Out here in the countryside I don’t see a lot of what goes on in the country, except through some online news reports, a few blogs, Facebook, and two list-serves. But I sense that something is brewing. Several young professionals I know are often posting on Facebook about the “marchas de las antorchas.”
For more than four weeks people have been marching in the streets, calling for an end to corruption. Thousands are coming out in the major cities at night, carrying torches. They are particularly incensed at reports that hundreds of millions of dollars have been stolen from the Honduras Social Security Institute, which is responsible for much of the public health care. Many of them are also calling on the President to resign, due to recent reports that some of the money siphoned off ended up supporting the National Party in the 2013 elections. The president is a member of the National Party and was previously the president of the National Congress, where his party manipulated the Supreme Court and has militarized the police.
There are political figures involved, but I have a sense that there are enough young people involved who don’t want to be manipulated by any party. There seems to have been a youth movement that began last year that is very much involved in the nightly marches. They call themselves the “indignados” – the indignant ones.
The marches are also calling for an international commission to investigate impunity. They seem to be inspired by a similar commission for Guatemala that has been working since 2007.
Recently several young people have begun a hunger strike. The government’s response has been to send hundred of military to prevent them from staying where they were and to prevent their connection with the wider world. Up to this point six young people are on hunger strike.
UPDATE: Several of the hunger strikers have suspended their fast, partly in response to repressive tactics of government forces.
The president has replied calling for a dialogue – but there appear to be many problem with this. The marchers feel that many of those who would be involved in a government-sponsored dialogue are tainted by graft and corruption.
Several good blog posts on the issues of the government corruption and responses to the marches can be found at Honduras Culture and Politics, which continues to offer solid reports.
I hope this "movement" is a good sign for the future of Honduras.
I found the remarks of Victor Meza on Radio Progesso’s website helpful for understanding what might be happening.
When asked for his analysis of the situation he replied:
What is happening in Honduras is like a rebirth, strengthened, of the spirit of citizen participation, of civic spirit, of a spirit of enthusiasm for combatting a situation which is characterized by the ethical disintegration of the State, for the moral ruin of the present government, and by a State of moral decomposition so broad, so vast, that tyrannizes the entire society.
When asked about the street demonstrations of the youth, he replied, in part:
They reflect a state of courage, of social disgust, of weariness. It is a form of saying: enough…
One of my concerns in the last few years is that real social analysis and protest has been muted or, worse, siphoned off into political partisanship. Where has the consciousness raising been happening?
I hope this is the beginning of a new era of conscious, critical, and responsible citizenship that looks for real social change here.
My concern is that the movement seems to be mostly urban and, though I may be wrong, middle class or lower middle class. Is there involvement of the poor in the barrios of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa?
But my other concern is that the poor in the countryside seem to be on the sidelines. Will they have a voice?
We shall see.