Honduras' political divide sparks exodus -migrants

As scores of Hondurans make the northern trek to the U.S. border in search of a better life… many telling Reuters, they are fleeing a government that plays favorites - rewarding supporters and all too often ignoring everyone else.

JOSE, HONDURAN MIGRANT:"We do not come here because we want to, but because of our needs. Unfortunately, no one understands this. The government does not understand poor people's situation. Do you understand? In what way does our government help us? If our government supported us, we would not be walking here.”

Whether it's food, government jobs or other benefits... Many migrants say it’s the supporters of Honduras’ ruling National Party who receive the most.

An unfair distribution – made worse during a recent hunger crisis caused by the pandemic and two hurricanes last year.

Former National Party lawmaker, Raul Pineda Alvarado:

"They prefer to mask political activity through those social aid programs, which involve the daily reality of the ruling party's voters. They give them the water filter, a decent roof over their head, the cement floor, the bonus. We are a clientelist populist organization."

The patronage system in Honduras is known as "clientelism," and according to migrants and policy specialists, it helps fuel migration to the U.S. by breeding cynicism among those deprived of public benefits.

The conservative National Party, since winning an election in the wake of a 2009 military coup, has built a formidable political machine that wields great influence over the lives of Honduras' 10 million people.

The National Party routinely uses its control of government institutions and funds to reward supporters, punish opponents and influence elections, according to Reuters interviews with two dozen current and former government officials, opposition politicians, anti-corruption investigators and others.

But the ruling party denies playing favorites and said such allegations are typical of President Juan Orlando Hernández’s opponents.

Executive Secretary for the National Party, Fernando Anduray:

“The database we use to grant assistance is a database that is justified by the socioeconomic status of many families that do not necessarily belong to the National Party.”

Honduran resident Jose Alfredo Calix disagrees:

“… if I were waiting for help from the government, I would die of hunger.”

A 2019 report by the Latin American Public Opinion Project at Vanderbilt University found Honduras had the second-highest level of clientelism in Latin America, after the Dominican Republic.

The study found that more than 18% of Honduran voters surveyed in 2014 said they were offered a gift, favor or benefit in exchange for their vote in the presidential election.

The survey, however, did not state which political parties made the alleged offers.

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