Alianza Americas leads an educational tour in Washington, D.C., to elevate the reality of the climate crisis in northern Central America

Three journalists from Northern Central America participated in the speaking tour: Victor Peña from El Faro in El Salvador, Elsa Coronado from Plaza Pública in Guatemala, and Marcia Perdomo from Criterio.hn in Honduras

In Central America, the climate crisis is accelerating. It manifests through devastating hurricanes, uncontrolled forest fires, and relentless drought aggravated by economic activities such as mining, deforestation, and illegal fishing.  These extractive projects prioritize profit for a small segment of society at the expense of environmental deterioration, repression of those working to defend their territories, and accelerated forced population displacement.

 

In this context, freedom of the press is essential to inform the population and support accountability. Reporting freely on the factors and conditions that drive people from their homes and the responses they encounter is vital to understanding and measuring the impact of the climate crisis in Central America. 

 

From May 6 -10, Alianza Americas led a speaking tour in Washington D.C. featuring three journalists from Northern Central America: Victor Peña from El Faro in El Salvador, Elsa Coronado from Plaza Pública in Guatemala, and Marcia Perdomo from Criterio.hn in Honduras. Through informational exchanges and conversations, the tour elevated the challenges facing freedom of the press in the context of climate change and forced displacement. Alianza Americas facilitated meaningful dialogues with key stakeholders, ranging from members and staff of the U.S. Congress to advocacy groups and partner organizations. 

 

We met with Congressman Glenn Ivey (MD) and with the offices of Congressman Castro (TX), Congressman Connelly (VA), and Congressman Moskowitz (FL), as well as the offices of Senator Kaine (VA) and Senator Markey (MA). The journalists also had the opportunity to meet with our allies, Refugees International, Latin America Working Group and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and present to researchers and student groups at American University and the University of Maryland. Our member organizations CARECEN D.C. and Asociación Guatemaltecos Sin Fronteras also had a leading role in the delegation by hosting conversations between various sectors of the community. 


Meeting with Congressman Glen Ivey

Migration is a transnational issue, a perspective that Alianza Americas has been championing for 20 years. To fully grasp this, it is essential to understand the root causes of migration and to center the voices of people experiencing it. So often, discourse and policy on migration are centered on U.S. domestic policy, neglecting the international dimension. 

 

The speaking tour placed the work of renowned journalists on display to shed light on the people and experiences from the region, bringing human reality to the forefront and raising awareness of the critical role of press freedom. This shift in narrative resonated with policymakers and allies, sparking empathy, understanding, and the potential for a profound shift in policy conversations. This is why speaking tours are vital, and Alianza Americas is well-positioned to continue conducting them due to our deep understanding and relationships in the region.  By centering voices and platforming the experiences of both people reporting in the region and their subjects, we create the space for understanding and a shift in perspective. 

 

A window into the speaking tour…

Elsa Coronado, representing Guatemala’s Plaza Pública, focused on multifaceted issues, including justice, democracy, indigenous rights, and the ramifications of climate change. Her exploration of food insecurity in flood-ravaged regions like Polochic underscores the complex interplay between environmental degradation and socio-economic vulnerability. Her work brought to life the daily challenges faced by people plagued with newfound food insecurity as the flooding has destroyed their ability to sustain themselves.

 

Marcia Perdomo, hailing from Honduras’ Criterio.hn, evaluates the human rights implications of extractivist policies and industries. Her exposé on ZEDE Prospera, the anarchy-capitalist project that has been stealthily taking over 3% of an island in the Honduran Caribbean, and the proliferation of Employment and Economic Development Zones (ZEDEs is the acronym used in Spanish) in Honduras in general amplifies environmental and democratic concerns, highlighting the imperative for transparent and ethically sound governance. Her work asks the question: Who benefits from these projects? The answer to this lies far outside the Honduran borders. Yet the negative consequences, including the eroding of democracy, the right to informed consent, and environmental integrity, are imposed on vulnerable Honduran communities. 

 

Victor Peña, a photojournalist for El Faro, notes that the impact of tropical storms is increasingly challenging in El Salvador. Victor also navigates the intricate relationship of migration, gang violence, and political corruption in El Salvador and across Central America. His documentation of the erosion of public information under regimes like President Nayib Bukele in El Salvador emphasizes the critical role of press freedom in safeguarding democracy and informing the public. As misinformation proliferates, the imperative for a robust and independent press becomes ever more urgent.

 

The insights from the speaking tour on the interconnectedness of migration, climate change, and economic development illustrate that migration is a profoundly transnational issue. It goes far beyond what happens at the southern U.S. border and needs holistic, long-term solutions. The proposed Climate Displaced Persons Act, a promising framework, acknowledges the interplay between international relations, environmental policy, and forced migration, underlining the issue’s urgency. 

 

The tour and the work of Elsa, Marcia, and Victor explore the chokehold of vested interests on development agendas, perpetuating a cycle of exploitation and disenfranchisement. As investments prioritize profit over people, communities grapple with the dire consequences of extractive industries and ill-conceived projects that strip away their autonomy and democratic rights. The imperative for sustainable, community-centric development cannot be overstated, highlighting the need for a paradigm shift towards investments prioritizing human dignity and environmental integrity. 

 

At the heart of this discourse lies the fundamental question: What do the people affected by these issues genuinely desire, and what do they need to remain in their home countries? The overwhelming consensus is a concerted effort to bolster food security, foster environmental resilience through infrastructure investments to benefit communities and ensure access to vital information through a free and independent press. 

 

As part of civil society, we are tasked with holding our governments accountable for charting a course toward a more equitable, sustainable, and just future by addressing the root causes of migration, upholding the principles of democracy, and promoting environmental stewardship. The tour to Washington, D.C., created an integral space for informational exchanges with people in power. It allowed us to bring the human impact to policy conversations on migration and development. 

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