Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Future of Honduras

Tomorrow, Honduras - tense and militarized - will hold elections for the president, mayors, and members of the national Congress.

What will tomorrow hold?

According to a Brazilian official, US president Obama in a letter to President Lula of Brazil said that the situation would “start from zero” after the election. I doubt that.

Honduras is probably already below zero. The economy is, I believe, experiencing negative growth as a result of the coup.

Hunger is increasing and is being used in the elections. For example, in the department of Intibucá last Sunday a rally of the one of the traditional party brought out lots of people, clogging the road – because the party was offering a meal!

But today I saw another side of the future of Honduras.

In 1994, Santa Rosa bishop, Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, a Belgian, Tony Limere, and others started Fondación Polígono which has hired and trained many young people in the production of loofah bath scrubs from paste, a local plant. The products are sold in Europe but they don’t, as yet, have a US outlet. (Hint!) The foundation also has been a site for the weekend classes of Maestro en Casa. Students listen to radio classes at home during the week and come to the campus of the foundation for reviews and tests on Saturday or Sunday.

Today 16 young men and women graduated from the high school program. (I use the term high school and junior high even though the system is not the same as the US system.) I went to the program, as a representative of Caritas. It was moving to see these young people and their proud parents come up and get their diploma. They come from poor families and would never have been able to get a high school degree if it weren’t for this program. Some of them come from villages that have no high school. Others have to work during the day and so cannot go to school.

Monseñor Santos began the celebration with Mass. Before the diplomas were given out, certificates and medals were given to the students in junior high and high school with the best grades. After one young man who is finishing junior high got his medal, it was announced that he has done this with a family and a full-time job from Monday to Saturday noon.

There’s one other aspect of this effort which is quite impressive. The program has received assistance from Irish Aid. But many of the costs of the education program are paid for from the profits of the loofah plant. As Monseñor noted, here’s a case of the poor helping the poor.

That’s what give me hope.

Speaking of hope, this morning I read an essay of Henri Nouwen, “Waiting for God,” in the collection of Advent, Watch for the Light, originally published by the Bruderhof but now an Orbis book.

Several sentences struck me:
“We can only really wait if what we are waiting for has already begun in us.”

“The secret of waiting is the faith that the seed has been planted, that something has begun. Active waiting means to be fully present to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.”
Nouwen is very clearly speaking about waiting in a religious sense. But I wonder if we cannot have hope – and wait in hope – if there are no signs of what we hope for present. I wonder if the present feeling here in Honduras may not be related to the fact that the presidential elections don’t offer the people much to really hope for. The two major parties leave a lot to be desired.

But the eight young women and eight young men who graduated this morning offer hope.


A few odds and ends:

El Tiempo is one of Honduras’ major newspapers. Its owner is one of the richest men in the country, Jaime Rosenthal. But, unlike the other papers which are totally in favor of the coup and the Micheletti regime, El Tiempo has been a little fairer in its reporting. Jaime Rosenthal even came out against the coup about a month ago. But still I was a little surprised at these paragraphs of an editorial from Friday, November 20:
12,000 soldiers, 14,000 policemen and 5,000 reservists are directly involved in the control of the polling centers and the electorate. The armed forces have asked mayors to compile lists of "enemies" of the electoral process in order to "neutralize" them. The Attorney General has ordered all 530 public prosecutors around the country to stand ready to prosecute "electoral delinquents."
How can one speak of free and fair elections under these conditions? What reasonable citizen would feel comfortable voting, along with his or her family, in a climate dominated by threats, fear and the lack of trust?
Soldiers and police have been very evident in the streets of Santa Rosa de Copán today. A group of soldiers seems to be guarding a public building just off the central plaza, presumably where the ballots are being held. But I saw army foot patrols this morning and several patrols of police – on foot, on motorcycle, and in a pick up – several times today.

No comments: