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This former taxi driver fled Honduras after gangs tried to take his life. Now in Canada, he says the ‘migrant caravan’ is misunderstood

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VANCOUVER—Standing with a slouched posture, dressed in a black hoodie and jeans, he looks no different from anyone else in Surrey, B.C. — but nearly five years ago, this husband and father found himself stranded, beaten and alone in Mexico.

After a fraught journey from Honduras with his wife and son, where the family had been separated by Mexican authorities, the man was about to be put on a bus that would ship him back to the Honduran border — back to mortal danger — for the fourth time.

This Honduran migrant escaped gang violence in his home country before arriving in Canada as a refugee and finally settling in Vancouver. He still has family who have fled Honduras with the so-called migrant caravan hoping to cross the border from Mexico into the U.S.
This Honduran migrant escaped gang violence in his home country before arriving in Canada as a refugee and finally settling in Vancouver. He still has family who have fled Honduras with the so-called migrant caravan hoping to cross the border from Mexico into the U.S.  (Jesse Winter / StarMetro)

So he made a run for it.

With nothing but the clothes on his back, he ended up wandering through farming towns, where he talked to local families who showed him the way to the border.

“It was 10 days without any food, drinking water from those animal troughs,” the former refugee said. The migrant has been granted anonymity by StarMetro due to the risk that his remaining family in Honduras could be targeted.

Eventually, he made it into the U.S. and later journeyed to Canada, where he was reunited with his family and given refugee status. He’s now a construction worker in Surrey, B.C., with a side job driving a delivery truck.

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But his worries aren’t over. His brother, sister-in-law and several friends are back at the U.S.-Mexico border, part of the so-called “migrant caravan”: large groups of people travelling together to claim asylum. Several thousand more Central American migrants arrived at the border earlier this week in the midst of a government shutdown.

The mass of asylum seekers has been maligned by U.S. President Donald Trump and conservative media outlets as a mob attempting to bully its way to status in the U.S. But migrant advocates say the movement should be rightly considered an “exodus” of victims fleeing poverty and extreme violence in their home countries — and as the Honduran man knows, they are safer travelling in numbers than making the journey alone.

Less than a decade ago, he was trying to make it as a taxi driver in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. His wife’s job with the government paid little or sometimes not at all due to political instability. With her and a young son to think of, he took on many routes and even ran a delivery service.

Then the extortion began.

“It’s really difficult. When I talk about it I get chicken skin,” he told StarMetro.

“One of my taxis was on a specific route,” he explained, describing a path many taxis took between two popular points in the city. “One day this crew showed up. They said, ‘OK, if you guys want to continue working this specific point, you have to pay 400, 500 bucks every week, and if you don’t you’re going to get killed.’”

He said crime ran rampant in Honduras, suggesting police officers were co-operating with the gangs in their extortion schemes. There was little he could do to prevent the threats, despite filing multiple complaints with local police.

A report by the Immigration & Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) on a 2017 information-gathering mission to Honduras found high levels of criminal activity in the country and a “lack of police presence on the streets” in Tegucigalpa, specifically.

It said gang turf is “defined by … invisible borders” and that anyone attempting to cross those borders could be killed. The IRB report also found that the high price of extortion fees is one of the central reasons people are being displaced from their homes and neighbourhoods.

The former driver described how the gangs would employ innocent-looking decoys, such as pregnant women or senior citizens, to hail taxis and then direct them to locations where gang members would grab the car for their own purposes, like delivering drugs or weapons.

“They pulled me out of my car and put me into the trunk,” he said. “They drove around, they left the car whenever they felt like it. I was there for hours.”

"It was 10 days without any food, drinking water from those animal troughs," the former refugee said about his time in Mexico.
« It was 10 days without any food, drinking water from those animal troughs, » the former refugee said about his time in Mexico.  (Jesse Winter/StarMetro Vancouver)

Luckily, someone walking by heard him and opened up the trunk. But after the first incident, it happened all over again: He was forced into the trunk and left there for hours until he could be rescued.

It happened “many more times,” he said — after five, he lost track — over the course of nearly six years as a taxi driver. Even so, he felt “lucky” that he wasn’t significantly hurt.

“There are many people killed that way,” he said. The IRB report found that gangs used women as “bait to kill targeted persons.”

The man tried to get into other types of work but had already been watched and targeted by the gangs, who were set on extorting him for money whenever he passed through their turf checkpoints. One day, he said, a gang member came to his house and fired bullets near his legs — a way to instill fear in him and other taxi drivers, and maintain control over the neighbourhood.

Finally, he took his family and fled to the Mexican border with less than $100 between them.

But his troubles were not over. After attempting to make an asylum claim in Mexico, the family was rejected and deported back to the Honduran border on buses filled with other hopeful refugees. Undeterred, the man and his family went back to Mexico — and were then deported by bus a second and finally a third time.

Byron Cruz, an organizer with migrant-rights organization Sanctuary Health in Vancouver, said the man’s story is not uncommon among migrants from Honduras and other countries in Central America.

“Ninety per cent of stories I hear from people coming from Honduras are like this,” he said. “Most people will think it’s like a movie.”

He said that gangs have “complete control,” and violence, kidnapping and extortion are common.

Jerry Flores, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, said the man’s experience in Mexico was normal as well.

“It’s very typical for Central Americans to have to go through Mexico and to have to navigate life undocumented,” Flores said.

On their third attempt in 2013, the man said he was separated from his wife and son by Mexican authorities and targeted again by a Mexican gang for extortion. He said that, after being beaten near death and managing to escape, he started out on foot to the U.S. border in Arizona.

But with the ongoing detainment and deportation of migrants encouraged by Trump, the man didn’t feel safe in the U.S. and found it difficult to find work, often picking up recycling on the side of the road to exchange for small change.

While he had no direct communication with his wife and son, he heard from family members still in Honduras that they had made it into the U.S., up to Washington State and then into Canada. So he set off on the same journey in 2014.

Less than a month later, he walked across the Peace Arch park to get to Canada. That allowed him to exploit a loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement, which compels asylum seekers in Canada or the U.S. to apply for status at the first port of entry of the first “safe” country they arrive at. By crossing over the park, he avoided going through U.S. or Canadian customs and was able to claim asylum in Canada.

The agreement has been widely criticized by migrant advocates, due to the differences in the way Canada and the U.S. handle asylum claims. A report from the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. in 2017 found that a majority of refugee claimants in the province had crossed over the Peace Arch border in the same way.

Now reunited with his wife and son and having recently obtained permanent resident status, the man still worries for family and friends who travelled with the new wave of migrants to the border and are stranded in Mexico, like he was. Every week or so, he gets a phone message from them, updating him on what’s happening at the border.

He said that with the levels of violence and poverty on the rise in Honduras and elsewhere in Central America, travelling with other migrants seems like the best option to many — something news stories don’t necessarily communicate.

“There is safety in numbers,” he said. “Some people might not want to go alone, but if there are lots of people with them then it is safer.”

He predicts more people will arrive in 2019, with many eventually claiming asylum in Canada due to the political climate in the United States.

Cruz said that there will “almost definitely” be more waves of migrants from Central America seeking asylum in Canada over the next several months.

But Cruz insists that the language around the “caravan” be changed in order to better communicate the purpose for their journey. On a recent trip to Toronto, he met with other representatives from migrant support organizations who agreed that the word “exodus” is more appropriate to the situation.

Migrants from poor Central American countries,  mostly Hondurans, moving towards the United States in hopes of a better life, are seen after arriving to Tijuana, Mexico.
Migrants from poor Central American countries, mostly Hondurans, moving towards the United States in hopes of a better life, are seen after arriving to Tijuana, Mexico.  (GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/GETTY)

“Instead of calling it a caravan, we are calling it an exodus, because a caravan has a connotation of people who are coming happily,” he said. “But people have been pushed by extreme poverty and the environmental situation in the country.”

The conservative news media in the U.S. and comments from the American president have also contributed to widespread misunderstandings of why migrants have arrived en masse at the border, said Flores, the University of Toronto professor.

“The U.S. president has been arguing people coming to the border are gang members … These are alternative facts, if you will,” Flores told StarMetro.

He said right-wing media outlets are pushing the same narrative.

“There was this huge uproar from the U.S. media … framing them as criminals and terrorists,” Flores said.

What those stories miss is that there are few options for Honduran migrants at this point, he said. After a 2009 coup removed then-president Manuel Zelaya, the ruling party suspended a number of civil protections, leading to a rise in human-rights violations, according to the Center for the Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture.

Flores said such events have occurred throughout Central America over the past few decades, resulting in widespread political instability, poverty and violence.

He said that humanitarian outreach, instead of harsher border protection, would be a better way to address the issue. Instead of arms, the U.S. should focus on sending aid.

“For example, when there were stories of Donald Trump sending down 5,000 soldiers … they could have sent 5,000 troops to process applications instead,” Flores said, adding that special attention should be paid to people coming from marginalized groups, like LGBTQ people, who experience additional discrimination and violence.

Flores added that the United States’ involvement in the situation, by refusing to condemn the Honduran coup, adds to its responsibility.

In the meantime, the Honduran man keeps checking his phone, waiting for a call from his brother’s family. He’s hopeful that someone, somewhere, will come to help them.

“The Honduran government doesn’t take responsibility, Mexico doesn’t take responsibility, the U.S. doesn’t take responsibility … They are stuck there.”

Cherise Seucharan is a Vancouver-based reporter covering health and safety/youth. Follow her on Twitter: @CSeucharan



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These US entities partnered with the Wuhan Institute of Virology — time for a criminal investigation?

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(Natural News) The Wuhan Institute of Virology from which the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is believed to have “escaped” has a number of questionable partnerships that are worth looking into in light of the pandemic.

Most of them are universities, including the University of Alabama, the University of North Texas, and Harvard University. There is also the EcoHealth Alliance, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Wildlife Federation.

While the relationships between these entities and the Wuhan Institute of Virology may be completely innocent, there is no way to really say for sure without a proper investigation. And this is exactly what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is calling for, as is the nation of Australia.

Pompeo and the folks down under, along with millions of Americans, would really like to know the true origins of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). An increasing number of people simply are not buying the narrative that the novel virus originated in bat soup at a Chinese wet market, and this even includes mainstream media outlets like Fox News.

The only way to really determine what was going on at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and who else might have been involved. is to open the place up for an international investigation. But communist China is against this, of course, accusing Australia of “petty tricks” and collusion with the United States.

“Overnight, I saw comments from the Chinese Foreign Ministry talking about a course of activity with respect to Australia who had the temerity to ask for investigation,” Pompeo is quoted as saying in response to China’s aggression against a proposed investigation.

“Who in the world wouldn’t want an investigation of how this happened to the world?” he added.

As the U.S. aims to get back on track economically speaking, Pompeo believes that now is the time to hold communist China, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and whoever else may have been involved accountable for unleashing this pandemic on the world.

“Not only American wealth, but the global economy’s devastation as a result of this virus,” Pompeo further stated. “There will be a time for this. We will get that timing right.”

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New U.S. analysis finds that lab in Wuhan, China was “most likely” origin of coronavirus release

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(Natural News) While American Leftists and most of the Democrat Party continue to serve as apologists for the Chinese Communist regime over its role in creating and then perpetuating the coronavirus pandemic, a new U.S. government analysis concludes that COVID-19 “most likely” escaped from a lab near Wuhan city.

The Washington Times reports that the analysis cataloged evidence linking the outbreak to the Wuhan lab and has found that other explanations for the origins of the virus are not as credible.

The paper reported:

The document, compiled from open sources and not a finished product, says there is no smoking gun to blame the virus on either the Wuhan Institute of Virology or the Wuhan branch of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, both located in the city where the first outbreaks were reported.

However, “there is circumstantial evidence to suggest such may be the case,” the paper says.

“All other possible places of the virus’ origin have been proven to be highly unlikely,” said the report, a copy of which was obtained by the Times.

ChiCom officials have claimed that the virus’ origin is unknown. However, Beijing initially stated that coronavirus came from animals at a “wet market” in Wuhan where exotic meats are butchered and sold in disgusting conditions.

Chinese officials claim that COVID-19 went from bats to animals sold in the market last year, then infected humans.

U.S. intelligence officials have increasingly dismissed that explanation, however, as attention has begun to focus on evidence suggesting that Chinese medical researchers were working with coronavirus in the country’s only Level 4 facility, which is in Wuhan.

U.S. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that intelligence agencies are investigating whether the virus escaped from a lab or was the result of a naturally occurring outbreak, but that analysts have ruled out reports that COVID-19 was manmade.

‘The most logical place to investigate the virus origin has been completely sealed off’

“At this point, it’s inconclusive, although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural,” the general said on April 14, “but we don’t know for certain.”

The analysis said that the wet market explanation does not ring true because the first human diagnosis of coronavirus was made in someone who had no connection to the wet market in question. And according to Chinese reports, no bats were sold at that particular market.

At the same time, several questionable actions and a growing paper trail provide clues that the virus actually escaped from a lab, even as China begins to clamp down on those information streams.

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The biggest media lies about the coronavirus: Origins, treatments and vaccines

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(Natural News) If there is one thing that most everyone can agree on concerning the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is the fact that there is no shortage of conflicting information out there about the nature of it. And the mainstream media is certainly doing its part to steer the narrative as part of a larger agenda, using plenty of misinformation along the way.

The following are among the most commonly parroted lies about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that aim to distort the facts and deceive you into believing falsehoods about this pandemic:

Media LIE: The virus is not man-made

From the very beginning of this thing, the official narrative was that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) came from a Chinese wet market where bats and other “exotic” animals are sold as meat. But the world later learned that it actually more than likely “escaped” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The mainstream media and social media platforms went nuts trying to censor this information and even called it  “fake news.” But eventually it became undeniable that bat soup was not responsible for spreading the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) around Wuhan and eventually to the rest of the world – hence why we continue to call it the Wuhan coronavirus rather than just COVID-19.

We have even seen attempts by the media machine at making the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) a racial issue because there are supposedly more “people of color” coming down with it than people with fair skin, which further detracts attention away from the source of this virus.

Media LIE: Hydroxychloroquine is extremely dangerous and doesn’t work

The minute that President Donald Trump announced that hydroxychloroquine may be an effective, and very inexpensive, remedy for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), the mainstream media immediately began decrying this claim as fake news, even though Anthony Fauci himself praised hydroxychloroquine back in 2013 under Barack Obama as being some type of “miracle cure” for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

There have even been studies conducted that were designed to intentionally smear the drug as both ineffective and dangerous, though one in particular purposely left out zinc, which appears to be a critical co-factor in supporting the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine – in other words, politics as usual.

Media LIE: Only a vaccine can save us from coronavirus

Many politicians and public health officials are parroting the lie that the only way America can come out of lockdown and go back to “normal” is to get vaccinated with some future vaccine for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that does not even yet exist. A vaccine, we are repeatedly told, is the only thing, or perhaps some new “blockbuster” antiviral drug, that can cure the world of this scourge and make everything happy and wonderful once again.

Meanwhile, not a peep is being made about things like intravenous (IV) high-dose vitamin C, which is being successfully used in other countries to stem the tide of infections without the need for new drugs and vaccines.

By omission, nutrition is pointless

Speaking of natural approaches to overcoming the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that are being systematically ignored by the mainstream media and most in politics, have you heard anyone mention the importance of nutrition in all of this? We did not think so, and this is intentional.

Regular readers of this site over the years should know by now that the single-most important thing you need to do to stay healthy besides exercising regularly is to feed your body the nutrition it needs to naturally ward off illnesses, including those associated with the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

Research compiled by the Lewin Group reveals that nutritional remedies such as calcium, vitamin D, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and more all play a critical role in fortifying the immune system, which, if properly nourished, should have little problem fending off disease.

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