Monday, August 17, 2015

Concerns about Honduras

It rained last night. Friday night we had a long hard rain. The drain on my terrace is too small and so the water backs up. A little after midnight I was sweeping the water over the side of the terrace so that the water wouldn’t get into my bedroom! But I was glad that it was raining.

I work up Saturday to a beautiful fresh morning, with a view of mountains and clouds that filled my heart with joy.

But I am worried about Honduras. Here are a few of my concerns.

The drought

I looked up Wunderground Friday afternoon to check on the weather and the rainfall. The rainfall so far in August has only been 26.16 mm whereas the average to this date is 140.3 mm. That’s about 1 inch instead of 9 inches!

Some farmers have not planted. Some have planted but the crop dried up for lack of rain. Others have had reduced yield of corn and beans, the staples of the Honduran diet. One farmer reported that a noxious bug is attacking coffee plants and the chemical which would kill them doesn’t work in the heat and lack of rain.

Whether the last two rains are a sign that the rainy season has really begun waits to be seen. But damage has already been done. The critical questions are if people will have enough beans and corn and if the prices for these basics will be beyond the reach of many.

The militarization of the country

Visiting a rural village for a catechists workshop this past week I was surprised to hear some of the catechists talking about a march the school kids were having that day. Marches are not uncommon here – there’s always an occasion: Arbor Day, Independence Day, Children’s Day, Day of the Flag, and so on. But what struck me was that several were incensed that the kids were told to bring toy weapons – pistols and rifles. They said that the teachers had demanded they do this. Some thought the police or military had pressured the teachers. I told them to investigate this well and that they should bring it up in a meeting of the Parents School Association.

It has not been uncommon to see soldiers, the police, and the militarized police on the major highways and even on the back roads here in the Dulce Nombre parish.

I have read of the massive presence of police and military at the march of the indignados who are calling for a commission to investigate the corruption and the pilferage of money from the Honduran Social Security Institute (which is responsible for medical attention to workers). Some of this money went into political campaigns of the governing party. People are marching on Friday evenings in many cities calling for an end to this and to an end to the impunity which has protected those who have done this. An analysis in Spanish by the Honduran Jesuit priest Ismael Moreno is found here. 

I have also heard of some police and military stopping and frisking people driving late at night, even after the drivers had handed over their license and car registration.

This militarization is truly disturbing – from the local school to the highest echelons of the political realm.

The efforts to silence the press

The indignados came to the fore in May when a journalist released information on the pilferage of two hundred million dollars from the Social Security Institute. A director has been jailed and others are being investigated.

Then information was shared that some of this money ended up in the coffers of the National Party’s election campaign that led to the election of the current president, Juan Orlando Hernández. There is, at this point, no proven direct link of the scandal to the president.

The president and others have complained about the divisions that these reports have generated – blaming the messenger.

The silence of many voices

In the face of this it is hard to see how little has been said by people who know better and how easily some sectors of the society have been manipulated by the Honduran government.

Yet there have been some points of light. The priests of the diocese of Trujillo have released a communiqué which can be found here in translation.

Also recently they have released a communiqué about mining, found here in Spanish: 

The priests and the bishop have also  taken part in a public march against "irrational" mining, as reported here in Spanish. What is encouraging is that the bishop explains their actions in terms of the recent encyclical on the environment of Pope Francis.

Caritas Honduras has also released a few analyses of the situation in their online publication Apuntes – on the hunger strike here and on the call for a national dialogue here.

But I long for more voices that speak out clearly.

In this I recall an essay by Albert Camus that I read in the 1960s that has continued to motivate me in my calling to be a voice for justice. 

"The Unbeliever and the Christian" is part of a statement that Camus made before a group of Dominicans in 1948. Here is a quote from that essay that still challenges me:

What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnations in such a way that never a doubt., never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest [person]. That they should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history has taken on today.

The citation from Albert Camus can be found in the collection of his essays  Resistance, Rebellion and Death.

I wrote about the call for dialogue and the marches of the indignant in an earlier post here.

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