Will this make a difference, I wondered. Leaving aside questions of whether most nations will recognize the election, I am not sure it will make a major difference for what I do – at least in the short term.
I recalled how the church in our diocese has been critical of the government since I’ve been here. Though the church saw some of Zelaya’s initiatives as worthy - e.g., raising the minimum wage, that didn’t stop the church from being critical of the corruption found in both parties, the lack of responsiveness of both parties to the needs of the poor, the close ties of many members of congress with special interests and the economic elite, and the bureaucracy that rewards people for belonging to a party rather than for their qualifications and service to the people.
I recalled how Caritas program for citizenship participation works on the local level, empowering the local civil society to demand transparency and foster participation. Responding to the crisis, Caritas will begin a series of “schools for popular formation” in the seven deaneries of the diocese but this is, in some ways, more an extension of the work that has been done in three municipalities.
But will the election really affect the lives of the poor in our area – the poorest diocese of the country? I have my doubts. But it would have probably been the same if Elvin Santos had won.
The problem is the structural injustice which seems endemic here, where the desires of the rich are more important than the needs of the poor. This is in direct contradiction to what Pope John Paul II said several years ago in Canada, “The needs of the poor have priority over the desires of the rich.”
As I reflect on this I recall part of Padre Fausto’s homily yesterday. He asked, rhetorically, if there would be so many candidates for Congress here in Honduras if they were paid the minimum salary.
He also mentioned, referring to the Second Vatican Council’s 1965 Constitution of the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes, 66), the need “to remove as quickly as possible the immense economic inequalities which now exist.”
That concern was echoed, 44 years later, in Pope Benedict XVI’s address on November 16 to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:
In the current situation there is a continuing disparity in the level of development within and among nations that leads to instability in many parts of the world, accentuating the contrast between poverty and wealth. This no longer applies only to models of development, but also to an increasingly widespread perception concerning food insecurity, namely the tendency to view hunger as structural, an integral part of the socio-political situation of the weakest countries, a matter of resigned regret, if not downright indifference. It is not so, and it must never be so! To fight and conquer hunger it is essential to start redefining the concepts and principles that have hitherto governed international relations, in such a way as to answer the question: what can direct the attention and the consequent conduct of States towards the needs of the poorest? The response must be sought not in the technical aspects of cooperation, but in the principles that lie behind it: only in the name of common membership of the worldwide human family can every people and therefore every country be asked to practise solidarity, that is, to shoulder the burden of concrete responsibilities in meeting the needs of others, so as to favour the genuine sharing of goods, founded on love.The continuing and growing gap between rich and poor is not some Marxist ideology about class struggle. It is a reality here in Honduras - as in many places in the world, including the US. It has been a continuing ethical concern that is not being addressed. But I don't think it will be addressed until the haves support the struggles of the have-nots to change structures of injustice.(Italics mine)