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Presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador Discuss Child Migrants at the OAS

  July 24, 2014

The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) today received the Presidents of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina; Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández; and El Salvador, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, in a protocolary meeting in which they expressed the points of view of their countries on the situation of the unaccompanied children who migrate from Central America to the United States.

Secretary General of the OAS

The Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, welcomed the Presidents to a special meeting of the Organization, held at the institution in Washington, DC, and said that “we know that the reason for your visit to the United States and to the OAS is not a happy one, and that is why I would like to share with you the sympathy and the solidarity with which the states of the Americas recognize and confront the very serious problem of the migration of unaccompanied children.”

In his speech, Secretary General Insulza congratulated the Central American leaders for “the serious and attentive disposition with which you have addressed this very serious problem,” which he called a “sign of the maturity of our nations that will not go unnoticed.” He added that “this is an issue on which the community of the Americas has united with its friends from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador,” he added, as shown in the Declaration on the issue that the OAS Permanent Council approved by acclamation in its meeting on Wednesday.

In addition, the OAS leader recognized “the willingness of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, to address the problem in a constructive manner,” which he said “we hope results in a due process and in which voices urging that the problem be addressed as a question of national security are not heard.” Immigration, said the OAS leader, “has been and continues to be fundamental in the building of this nation,” and ultimately people from the countries of the Americas have played an important role in that sense. “When we ask therefore for humanitarian treatment, we are not asking for a handout, we are asking for recognition of those who have made an important contribution in recent decades to the progress of this country,” he concluded.

President of El Salvador

The President of El Salvador, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, thanked the OAS for the adoption of the Declaration and called on the international community in general to deal with the problem from an integral perspective. “The protection of human rights of the child migrants is a high priority issue for the Government of El Salvador,” he added.

The Salvadoran leader said this is a humanitarian crisis that affects five countries - El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the United States - that must unite in their efforts to provide a joint solution to the problem, in which each country assumes its part of the responsibility and always keeping in mind the rights and wellbeing of the minors.

President Sánchez Cerén said the migratory phenomenon arises from the lack of opportunities in Central America, which makes necessary, in his judgment, agreement on an agenda for economic development, and also “firm combating of organized crime, narcotrafficking and the people who traffic in children.” Moreover, he asked that the OAS, through the Committee on Migration Issues and the Inter-American Program for the Promotion and Protection of the Human Rights of Migrants, Including Migrant Workers and their Families, play an important role on the issue.

President of Guatemala

The President of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina, emphasized in his speech that the situation of the unaccompanied child migrants constitutes “a crisis that should be resolved with a humanitarian vision and a vision of human rights.” “I am personally convinced that the crisis, the migration of the children is multi-causal,” he said, and mentioned among the reasons for it the expectations of an immigration reform in the United States and the violence generated by narcotrafficking, among others.

The Guatemalan leader explained that the number of child migrants from his country began to increase in 2012, and that it has skyrocketed since then. However, recently the trend has changed, said President Perez Molina: “Fortunately, with the actions we three countries have taken together, the news has begun to get better every day,” and cited data from the United States Border Patrol that show a fall in the number of child migrants in the last two weeks.

The Declaration of the Permanent Council, said President Perez Molina, in reference to the document approved by the political body of the OAS, is a show of “your support, your solidarity,” and added that it “strengthens us so that we can continue to take the actions that we must as countries to resolve this situation.” “We believe that if we can resolve this humanitarian crisis, and I have faith that we are on the path to doing so, we can in the medium and long term resolve the root problems behind it,” said the Guatemalan President.

President of Honduras

The President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, said the official meeting of the Permanent Council is important not only for his country, El Salvador and Guatemala, but "it's important for humanity, because it is a true tragedy what has happened with this phenomenon that has overflowed." President Hernandez thanked the OAS for the Declaration on the subject and also thanked Secretary General Insulza for traveling to the country last week to participate in an international conference that addressed the issue.

The Honduran leader said the crisis “shows that security in Central America and the United States is closely linked," and called on U.S. political leaders to take into account that a violent Central America as a result of drugs, permeated by drug trafficking and poverty, is a problem “not only for the Central America itself but also for the United States." In this regard, he highlighted that most cities from which Honduran children emigrate are located on drug trafficking routes.

President Hernandez said the "humanitarian emergency has highlighted the need to agree a roadmap to resolve the critical situation in the southern U.S. border, the problems generated in the transit countries and the causes of this phenomenon." In this spirit, he continued, "we are working on a plan between the United States and Central America, but it is essential to attack the root problems and this means to engage everyone, creating opportunities, being strong against ‘coyotes,’ (smugglers), to be effective in taking care of our borders, and of course, accepting the co-responsibility."

Chair of the Permanent Council

The Chair of the Permanent Council and Permanent Representative of Saint Lucia to the OAS, Sonia Johnny, highlighted that the Hemisphere is facing “a problem of utmost urgency,” and warned that “it’s not only a concern for certain countries, nor it is only an issue of security, rather is a humanitarian crisis that calls on us for urgent solutions.” Ambassador Johnny said “this is a complex situation that warrants comprehensive solutions. It is a crisis which concerns us all to which we have to find a solution which is of interest to all of us.

The Declaration, read today by the Chair of the Council states that “the migration of children and adolescents not accompanied by their parents constitutes one of the most glaring manifestations of social exclusion and the lack of protection of their human rights.” It also expresses “solidarity with the governments of the region, so that the problem of unaccompanied migration of children is addressed from a humanitarian perspective that ensures the wellbeing and respectful treatment of the children and that allows for family reunification where appropriate.”

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video of the event is available here.

The audio of the event is available here.

The B-Roll of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-320/14