Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Travel warning

The U. S. Department of State of State has issued another travel warning for Honduras.

Today a priest friend asked me why this was being released.

I told him I didn’t know.

I mentioned that an early travel warning released on November 21 last year, led to St. Thomas Aquinas cancelling its spring break trip.

We speculated, even whether the release of the warning was so that more police and military aid could be given to Honduras by the US, to influence the Honduras government and allow the US continue a military presence in the country, not only at the Palmerola (Soto Cano) airbase where there are close to 600 US military but also in other parts of the country.

At first I was a little skeptical of this explanation, but reading the document leads me to wonder if there might be some truth in this.

The warning states that “the Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to address these issues [of crime and violence].”

Though this is on the surface true, it hides the fact that the police and the military are notoriously corrupt and that there are concerns of the involvement of police in organized crime.

[Coorrection: the sentence before the one quoted above reads: "Members of the Honduran National Police have been known to engage in criminal activity, including murder." But this is hardly a careful analysis.]

In addition the warning states the “The Government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases, and to deter violent crime.”

This hides the problems in the investigative unit and the role of corruption and involvement of police and civil authorities in organized crime, drug trafficking, and more.

I wrote a little about this a few days ago in a post here.

There is much more that I could write about the warning. I particularly find that it is too generalized and de-contextualized. For example, it notes that the department of Copán has a high homicide rate. But Copán is a large department and, as I see it, most of the violent crime is in a few municipalities. Santa Rosa is one of the most peaceful cities in the Central American region. The four municipalities in the Dulce Nombre parish are not especially dangerous. It’s more dangerous in some areas of Chicago and New York City than in Santa Rosa and the Dulce Nombre parish.

This is not to say that there are not problems of violence and crime. Many Hondurans suffer from these evils – which are not un-related to the poverty and massive inequality in the country. (This was something that Bishop Romulo Emiliani mentioned in his short talk at the youth assembly last Saturday.)

I do not feel insecure or unsafe. I take precautions – not driving after dark in the countryside (partly because of night vision problems), not walking in some areas of Santa Rosa after 9 pm, and other precautions I take wherever I go.

Moreover, I know many people in Santa Rosa and in the parish of Dulce Nombre and innumerable times I have been helped by strangers – especially when my pick-up has broken down. They have shown a concern for me that I haven’t found as widespread in the US.

But I think that the Travel Warning plays into the fears of people in the US. I may be wrong but I think there is an over-emphasis on security in the US. We have to be sure that we are absolutely safe. This is an impossibility. Life is risky.

As my priest friend earlier suggested, it may be a problem of spirituality. Are we afraid to take risks, always trying to be absolutely safe?

There is a hymn here: Arriesgate. Hay algo más – "Risk yourself. There's something more."

Risking means moving beyond our comfort zones.

Maybe that’s where we will find true peace – meeting Christ in the poor.

 At least that has been my experience.

1 comment:

Mike Allison said...

The actions of the US just don't make sense sometimes. It issued a travel warning after El Salvador's gang truce cut the country's murder rate in half.