Saturday, September 15, 2012

¿Independence? Day, Honduras, 2012

Today Honduras, with the other Central American republics, celebrates Independence. Fire crackers went off at 5:15 am here in Santa Rosa and parades marked the day in many cities throughout Central America.

I was supposed to participate in a call-in, social analysis program, Dando en el Clavo. on the diocesan Catholic Radio Station on Politics and Catholic Social Thought. But about an hour before the start I got a Facebook message from the radio staff member that he’d like to reschedule the event since he had a cold and could hardly talk. And so we’ll do the program next week.

So I have a day off.

I decided to go see the parade here.

Walking there I encountered a neighbor who teaches in a local high school. As we talked he said that Honduras is not really independent since it is religiously, politically, and economically dependent.  Religiously, he said it’s dependent on the Vatican – or, with the evangelicals, on their leaders. Politically it’s dependent on the United States. Economically it’s dependent on the great powers, especially the US and the European Economic Union. I proceeded to mention the power of the large multinational corporations who often have more economic power than countries like the US.

As I left him I recalled the short conversation I had with another neighbor, who is a candidate for congress in the November primary elections. Somehow he mentioned that he had a visa when the coup happened but hadn’t used it. But he didn’t call it a coup and referred to the events of June 2007. Interesting, but understandable. He belongs to the branch of the Liberal Party whose presidential candidate held a role in the coup government.

The parade was mostly local schools with their marching bands [often called bandas de guerra – war bands], kids dressed in traditional dresses or as indios [Indians], floats, and classes walking down the main street in town.

The band of Instituto Poligono

At one point on the parade route members of the Resistance were there with their signs – mostly notably one that said “No to Model Cities,” a proposal that would hand over large sections of Honduran territory for cities to be run by an administration independent of the Honduran government.

No to the Model Cities

Even here the divisions in the country can be seen.

I walked past them and ran into the group of more than 300 students from the Instituto Poligono, founded by a Belgian and retired bishop, Monseñor Luis Alfonse Santos, which provides education to young people from several poor communities. The young people listen to radio programs and study their books and then come to the Institute for a four hour session every weekend to review the material – and to take the necessary exams.

Monseñor Santos

Bishop Santos was there, helping some young women arrange their costumes.

Among the schools, Poligono is the only one that I know that makes a serious commitment to the poor. There is one public  high school, a private Catholic high school, one private Evangelical school, another private school, and two private bilingual schools.

As I stopped on the street to talk to a friend, I heard one of the Resistance members talking about the school that had stopped in front of their banner. He talked about the privatization of education and, even more pointedly, at the “mercantilización” – the  commercialization – of education. Though he may be overstating the situation, he does refer to the fact that good education is at a price here, and the poor usually do not profit from it.

And so the economic divisions in the society continue.

That is how Honduras faces “independence Day” this year – with inequality, violence, and repression.

But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cannot see this. She sent greetings to Honduras, “for the enormous progress” of its people “in the construction of a democratic future,” and assure the country that the United States is “on the side of Honduras while they work to attain a more prosperous and secure future for Honduras.”

Forgive my cynicism but I fear that US economic and political policies are not really helping Honduras, especially as it often turns its eyes away from the human rights violations and as it supports the militarization of security – including sending US Drug Enforcement  (DEA) agents, and insists on the economic policies of CAFTA.

In some ways, then, I have to agree with the high school teacher and the sign of the Resistance members, “What democracy?”

ADDENDUM: More photos of the event can be found here in a Flickr set.

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