Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Musings and controversies in Honduras

San Isidro Labrador in Oromilaca

Tuesday was the feast of St. Isidore, the patron of farmers and farmworkers.  The sector San Isidro of the parish of Dulce Nombre had a celebration which included Mass and blessing of seeds.

The celebration also included blessing a new ambo and tabernacle for the church. The village, which has two extraordinary ministers of communion, will now have the Eucharist reserved in their church. Interestingly the tabernacle is shaped like a house with white walls and red roof tiles.

Alfredo and Efraín distributing Communion

Padre Efraín gave a spirited homily, speaking first about the devotion of San Isidro who went to Mass every morning before going to work in the landlord’s field. 

Then he went to talk about the importance of using better agricultural practices, in particular, avoiding the use of chemicals.

The parish has a program to help farmers and though part of the program is buying chemical fertilizers in bulk, the program does try to promote other practices, including teaching people how to make organic fertilizers.

It’s an uphill struggle. There have been some advances in some parts of the country. Though here in Copán some still prepare the land by burning, in the south of Lempira the municipal governments, with the support of the church, have effectively banned burning.

May San Isidro help us find better ways to feed the people. 

Blessing of seeds

If you want some more information on San Isidro/Saint Isidore, I wrote a little about him yesterday here.

There are more pictures of the event on my Flickr set here.

Deaths in the country

This past week two more reporters were killed – one from a gay alliance supporting the Resistance, the other from a mainstream radio station. Whether there will be any investigation remains to be seen. These are just two of the more than 20 journalists killed since the June 2009 coup.

I also just read that another person has been killed in the Bajo Aguan region in northeast Honduras. That makes more than fifty killed in relation to land controversies there.

A major problem is the lack of police and judicial follow up of crimes. To the people involved it appears that the government just doesn’t care – or, at the very least, is incapable of responding to the problems. This is especially so when the poor and involved as victims or the perpetrators are members of the elites or police or governmental authorities.

Addendum: President Lobo is offering 3 million lempiras (about $150,000) for information about the death of the journalist from the mainstream radio station. As far as I know, nothing has been offered about the other 20 journalists.

US involvement in Honduras

In the last year there has been much talk of US support of Honduran anti-drug-trafficking measures. The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has sent five US “commando style squads” to Central America and the Caribbean, including Honduras.

The results here – the recent killing of four to six civilians (plus the two unborn children of the two pregnant women) who were travelling in a boat on a river in the Moskitia, in the northeast of the country.

According to a report in  El Tiempo,  a Honduran daily, they were “being pursued by helicopter by agents of the National Police and the Drug Enforcement Agency of the United States (DEA).” (A translation can be found in the Quota blog, here. )

This is not the way to deal with drug-trafficking.

Any effort to deal with this needs to deal with the involvement of politicians of both major parties in drug trafficking, as well as with the corruption and involvement of the police and the military.  There are reports of a drug lord in western Honduras giving 100 dollars a month to police – but only four refused the “gift”.

The militarization of a country where the authorities do not investigate crimes and human rights abuses and where authorities are involved in serious human rights abuses will only put more power in the hands of those who refuse to deal with underlying causes of injustice and corruption.

I don’t know the way to deal with this. But the efforts of people at the local level need to be encouraged and supported. That will help begin to solve the problem, if is accompanied by some structural changes that take power away from those who profit from drug-trafficking.

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