Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Commenting on the news

There’s a lot happening in other parts of Honduras that will probably affect us here in western Honduras in very subtle ways. I usually don’t like to write my blog posts on what I don’t personally experience, but I’ve decided to note what I have been reading and hearing since it affects our lives.

Repression of Land Movements

There has been a lot of news in Honduras about an area near the northern coast, Bajo Aguán where 3500 families have taken over some land and before the coup were in the process of negotiating control of the land with the government. The situation there has been very conflictive and campesinos have been killed, wounded, and taken captive by army and police forces. They have also been accused of being armed by outside forces, whereas all that I’ve read indicates their commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. They are in negotiation with Pepe Lobe on the land but it seems to be a stalemate. It is not beside the point that three major wealthy landowners are contesting the campesinos' claim on the land.

This past weekend about 3000 security forces were sent to the area, supposedly to deal with crime and drug trafficking, but to many it seems to be an effort to coerce the campesinos to accept a deal that gives them two hectares – about 3 acres, but they have to work one of the hectares in African palm which they must sell to the big companies. Sounds like a sweetheart deal for the big palm oil dealers who get the product without the risk. (Does this sound like some deals that farmers in the US make with big poultry and hog companies?)

Militarization of Crime Prevention

Yesterday, the president declared that he was sending the army out on the streets to police crime. Honduras is the second or third most violent country in the Americas and violent crime seems to be growing here, especially in the cities, due – I believe – to drug trafficking and gangs. Here in Santa Rosa de Copán the situation is fairly safe, though there are concerns in several departments (states) in the area about the presence of drug trafficking, even involving public authorities.

Something needs to be done but there is concern that this is a further militarization of the country that remembers the role of the military in the June 28, 2009, coup as well as in the massive human rights violations in the 1980s.

Yet I am not sure that this militarization of policing is really a new policy. During Holy Week I saw a lot of military with the police on the roads here. But I had been seeing more military troops out on the streets here. Nothing new, just justified by the government.

A “Truth” Commission that will hide the truth

In accord with the various agreements made last year at the prompting of the US, a Truth Commission is to be set up, but, according to the press, the report to be sealed for ten years. What purpose does such a commission serve? The truth will not be made known but covered up, hidden.

Today’s Gospel reading of the encounter of Jesus and Nicodemus has this fascinating line: “Whoever does wrong hates the light and doesn’t come to the light for fear that his deeds will be shown as evil.” (John 3: 20) No comment.

These works of martyred Guatemalan bishop Juan Gerardi reveal the way that Honduras should go – making the truth known.
To open ourselves to the truth and to bring ourselves face to face with our personal and collective reality is not an option that can be accepted or rejected. It is an undeniable requirement of all people and all societies that seek to humanize themselves and to be free.
Bishop Gerardi, auxiliary bishop of Guatemala City, spearheaded the work of the Catholic Church in Guatemala to document human rights violations which resulted in a major four-volume report, “The Recovery of Historical Memory: Guatemala: Never Again.” Two days after a report was released he was killed, April 26, 1998, for bringing the truth to light!

A final note on sources

It is very hard to keep up on what is happening here. The newspapers are notoriously partisan as are many of the radio stations. I don’t listen as much as I could to radio stations such as the Jesuit-sponsored Radio Progreso or the Santa Rosa diocesan radio stations, partly because it takes a fair amount of concentration to really understand what is being said. I do look at newspapers, blogs, and reports on line, but there is only so much time I should give to them. I also try to talk with people about what is happening.

So what would I recommend to folks who want good information with decent commentary? For me the most helpful source is the blog of two Berkeley anthropologists, Honduras Culture and Politics, especially since it provides perceptive analyses that I trust and avoids incendiary language and subjective commentaries. Also, from June 28, 2009, the day of the coup, until very recently Charles II wrote a daily précis of what he read on Honduras which I found most helpful on a blog, Mercury Rising, he shares with several other folks. He continues to post on Honduras at least once a week. Adrienne Pine is another anthropologist whose blog Quotha provides another, very critical perspective on Honduras.

There are other sources but these have been most helpful for me and Honduras Culture and Politics continues to provide almost daily updates and commentaries.

Revised 8:45 am, April 14, 2010


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm down to doing an update weekly. I just did a major round-up on human rights because of Bajo Aguan here.

But Quotha and HondurasCultureandPolitics (and Hermano Juancito!) are my primary sources. I don't seem to have the time to do the hard work of listening to Radio Globo and Cholusatsur on a daily basis(not to mention Dando en el Clavo on a weekly basis).

Do check out Quotha. Adrienne Pine has excellent sources, and has been doing some analysis of why Washington has adopted such perverse policies, tracing it to the influence of an NGO which appears to have been captured by oligarchic forces (WOLA) and the affiliated LAWG.


Anonymous said...

(Sorry. I realize I skimmed over your recommendation of Quotha.)


John (Juan) Donaghy said...

You didn't miss it the first time. I revised the post (see the note of revision at the bottom of the post) after I read your comment.