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America’s cocaine habit fueled its migrant crisis

And it’s destroying Guatemala and Honduras.

The US is facing mass migration along its southern border with Mexico. Thousands of people from Central America, especially Guatemala and Honduras, are fleeing their home countries, taking dangerous journeys north through Mexico, to claim asylum in the US.

But while today’s migrant caravans are new, the violence sending migration flows north has been building for decades.

One of the main sources of that violence is cocaine routes, and their damage can be traced back to the 1970s, when US users were spending tens of billions of dollars on cocaine annually. To prevent the growing influx of the drug, the US cracked down on the most popular cocaine route, the one that brought shipments from Colombia to Miami through the Caribbean. As a result, the cartels shifted their routes toward Mexico and Central America, triggering a damaging cycle of violence fueled by criminal organizations, corrupt governments, and “iron fist” policies supported by the US.

Watch the above video to learn how these routes are impacting Central America. You can find this video and all of Vox’s Atlas series on YouTube. And if you’re interested in supporting our video journalism, you can become a member of the Vox Video Lab on YouTube.