why Central Americans are leaving for the United States.
Originally published in Global Americans
With general elections approaching in Honduras, memories of the turbulence around the 2017 vote remain fresh. To avoid a repeat, politicians in Tegucigalpa should pledge to respect the results and authorities should clarify who would resolve any dispute. External actors should prepare to help.
With Nicaraguans heading to the polls in November, the government is already trying to engineer the outcome in its favour. An unfair ballot could spark unrest and a violent crackdown. External actors should push for reforms and dialogue with the opposition while eschewing counterproductive sanctions.
As the coronavirus rages in Mexico and the northerly Central American countries, criminal outfits have adapted, often enlarging their turf. To fight organised crime more effectively, governments should combine policing with programs to aid the vulnerable and create attractive alternatives to illegal economic activity.
The murder rate in El Salvador, once the world’s highest, is falling fast. President Nayib Bukele attributes the good news to his harsh anti-gang crackdown, but other factors are likely also salient. The government should explore policing and socio-economic reforms to calm the country’s streets.
Despite U.S. restrictions on Central American migration, Hondurans are fleeing north in record numbers as the country struggles with polarised government, corruption, poverty and violence. With outside help, Tegucigalpa should revisit its heavy-handed security policies and enact judicial and electoral reforms to avert future upheaval.
President Daniel Ortega’s government has released almost all political prisoners held since Nicaragua’s April 2018 uprising. It should stay this course, honouring its other commitments to the opposition in national dialogue. International actors should promise consequences if the government drags its feet.
[Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega] has shown that political survival outweighs any possible internal or external pressure. It was a matter of life or death for him to ensure re-election.
The reduction of homicides [in El Salvador] seemed not to be due to government security strategy, but rather a gang decision.
What we are seeing is a quiet stifling of opposition [in Nicaragua].
A troubling aspect of Trump’s move to sever aid for Central America isn't its limited economic impact & counter-productive effects. It's the contradiction with long-standing U.S cooperation in the region.
The crux of the recent crisis at the [U.S.-Mexico] border is that there are fewer male migrants in their 20s or 30s making the crossing, and many more families, newborns, children, and pregnant women escaping life-or-death situations as much as poverty.
Un pacto de Estado por la paz en El Salvador [entre el Partido FMLN y Arena que] suponga un compromiso con los cinco ejes del Plan El Salvador Seguro [es un paso indispensable].
This virtual roundtable assesses the risks of turmoil and political violence, the aggravation of the country’s humanitarian predicament resulting in a surge of emigration and its significance for the region’s democratic backslide.
Originally published in World Politics Review
COVID-19’s economic devastation will likely make Mexico and the Northern Triangle an even more fertile ground for drug cartels and gangs. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2021 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to discourage iron fist policies and instead help design local security strategies.