Friday, March 02, 2012

An open letter to Vice President Biden

Dear Vice President Joe Biden,

I write as a Catholic lay missionary in Honduras, dismayed at how your upcoming visit here is being advertised.

Did I really read this correctly?

“On Tuesday, in the morning, we go to Honduras, where the Vice-President will first meet with President Lobo. The meeting there provides an opportunity to reaffirm the United States' strong support for the tremendous leadership President Lobo has displayed in advancing national reconciliation and democratic and constitutional order.”

This comes from a transcript of a conference call press briefing, on March 1, 2012, of Dan Restrepo, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

President Lobo’s public acceptance is one of the lowest in the Americas. The crime and insecurity has increased during his term as president, though he cannot be blamed for all of this.

I also don’t know many people who think he’s a leader.

National reconciliation is a joke. He has even alienated Congress and the Supreme Court who hold some of the same views as he does. As for the poor I don't know many who look up to him.

As for advancing democratic and constitutional order, the corruption in the police and government  officials is significant, journalists and campesinos in places like the Bajo Aguan have been killed. Honduras is one of the least safe places to be a journalist. I believe that President Lobo has done little to address these problems - except for militarization of police activity and places like the Bajo Aguan. Militarization does not deal effectively with the violence here.

I just wish, President Biden, that you would meet with the poor, the people I work with everyday. You might hear a very different story – a story of impressive people making changes despite the odds, despite the structural injustice, despite the corruption.

I still cannot believe that a high US government official would give such uncalled for praise of the current situation in Honduras.

Please Vice President Biden, come and visit with the real people of Honduras – the more than 65% who live in poverty. Listen to them and to the priests and sisters who work with them here in western Honduras, the poorest part of a very poor country.

Come and see their struggles, their faith, their suffering under an unjust system. 

I plead with you, as a US citizen, as a fellow Catholic, as a person who has lived almost five years in Honduras. 

Come and share a meal of tortillas, beans and cheese. But if you do come, don't be surprised if they kill a chicken for your meal. 

Do not turn a deaf ear to the cries of the poor as your ears are filled with the praise of the rich and powerful.

Listen to them with an open heart.

John Donaghy

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