Americans should cheer instead of lament the arrival of tens of thousands of migrant children at their doorstep. It means that the people of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico still believe in the “American Dream.” This historic opportunity to revive the idea of the United States as a land of opportunity should not be squandered.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the children and youth of Central America took up arms with their families to combat the violent dictatorships which ruled their countries propped up by the U.S. government. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians died in the civil wars which wreaked havoc in the region.
The grassroots demands for popular democracy were eventually defeated. Guatemala today is ruled by a retired military general, Otto Pérez Molina, who was a leader of the Kaibil death squads during the civil war. Honduras is governed by the political coalition which came to power in 2009 when the democratically elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was deposed in a coup d'état validated by the U.S. government. In 2012, the old authoritarian Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI) returned to power in Mexico andhas governed with an iron fist fully supported by the Obama administration. El Salvador and Nicaragua have presidents nominally sympathetic to the popular movements of the past, but in practice their policies have come up far short of expectations.
Instead of resenting and repudiating the U.S. for its role in the defeat of the democratic principles which their parents struggled for, the new generation of Central Americans has decided to risk life and limb to travel north with a message of peace. It would be an enormous mistake to respond to this gesture with a slap in the face...
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