UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The president of Honduras blamed the flight of migrant children to the U.S. on a drug war his country didn't start and demanded the world pay as much attention to displaced Central American families as it does to those terrorized by wars elsewhere.
In an impassioned speech before the U.N. General Assembly, President Juan Orlando Hernandez railed against international drug policies he said lunge incoherently between "proposals based on legalizing drugs on the one hand" and others "based on waging a ceaseless war on all fronts without regard to the costs."
He urged the world to agree on an international strategy and proposed creating "a multinational force" to fight drug trafficking cartels "just like the one that this morning, President Obama asked for to confront radical fundamentalists."
"Today, we talk about what is happening in other regions to children, young people, families displaced by war, violence and radical extremists," he said. "But little is said about the situation of thousands of families in the northern triangle of Central America."
Tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors crossed from Mexico to the U.S. earlier this year, in an unprecedented surge. Many were from Honduras, which has the world's highest homicide rate for a country not at open war. Some were fleeing recruitment attempts and death threats from vicious gangs or trying to reunite with family members. But some were also drawn by confusion over U.S. immigration policies and rumors that once in the U.S., they would be allowed to stay.
Hernandez blamed their flight "on violence caused by drug trafficking through our territory, poverty and lack of opportunities."
"What is the difference between those displaced by violence in other regions and those displaced by violence generated by drug traffickers and organized crime?" Hernandez said. "The difference is that those displaced, thousands of families, boys and girls, are knocking on the doors of the U.S."
He said Honduras, a key transit point for drugs, has been caught in the middle of drug-producing nations and major consumers, such as the U.S.
"Our territory is now one of the principle battlegrounds of a war that is not ours. A war that we didn't start, whose strategies are decided outside Honduras," he said.
Weeks before he was elected president in January, Hernandez, as president of Congress, pushed through legislation to create a new military police force that has taken over many security duties in Honduras. His government also extradited a suspected drug trafficker to the U.S. for the first time, a move the U.S. said was a sign Hernandez intends to crack down on drug trafficking.