VP Pence’s clue to who’s behind migrant caravan suggests major implications; media silent

VP Pence’s clue to who’s behind migrant caravan suggests major implications; media silent
In Mexico, Oct 2018. CBC video

Left-wing pundits have been presenting the migrant caravan heading north through Mexico as a group of refugees from crime and chaos in Honduras, seeking asylum in countries to the north.  Because there is a high level of crime and a pattern of social breakdown in Honduras, this characterization, whether it’s fully accurate or not, can be seen as logical.  (In fact, I don’t doubt that at least some people in the caravan set out for that reason.)

There is good reason to question it, however, starting with the fact that the further it gets from Honduras, the bigger the caravan grows.  It seemed to double in size, to some 3,000, on its progress through Guatemala.  Guatemala is also a troubled nation, of course; perhaps a very large number of people there all decided spontaneously to join in and seek asylum from Mexico and the United States.

But since the caravan burst through the security fence at the Mexico-Guatemala border, it reportedly grew to somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 people.  On Monday night, a Mexican news outlet, El Universal, was quoted as saying the number was up to 14,000, although I haven’t seen confirmation of that.

Those in the caravan are being transported on charter buses (see below) and commercial trucks, moreover.  They’ve spent time, apparently for the cameras, walking together in a giant, thousands-strong column in Mexico, being escorted by Mexican security forces.  (If I were Mexico, and meant to let them through to points north, the armed escort is certainly what I would do.  The purpose would be to ensure they don’t disappear into my countryside.)

They’ve also arranged themselves with a front line of walkers holding up an oversize version of the Honduran flag as a banner, and appearing at various times with linked hands, wearing identical neon-green safety vests.

YouTube, Al Jazeera video

Some have given incendiary quotes about America and President Trump.  These people aren’t behaving like asylum-seekers.

Facilities have been prepared for them along their route. News reports on Monday said thousands more were expected to join the 5,000-7,000-person baseline caravan – which, as commentators noted, indicates that this is organized.  Some level of organization is obvious, if there’s prior information that a definable contingent is coming to join in.

Observers viewing the migrants face to face confirm what the video and photo evidence shows: the great majority of them are young men.  On-scene reporting is also now confirming that there are people from “all over the world,” as well as criminals in the migrant train.

If you check out a few of the videos posted to Twitter, you see a pattern emerging.  When the vehicles are loaded up, women and children get on the charter buses.  Those loading up on the trucks are virtually all men: some packed in on flatbeds, others piling into the backs of container vans.

Bigger than “Soros”

It has been widely reported that a U.S.-based activist, Irineo Mujica, was arrested with the caravan a few days ago.  Mujica has been organizing these caravans for years, and was unquestionably a participant.  (He’s now awaiting processing in a Mexican jail.)

Mujica’s activist group, Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People without Borders), has benefited from Soros-sourced funding, and it’s probable that Soros money is funding some aspects of the current caravan.

But Vice President Mike Pence made a more interesting disclosure Tuesday morning in an interview with the Washington Post.

Concentrating on Pence’s reference to “people of Middle Eastern descent” in the caravan, the Post itself hasn’t been making much of his latter point.  But other outlets have picked it up and highlighted it in the hours since.  The Latin American Herald Tribune did so here, for example (emphasis added):

VP Pence said during a live video interview with the Washington Post that it was Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez who had provided him with the information about Venezuela being involved in the polemical “caravan de migrantes.”

“The President of Honduras told me this (the caravan) was organized by leftist groups in Honduras and financed by Venezuela,” Pence said.

Pull the thread on that, and you see that it’s not only feasible but likely.

The Honduran angle

The Honduran planning aspect is really the least of it, although it’s important.  Before Pence’s interview, the Heritage Foundation had already posted an article on the Honduran planners, whose effort is overseen by opposition leader Bartolo Fuentes, an associate of former Honduran president Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya.

Zelaya is a socialist and long-time buddy of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, as well as the Castros in Cuba.  Zelaya tried to subvert the Honduran constitution in 2009 in order to become “president for life,” in the manner of Chavez and others blowing up constitutions in Central America, and was therefore removed from office by the congress and supreme court in a constitutional process.  President Obama backed Zelaya at the time, but Zelaya ended up being exiled and went to Venezuela for a while, not returning until 2011.

The political opposition in Honduras since 2011 has been largely defined around the party he formed when he returned, known colloquially as Libre.  Zelaya’s wife ran unsuccessfully as the Libre candidate in the 2013 election.  In 2017, Libre allied with another left-wing party (the Anticorruption Party) whose leader, broadcast personality Salvador Nasralla, ran against Juan Orlando Hernandez as the left-wing alliance candidate, and was expected by many to win the November 2017 election.  (Nasralla is a Honduran of Lebanese descent, unrelated, according to Lebanese media, to the Nasrallah family of Hezbollah.)

The results of the 2017 election were disputed, with both sides claiming victory and alleging the vote had been tampered with.  This is actually par for the course in Honduras, always meaningful but rarely more meaningful in one election than another.  The U.S. recognized the government formed by Hernandez, and the opposition then touted a theme that Trump was to blame for the electoral mess and the unfavorable outcome for Nasralla.

That theme has cropped up again in connection with the current caravan.  Interestingly, Lebanon News Network carried a story last week quoting Dunia Montoya, the activist wife of Bartolo Fuentes, to that effect:

Honduran human rights activist Dunia Montoya, who accompanied the caravan to the Guatemalan border and whose husband, Bartolo Fuentes, was detained in Guatemala after crossing with the group, said Trump’s tweet “seems like a further abusive comment on the situation in the country”.

“[Trump] is responsible for the situation in Honduras. The Trump government validated an illegitimate government,” she told Al Jazeera.

(Al Jazeera is funded by the government of Qatar and flogs Qatari themes in its reporting.  We’ll see why that’s important below.)

There is thus an indigenous animus against the U.S. and Trump in the Honduran opposition.  At Heritage, Ana Quintana emphasizes the connection of Fuentes and Zelaya to Venezuela, a point also highlighted in an op-ed on Monday at the Wall Street Journal.  Zelaya was a crony of Chavez for years, and fled to Chavez’s Venezuela when he was exiled in 2009.  There is no doubt about that connection.

But Pence’s claim is that Venezuela is financing the caravan.  Can that really be the case, for the economic basket-case the socialist regime in Caracas has become?

Of course it can – if we look beyond Maduro to his chief patrons in Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran.

The sponsor club

There is as little doubt about the availability of walking-around money for caravans as there is about the Zelaya-Maduro connection, once we take Venezuela’s patrons into account.

Russia and China have been shoveling billions into the Venezuelan regime for years.  This is a well-documented history, and resistant to U.S. sanctions (if still impeded by them).  Coming up with the money to pay the costs of the current migrant caravan is not the big trick here.

Moreover, Venezuela and Iran have had a special relationship for a number of years, one that has regularly excited security concerns for the U.S. and other regional nations.  A February 2018 report by Joseph Humire at Gatestone Institute contains this arresting information:

Strong evidence suggest that Venezuela used its immigration agency to provide Venezuelan identities and documents to several hundred, if not thousands, of Middle Easterners. Without proper vetting and verification measures in place, and a high degree of counterintelligence support, our regional allies will not know if Venezuelan refugees spilling across borders are legitimate refugees or members of a transregional clandestine network between Latin America and the Middle East.

[…]

Iran … can operate independently in Venezuela because it taps into a separate, more robust clandestine network that has been developing in Latin America for more than half a century.

Approximately 60% of the population of the city of As-Suwayda in southwestern Syria (pop. 139,000, according to the 2004 census) are Venezuelan-born dual citizens. Many more have arrived since 2009. The district of As-Suwayda (same name as the city) has been dubbed “Little Venezuela.” Estimates indicate that upwards of 300,000 Syrians from the As-Suwayda Governorate currently live halfway around the world in Venezuela. According to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, more than a million Syrians reside there. This Syria-Venezuela connection could represent a clandestine network managed by Iran and critical to the advancement of Chavez’s “Bolivarian revolution.”

This Syria-Venezuela demographic link fits a pattern of population-stuffing by Iran in Syria, widely reported by media of notably different editorial perspectives (see here and here as well).  The Venezuela link is in-character for Iran, and feasible – and, indeed, probably linked to an incident in 2015 in which Syrians infiltrated into the Americas by Hezbollah were caught in Honduras, apparently trying to get to the U.S. on fake (Greek) passports.

Whoever is ultimately paying for it, the nature of what is going on in the migrant caravan, organized by Honduran cronies of the Maduro regime, must pose the risk of such Iran-sponsored shenanigans involving people movements under false documentation.  It would be more surprising if there weren’t “Middle Easterners” in the caravan than if there were.

A pressure campaign on the United States

Once we have these factors, the timing of the migrant caravan tells its own story.  If we look at it as a move by Russia and Iran, in particular, it can be logically recognized as part of a campaign to attack U.S. interests on a broad front.  The motive is to increase the pressure on the Trump administration across the board, partly but significantly because Trump is shifting his strategy in Syria toward going for Tehran’s solar plexus by kicking Iran out of it.

And if it’s that, and not solely an instance of orchestrated “social justice” political pressure on the sanctity of borders in general (although it’s probably that as well), then we should adjust our ideas of how far it might go, and how dangerous it could get.

Consider that there is another prong of the geostrategic attack underway in Afghanistan.  Readers have probably seen headlines recently proclaiming woefully that “we’ve lost the war in Afghanistan.”  This theme seemed to erupt out of nowhere last week, right after the Taliban attacked a high-level meeting of military leaders at which the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army General Austin S. Miller, was present. Several top Afghan officials were killed.

What no one in the mainstream media has discussed, however, is how significant the support of Russia, China, and Iran has been to the Taliban over the last couple of years.  See herehereherehereherehereherehere, and here.  (The U.S. Treasury Department in fact added Iranian officials who’ve been providing support to the Taliban to the sanctions list this morning.  Iran has been backing the Taliban for a long time.)

The Taliban need no help plotting their strategy against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.  But outside patronage of the Taliban’s capabilities makes sustained attacks more likely, and campaigns of attack harder to deal with.

The purpose of Iran and Russia in focusing their support to the Taliban, and probably encouraging more – and more spectacular – attacks on U.S. forces and allies, would be to divert U.S. attention and resources from Syria, and increase political pressure at home from the appearance of overreach and failure.  In short, they’d be trying to flank the U.S. effort in Syria, as well as our related purposes in Iraq, Yemen, and other nearby places in the theater, at the political-strategic level.

In the likely event that Russia and Iran are backing the migrant caravan, they’re expanding this top-level flanking maneuver to the Western hemisphere, trying to bring strategically discombobulating pressure right to the border of the U.S. homeland.

As Howard Portnoy suggested on Monday, we can expect the caravan to move in whatever ways are necessary to get to our southern border by election day.  Some things to keep in mind, if the caravan isn’t deflected or dissipated, are that it would only serve Russia’s and Iran’s purposes for the situation to turn ugly between the U.S. and Mexico, and it’s no skin off their noses if “ugly” means kinetic and fatal.

We can’t count on them to act as a brake on what the caravan might eventually get up to.  Maybe it will merely show up in some as-yet undetermined numbers to demand “asylum.”  Maybe not.

In the meantime, as suggested above with the Al Jazeera quote, we can expect the “echo chamber” media to assiduously ignore links that would trace to Iran and Russia, and promote themes that pronounce doom for the United States on our current path, and make everything America’s fault, and Trump’s.

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J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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