Friday, July 31, 2009

UPDATE on Violence in Santa Rosa and elsewhere

The road block outside Santa Rosa was ended violently this morning abut 11:oo by attacks on the demonstrators by Honduras police.

According to one person, the demonstrators were trying to negotiate with the police and agreed to open one lane of the highway so some traffic could pass.

But about 11 the military began by shooting tear gas into the crowd. People ran. At least 46 were detained by the police. From reports and from television coverage by channel 38 (I believe), police were seen beating with their batons at least two people who were not fleeing; one had her hands behind her back and was beaten on the calf; another was hit while seated on the ground.

Other were injured including at least one young person. Many other showed bruises where they had been hit by batons. I saw a man with his temple bandaged being transported by a police pick up.

A crowd of several hundred was gathered in the main park just outside the police station. Police in riot gear stood outside the station while the detained were being held within.

There are other reports of detentions and use of violence against demonstrators in other parts of the country. An independent candidate for the presidency was beaten and his arm broken.

In the meantime, the de facto president Micheletti accuses the US of meddling, mostly because Hugo Llorens, the US ambassador to Honduras, met deposed president Zelaya in Nicaragua.

Micheletti also now seems to rule out the return of Zelaya as president, even though various news sources were saying that he was trying to convince others to allow Zelaya to return as President with diminished powers.

One note from Wednesday in San Pedro Sula. As I walked out of the hotel I saw a man rummaging through a hole in a black plastic bag outside a restaurant, eating what remnants of food he could find. I have seen dogs eating this way, but never a person. This is the real problem of Honduras.

There have been reports of violence by the military and police in some parts of the country against demonstrators opposed to the coup, as well as arrests and detentions. But it seems to have happened nearby.

There are often demonstrations at a gas station where you van take the road to Gracias off the main road to San Pedro Sula. People camp in the streets and prevent traffic from passing through for a few hours.

I stopped at Caritas this morning and the staff told me, that, according to radio reports, about 11 am this morning, police dislodged the people from the intersection and injured people, including women and some 10 to 11 year old children. Some fled to a restaurant in the gas station; the police broke glass window; people were also fleeing into the woods.

The folks visiting me saw some soldiers in riot gear in a car in town as well as a police car with police and a number of people, coming away from the demonstration.


I have a group of people from Iowa here with me. They arrived Wednesday night. To avoid having to walk through road blocks we got a ride back Wednesday night with Sor Maria Jesús (a Spanish Franciscan sister who lives down the block from me.) The pickup was stopped twice by the army. At one they said she had a light burnt out. She talked with them and avoided a fine (but I wonder if they wanted a bribe.)

The group spent yesterday afternoon at the home for malnourished kids run by the Missionaries of Charity and this morning with the kindergarten in Colonia Divina Providencia. It is always therapeutic to me to be with the kids - even though I see the deprivation and and know the problems the kids and their families experience.

Tomorrow we'll go out to the parish of Trinidad, Copán, for two days, so that they can see the lives of people in the countryside - the reality of this country.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Living under a coup – a month already

I really don't want to post this entry. It's got too much speculation about the political situation. And I'm really tired of all this relajo while the needs of the poor go unmet and their voices unheard, while people are tired and confused and don't trust the media, while the society becomes polarized and people demonize their opponents - and the poor continue to be ignored.

But I ran across something good just minutes ago. There is a website from an evangelical perspective that tries to look at the situation from a Christian concern for the poor. <>. Some nice background and a rather strong statement from Honduran evangelicals.

Now on to my political ramblings.

One month ago today, military arrested the president of Honduras, Mel Zelaya, and deported him to Costa Rica. Since then this country has made the world news. Years of being the second or third most poorest country in Latin America and decades of corruption by a two party system that keeps the parties in power while leaving the poor at the wayside have been ignored by the world.

Some try to make this a conflict between Zelaya and Micheletti; others make it a conflict between Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and the forces of “democracy”. But for the poor here what does all this mean? Though Zelaya offered some hope for the poor, the corruption of his government and his ineptitude undermined these efforts and hopes. Micheletti had hoped to be president for a long time and there are real concerns about his ties to economic powers and corrupt politicians.

I mentioned in a previous entry that the military came out in favor of pursuing the negotiations process. El Tiempo, the least conservative mass-circulation newspaper, did publish a report today on the military’s openness to the San José accords. But there are other reports from General Romeo Vásquez, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military, that say that this only means that they support the Roberto Micheletti government in the negotiation. Go figure. I am tired of all this spinning and don’t think I’ll attempt to try to make sense of this.

In the meantime the Honduran congress set up a commission to study whether to agree to an amnesty as suggested by the San José accords. The Supreme Electoral Council is okay with moving up the elections after all the parties are consulted. And Mel Zelaya waits near the Honduras-Nicaragua border. Delay, delay, delay. Today, however, the US revoked diplomatic visas of four officials involved in the coup and is investigating others. They still will have their tourist visas, though.

Sunday and Monday there were reports that supplies for the people waiting for deposed President Mel Zelaya near the border have been stopped by authorities and only water allowed through. The situation was pretty desperate yesterday and many, including Zelaya’s wife, were phoning people throughout the country. The situation was obviously exacerbated by the curfew from Friday noon to Monday morning - almost three days. Yet there were reports that the Honduran Red Cross was bringing water and food.

Elsewhere in the country, two people were shot dead and more than 15 injured in Honduras on Sunday when fans of rival soccer teams clashed outside a stadium in Tegucigalpa following a match, Reuters reported. More violence. Where will it end?

Something odd happening?

Today at the lunch program for kids there were a few people taking pictures. One of them asked me if I was a volunteer, since she wanted to interview me. I said that I’d have to attend to the kids first and she had left when I had finished serving the kids. She was a reporter from the radical paper El Libertador. I’d seen their website a few times, but since yesterday evening until a few minutes ago I had not been able to access it at all.

Something like this happened to me with the website of the Jesuit-run reflection and action center in Progreso, Eric-SJ. First I got this message that their account was suspended. Then only an error message that “Firefox can't find the server at” Nor can Safari.

Strange – or deliberate?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Living under the coup – day 29

A quiet Sunday here in Santa Rosa de Copán. (Sounds like Garrison Keillor!)

Yesterday I went out to Dulce Nombre again for the preachers' workshop. I ended up driving the parish pick-up out there since it was in a car repair shop here (for more that $500 worth of repairs!) There was no road blockade and so I got out there and back without any delays. (I returned by bus - I don't yet have a car.)

It wasn't quiet in the whole country. In the eastern part of the country, near the Nicaraguan border, the curfew which was from Friday noon to 6 am Sunday was extended from 6 am to 6 pm today and later extended until 6 am. This means that the area will have been virtually closed down for 66 hours straight. (I thought it was only from Saturday noon, but La Prensa, a pro-coup newspaper, said it was from Friday noon.) This curfew means that anyone on the street can be arrested. Thus some leaders of the opposition to the coup have been arrested. Also the first curfew starting at noon was, from what I’ve read, announced 20 minutes before it was supposed to start.

Is that the only way the Micheletti government thinks it can control the population?

On the other hand, the military seems to be in favor of the negotiations in San José. What this really means is up to interpretation – but, though it’s on the military’s web site, it has not been reported much in the Honduran press. Does that say something?

Meanwhile, I am doing well and expecting visitors this Wednesday. And the curfew is only from 1:00 to 4:30 am here in Santa Rosa and in most of the country – for the time being.

The uncertainty is probably one of the hardest things for someone like me to live with - but I do need to learn more patience.


Yesterday I finished the collection of Don Helder Camara: Essential Writings from Orbis Books. Full of great inspiration. Here's a quote from page 143 to ponder:
I know a priest who likes to shake hands with the trash collectors when they are loading the refuse into the truck. They try to clean their hands on their clothes. The priest rightly says, "No work stains the human hands. What makes hands dirty is stealing, or greed, or the blood of our neighbors!"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Living under a coup – Day 27

Am I in trouble?

No, but luckily the Hondurans I know don’t hold it against me that the US futbol [soccer] team beat the Honduras team again – the third time this year, I believe. I haven’t yet become a futbol aficionado, but…


My great joy today was spending several hours in Dulce Nombre with the training session for new preachers. In Honduras, since about 1966, delegates of the Word have been trained to lead Celebrations of the Word in the rural villages. Dulce Nombre has 42 rural villages and 5 towns and it impossible to have Mass in every village even once a month. And so, to make up for the lack of priests, pastoral workers lead worship every Sunday morning in most villages, not only here and in this diocese, but in many places in Honduras.

Thirty two people showed up. Some were experienced “preachers” who had missed one of the refresher sessions, but there were new pastoral workers, many of them young. Father Julio César Galdámez, the associate pastor, led most of the morning session, but I led some exercises between the talks. Padre Julio’s presentations were very participative. I led a part of the afternoon session but left about three to get back to Santa Rosa. (I have to pick up the parish pick up at the mechanic's early tomorrow morning.)

The group was good and fairly participative, with a great spirit of service for their villages. I tried an exercise to have them use their bodies to show various emotions. Most were a bit reluctant and a little timid. But I ended up doing a lot of showing how it is important that one’s bodily gestures and postures accord with what one is saying. I had them laughing with me (or was it “at me”?) by my antics. I didn’t know I had that element of a comedian in me – but it must be a gift from my father who was quite the joker all his life.


I was in the middle of my presentation when firecrackers went off nearby. I jumped a bit. The firecrackers kept going off for awhile. I wondered why.

Later someone suggested that it was because the ousted President Mel Zelaya was in Honduras since he had crossed briefly into Honduras at a Nicaraguan-Honduran border station about the time I heard the firecrackers. He stepped in and then stepped back into Nicaragua to avoid being arrested, some said.

What is interesting is how the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reacting to all this. Today she had said, “President Zelaya's effort to reach the border is reckless.”

I don’t know if it is reckless or not. But it reminded me that some actions of people like Martin Luther King were called “unwise and untimely.” I do not want to compare Zelaya and King. King was an advocate of nonviolence; he had a strong strategic sense; he was not corrupt; he was not a politician seeking power. But I think we should be wary of political calls for “prudence” which may be based more in realpolitik than in discerning what is just and good.

My continuing question: Where will this go from here?

I don’t know.

But I heard an interesting suggestion from a campesino this afternoon. Both deposed president Zelaya and de facto president Micheletti should be replaced by a person who is poor to serve as a real interim president.

That will be the day!

But there is always hope.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Living under a coup – day 26

It’s a very confusing time here – now that the negotiations in Costa Rica have broken down. Trying to understand what is really happening is becoming increasing difficult –especially as there is a lot of “spin.”

It appears that Zelaya will try to return sometime this weekend through the Nicaraguan border.

This afternoon I got a full copy of the Trujillo diocesan statement and have put my translation on my church documents blog: <>

Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Argentinian nonviolent activist has written a letter to the Honduran Church and to Cardinal Rodríguez. A translation is at Iglesia Descalza <>

Tomorrow I should be out in Dulce Nombre for a workshop for new preachers in the communities, if there is no road block.

In the meantime, pray for us.
Padre Fausto

I just heard that last Sunday, July 19, the training center of INEHSCO in San Juan de Opoa, Copán, was "under surveillance and being investigated" by the Honduran police unit called DGIC (Direccion General de Investigaciones Criminales - the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations) at 5:15 pm. The person who told me this said they search the center, looking for weapons.

INEHSCO is the natural medicine and health network which Father Fausto Milla founded. He is currently its exectuive director. Padre Fausto has also been outspoken against the coup.

I wonder if this was why Padre Fausto was so restrained at Mass on Sunday. Not intimated - but perhaps tired.

Please pray for him.

Is this what this country has come to?

-Correction: in my haste to post this I identified July 19 as Thursday. It was Sunday. Thus my note about Padre Fausto being restrained must be revised. He was restrained - but probably not because of the harrassment.

What is really happening?

After writing my blog last night, I found out that it appears that ousted president Zelaya rejects the "San José Accord" offered by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and his representatives consider the process a failure. The representatives of de facto president Micheletti seem to be taking the proposals back to the Honduran congress and supreme court.

Arias said that this was his last proposal and that the Organization of American States should take over the negotiation.

Zelaya is talking about coming back in the immediate future.

Where will this go? I pray not to war and more bloodshed.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Living under a coup – day 25.

July 22 is the anniversary of the birth of Karl Menninger, a famous psychiatrist, who wrote a very interesting book Whatever Became of Sin? In today’s Writer’s Almanac, Garrison Keillor noted:
Once, when someone asked him what to do if a person feels he is about to have a nervous breakdown, Menninger replied, "Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do something for them."
This reminds me of what Fr. Jon Seda, now pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames, Iowa, once told me. When he was an undergraduate at Loras College, he was puzzled with all sorts of questions about God and went to his religion professor, Paul Allen. Paul told him to go out among the poor and there he would find God.

Today I had a chance to read the first draft of an analysis of the current crisis in Honduras. It is quite good and I await its publication, so that I can share it.

In his recent encyclical, Charity in Truth (#32), Pope Benedict XVI, wrote something pertinent to the situation of Honduras:
The dignity of the individual and the demands of justice require, particularly today, that economic choices do not cause disparities in wealth to increase in an excessive and morally unacceptable manner…. Through the systemic increase of social inequality, both within a single country and between the populations of different countries (i.e. the massive increase in relative poverty), not only does social cohesion suffer, thereby placing democracy at risk, but so too does the economy, through the progressive erosion of “social capital”: the network of relationships of trust, dependability, and respect for rules, all of which are indispensable for any form of civil coexistence.
(Italics mine)
The current crisis is the result of decades – even centuries – in which those with power and money have sought to maintain control and enrich themselves. The poor and their needs have been neglected. And it continues.

Yesterday I was talking with a fairly apolitical Honduran woman who happened to note the terrible state of education in Honduras. As an aside she intimated that the educational system is so bad since those in power don’t really want an educated populace. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this. (She also complained about the state of the educational system and that for many reasons, including teachers' strikes, children have less than 200 days of school a year.)

Some analysts of the coup are also saying that what may have really threatened those in power was the very possibility of participation in government of the poor which the referendum represented. The monopoly that the two major political parties – the Liberal and the National – is for many a cause of concern, since it limits input from the poor who represent more than 60% of the society.

Negotiations were supposed to be held today, but it seems that both sides didn’t send their representatives until this afternoon. Micheletti has sent a new proposal. Yet, to me, Micheletti appears to be intransigent: Zelaya can only return as a private citizen and will be subject to prosecution on arrival. But, there seems to be some dissent within the Micheletti camp. The New York Times reports that his major negotiator is open to the return of Zelaya to the presidency with limited powers.

Marches are being held by both sides – the pro-coup march “for patriotism and courage” was being shown on television this morning. The anti-coup group is threatening a strike Thursday and Friday.

So here I am, living in what was a fragile democracy in a society where the lives of the poor are at stake, not just because of the present crisis, but because of the long history of their oppression. And glad to be here.

Pray for us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Trujillo Diocesan Communiqué

About July 6, the priests and men and women religious of the diocese of Trujillo in northeastern Honduras issued a communiqué .

It begins:
“As a diocese which has historically made a preferential option for the poor, we wish to share these thoughts as a search for truth, which is so needed to put aside certain intransigent attitudes and facilitate dialogue which we all ought to practice in regard to making the common good real.”
… We exhort the Honduran people to put aside attitudes of rejection and accept the paths of reconciliation. Reconciliation does not mean ceasing to apply justice or renouncing the pursuit and defense of what we believe is the truth. Reconciliation consists in being able to sit around the same table to continue to find paths we can walk as brothers/sisters and fellow citizens, toward a better future for everyone.

It ends:
… “We urge the people of our diocese of Trujillo, in the departments of Colón and Gracias a Dios not to close themselves in by a person, or political party or ideology, but to struggle for our real problems:
  • Improve the quality of education.
  • Seek conciliatory positions in the search for solutions of land ownership.
  • Dialogue with the government about the need to improve the road systems.
  • Demand from the government a plan for the cultural, economic, and social development of the Moskitia.
  • That the respective authorities guarantee the security of citizens and that they act in accord with the law to stop the presence of drug-trafficking in the region.
  • That they return to the problem of deforestation in our departments not only decommissioning wood already cut but also stopping the cutting of our forest reserves and the destruction of the environment.”

La Patriota, an independent Honduran newpaper, reported in an on line article on July 20 that the document also comments on the coup directly. Even though I have not been able to get a copy of the actual statement to verify it, this is a translation of most of the article by María Orbelina López.

The present crisis is the result of a series of violations of the Constitution and of the laws which has happened in the last decades caused by the political class and at times forced [on the country] by groups of the economic powers, explained the Diocese of Trujilo through a communiqué.

After reviewing a series of acts of corruption which unleashed inequality and violence, it indicated that the events of June 28 are the result of a series of clashes among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches/powers [of the government] and the Supreme Electoral Commission, as well as the failure of the Constitutional Tribunal to solve the confrontations which can happen among the powers of the state.

Nevertheless, “we condemn the expatriation of Mr. José Manual Zelaya brought about by the Armed Forces because it is an attack against the Constitution of the Republic and the rights of Zelaya as a citizen. Equally we condemn the dictatorial attitudes which have been imposed on the population: violation of the freedom of the press and manipulation of the means of communication…”

The interpretation of the legality and illegality of these actions have divided the Honduran people. Also we find ourselves divided by the different ways of conceiving democracy, of holding opinions about the need or lack of need to reform the Constitution or write a new one. We should [not] convert antagonistic attitudes into irreconcilable [attitudes], and these ought not be allowed to break up the unity of Hondurans.

Further on, the communiqué notes, The majority of the population has stopped believing in the authorities because of the extent of corruption with which they act or which they simply permit. The lack of political leadership is a cause for concern and in this situation the populism of Mr. Zelaya has had a strong impact on a good part of the people.

Finally, we have seen the partiality of the news about the repression and the censure of some means of communication and the suspension of the right of free expression. This is not the way for us to understand each other and be able to dialogue.

From the time of it approval in 1982, the Constitution has been violated on many occasions and neither the organs of the State which ought to avoid this nor the people have acted in its defense. But in the last few years the consciousness of the citizens has been changing in regard to respect for the [Constitution] and the right to real participation in democratic life as the demonstrations of these days reveal.

Roe this diocese this crisis has left us with great lessons to learn: it is not possible to dialogue when one party acts with violence; all the population feels the need to respect the Constitution and not let it be violated; the need and the right which the people have to participate in the framing of the laws by which they are governed and not only the obligation to obey the laws.

At the same time it notes that the growing consciousness as citizens is a force which either the political parties nor members of the government have valued. We have proved that the intervention of other countries is neither objective nor without personal interest. We Hondurans ought to be the protagonists of our own future.

[The communiqué] proposes the need to enter into a legal process in which the people can be consulted about the possible and necessary constitutional reforms. It ought to be an absolutely necessary condition that all the candidates for the coming elections declare their intentions in order to bring about this process which ought to begin in the first year of the next government.

The first part of this blog is found at
Living under a coup – day 24
An act of love, a voluntary taking on oneself of some of the pain of the world, increases the courage and love and hope of all.
Dorothy Day
Where does Honduras go from here? Who’s to blame for the break up of the talks?

BBC: “The head of the delegation said the Costa Rican mediators' proposal, which would see Mr Zelaya return to Honduras, was ‘absolutely unacceptable…’ Representatives of ousted President Manuel Zelaya have said they will no longer negotiate with their rivals.”

Reuters: “While Zelaya's negotiators said they agree in principle to a proposed compromise from Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, the government that deposed Zelaya refused to budge on its insistence that he would be arrested and prosecuted if he returns.”

That’s the game that has begun. Reading different news sources some wonder how much either side is really interested in dialogue and negotiation, though it appears that Michelleti is more intransigent and Zelaya has made some concessions and agrees in principle to the suggestions of the mediator, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

Arias wants to resume talks Wednesday. He has also asked Zelaya to delay a return to Honduras until Friday. Zelaya says he will walk across the border on Friday if the talks break down.

"What is the alternative to dialogue?” Arias asked. “We could face a civil war and bloodshed that the Honduran people do not deserve." I hope and pray that intransigence doesn't lead to more bloodshed.

In the meantime, the European Union has suspended their aid program – about $92 million dollars worth. The US is threatening serious reprisals if the de facto regime of Micheletti remains intransigent. (I hope they are serious about this.)

The resistance to the coup is calling for a nationwide strike on Thursday and Friday.

What am I hearing from people?

Fear, concern, insecurity, frustration.

A priest friend is advising people to avoid purchasing anything unnecessary. (I’ve been thinking of buying a pick up but have put it off because of the high costs for even a used one. With the situation I might just want to wait a bit more.)

Others, including several persons I respect, see no way out except for the return of Zelaya as president.

In the midst of this, I end this morning's blog with these notes that make it clear why I am here:

"According to the statistics of international organisms, 70% of the population [of Honduras] lives in conditions of poverty and, of them, 45% live in extreme poverty."

According to one news report (of a few years ago) 25 of the 40 poorest municipalities (sort of like counties) in Honduras are in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán.

According to a priest I know the two poorest parishes in this area of the diocese are the parish of Dulce Nombre de María and the parish of Trinidad, Copán.


On another note. I translated the report of the Central American Dominicans which is very thoughtful - what else do expect from the Dominicans? It was hard to translate and I'm sure I made a few errors but I think it deserves to be read by the non-Spanish speaking world. The full text is on my new blog devoted to church documents related to Honduras:

Paragraph 12 is a good summary of what's wrong here:
Furthermore, one cannot separate the ethical-religious judgment of the coup from what one must formulate about the general widespread situation of Honduras and the solution of which ought to be made a first priority, not only for Catholics but also for all men and women of good will in the country, in particular those who govern. Let it be enough to recall certain facts: Honduras is one of the countries in this continent with the majority of the population suffering poverty and its effects, with high indices of inequality in the distribution of income per capita and in the concentration of per capita income per household. Only 38.2% of the households appear in the statistics as “non-poor” because they can cover their basic nutritional and other needs. The level of infant mortality averages 23 per 1000, but it is four times the national average in some rural departments [provinces/states]. For this country, the indicator of hope in life lies in even worse state in that education indicators, which, no matter how the scores are obtained, are among the lowest in the region. It is one of the countries of the isthmus which shows the greatest proportion of undernourished children, where low birth weight is one of the factors which precipitates malnutrition at later ages – the result, fundamentally, of prenatal malnutrition – and where relevant advances in the reduction of this indicator are not registered. The effects of malnutrition suffered in the preschool population is seen clearly in the accumulated deficit of stature in school children which exceeds 40%. And it is clear that one of the principal factor which impacts the deteriorated health situation is inadequate access to sanitation and water. Furthermore, a third of those who suffer from HIV-AIDS in all of Central America live in Honduras.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Honduras Church Documents

Though I will continue to translate documents and place them on this blog, I have created a separate blog where you can find translations of what I consider the most important documents:
<>. This will allow more easy access to the documents.

I have done this since I will be translating a large document from the Central American Dominican province. I also am awaiting an analysis being prepared by the diocesan directors of Caritas.

Spanish documents, either texts or links, can be found at <>

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Living under a coup for 21 days

We had one night this week without a curfew. Wednesday the government re-imposed the curfew – from midnight to 5:00 am. Now it’s from 11:30 pm to 4:30 am. Why was it reinstated? The official reason was: “Given continued, open threats by groups who seek to provoke disturbances and disorder ... and to protect the people and their goods, the government has decided to impose curfew from midnight.”

Saturday talks were held in Costa Rica between representatives of the deposed president Zelaya and the de facto president Micheletti.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has made several proposals. By Saturday evening Zelaya expressed his general agreement with them, at least in principle, but Micheletti has insisted that he will not accept Zelaya’s reinstatement as president.

The talks will resume late Sunday morning. It looks like a good sign that they will continue to meet and talk. Pray for a softening of hearts.

This Saturday morning Padre Efraín called about 7:00 am and asked me to get the parish pick up from the auto repair shop in Santa Rosa and drive it back to Dulce Nombre. I was a little put off, since I was in the middle of washing sheets and since the trip might mean taking the awful back roads again. But as I passed the spot where the road blockade would be held I passed through without problem. They occupied the site a little bit later that morning.

When I returned to Santa Rosa about 2:00 pm, a group of about 200 were at the blockade site. But the military and the police had stopped traffic on both sides more than a kilometer away from the demonstration; so people had to walk quite a distance. (They didn't do this a while back when there was a big anti-mining blockade with 600 - 800 people at the same place.)

While at Dulce Nombe, I spent some time with the Parish Council as they dealt with the usual parish business. Padre Efraín was visiting a distant village; Father Julio Cesar, the associate pastor, had a wedding and only got to the meeting just before lunch. While he was there someone brought up a problem. What impressed me was the way Father Julio handled the issue. He asked what the village church council and the sector council had said. Then he asked for the consensus of the parish council. He did not make a decision and then ask for their consent. He asked for their opinions and consensus first.

The parish of Dulce Nombre has a new project, funded by Manos Unidas, a Spanish aid agency, to help improve grain production, to promote organize processes, and to prepare family gardens. There are about 45 villages in the parish but only 23 will be included in this project. In each village 30 of the poorest families were identified with the help of the village pastoral team. The three young people who are helping organize the project have been visiting the villages to interview the families.

While at the parish I took a quick look at a few of the interview sheets, which they will bring together in a comprehensive report. There were small and large families, Catholics and Protestants. But two things struck me. First, many of the houses had dirt floors. But, worse, many of the people’s diets were almost completely restricted to corn tortillas, beans, and eggs, with meat maybe once a week. Some ate almost no vegetables, though some occasionally included potatoes in their diets. No wonder there is so much malnutrition.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Golpe de estado – 20th day
Much violence is based on the illusion that life is a property to be defended and not to be shared.
Henri Nouwen
Tomorrow is a critical day for Honduras. Representatives of both deposed president Mel Zelaya and de facto president Roberto Micheletti will meet with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

Where will this lead? There are talks of amnesty of crimes committed on all sides. Arias is floating the idea of a government of reconciliation. Micheletti has offered to step down as long as Zelaya is not president. Zelaya is rumored to be preparing to enter the country.

Roads throughout the nation are being blocked by opponents of the coup – even just outside Santa Rosa. The road block here stops international commercial traffic between San Pedro Sula and Guatemala and El Salvador. There will probably be blockades today and tomorrow.

Today I went out on the 7:30 rapidito to Dulce Nombre de María. (This rapidito is a little bus with about 30 seats (though I’ve seen close to 50 in it at one time.) When we passed the usual site for the toma de la carretera – literally, “taking the highway” – I saw nothing but some police.

We were supposed to have a day and a half workshop on Political Participation and Catholic Social Teaching. Only five people showed up, probably a case of poor communication. But the team – two campesinos, a retired school teacher, the two priests, and I – sat around and prepared for a workshop in two weeks. There was a somber mood as we talked about the situation and prepared the workshop.

The first morning will be an analysis of the current situation, using a document the Caritas will release soon. The afternoon and evening will take the booklet on democracy that the national Caritas office prepared about two months ago. The second morning we'll do some sharing in groups on basic themes of Catholic Social Teaching. The workshop will end about noon with a discussion of what we do now. It is a very deliberate attempt to use the methodology of see, judge, and act, which is used widely in the church, especially in Latin America.

There was nothing more to do and so I decided to head back to Santa Rosa. Padre Efraín asked me to take the parish pick up to a repair shop in Santa Rosa since it needed a lot of work – about $500 worth! He told me how to get there and avoid the toma.

As I approached the turn off from the main road to Gracias where the toma was, I noted about a mile long line of trucks – mostly semis. I took the turn off and drove on one of the worst roads I have even seen, with potholes about a foot deep and fissures in the dirt road about six inches deep where the rain had run across the road. There was a stream that was about 8 inches deep. (Luckily the truck is high of the ground.)

It also passed through several rural village. I could not help notice the poor houses and the very evident poverty. So close to Santa Rosa but what misery abounds.

Finally I got to the repair shop. It had taken me about 40 minutes using the detour – for what is usually a ten minute drive.

But that really didn’t bother me. What did bother me was the poverty I saw.

As I write this I remember a discussion we had at our neighborhood base community meeting last night. Folks recalled that in the last week there have been four miscarriages in our neighborhood. There are also rumors that there have been up to 125 miscarriages in this region. Something seems wrong.

No, something IS wrong.

And it's not just a question of who is president and who broke what law.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Golpe de estado - day eighteen

I have been writing a blog entry every day since the coup began. (Before that I was writing about once a week.) It has been good for me - somewhat therapeutic at times, sometimes just a way to reflect on what I've heard and seen. It has been a good discipline.

I will continue to blog often, but not every day. There is a temptation, especially when I know people are reading my blog, to keep writing for the sake of having my voice heard. That's not a good reason for me to blog.

I will probably try to write every other night, or more often when an event in Honduras or the world or in my ministry calls me to share. Mostly I will try to bring the voice of the poor into the discussions.

In the meantime, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers, and do what you can for a real peace with justice here. That's what the people here need.

Hasta pronto.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Golpe de estado – day seventeen

I’ve learned a new word in Spanish - relajo. More than once I’ve found various Honduras talking about the relajo we’re facing here. Relajo means a “mess” but one dictionary said it can also mean “depravity,” a “rude joke,” a “disorder,” “derision,” or even a “lewd act.” I wonder if it isn’t really all of these.

Deposed president Mel Zelaya issued an ultimatum that the Honduras de facto government does not let him return to his office. He is also saying that he could return at any time. Costa Rican president Oscar Arias announced that the negotiations will resume on Saturday. Why so much delay?

But what do people think?

Today I had two extended discussions of the “mess” with two Hondurans I know.

One woman was surprisingly vocal against the coup. I didn’t expect her to be so passionately opposed. The other was a Catholic university student who I expected to be opposed to the coup. He insisted that many Hondurans were opposed to the coup. When I said that many think the majority are for it, he spoke about his perception that the press and other media are slanted – and controlled by those with economic power. And thus people are confused.

I know of people who are in favor of the coup, though not necessarily in favor of Micheletti. They were tired of Zelaya’s shenanigans and the corruption. However, there are others who see the coup as an action of the economic elite to prevent some changes that would benefit the poor and allow the poor participation in society. Some of them thought that Zelaya was at least offering some openness to the poors’ concerns. There are others who were fed up with Zelaya’s corruption but consider Micheletti as corrupt and representative of those interests that keep the poor down. a coup d’état was for them not the way to deal with all these problems. I have also read of real concern about the two party monopoly on politics that keeps these political parties and their interests in power, but leave little room for the poor majority of the country to have a say in the way this country is governed.

Honduras is a very polarized society. A July 10 article in the New York Times reported, “And a new CID-Gallup poll showed the extent of the polarization there. According to a face-to-face survey of some 1,200 people, 46 percent of Hondurans disagreed with Mr. Zelaya’s ouster and 41 percent said they approved of it. Those surveyed were also evenly divided on Mr. Zelaya himself, with 31 percent saying they had a positive image of him and 32 percent a negative one.”

Meanwhile I came across this prayer from the blog Iglesia Descalza to our Lady of Suyapa, patroness of Honduras:
Virgin of Suyapa, bless all Hondurans, pour out your blessings on every one of their homes.

Good Lord Jesus, we ask you through Your Holy Blood, through Your Wounds, and with the intercession of Your most beautiful Mother, our Mother, the Virgin Mary, that peace may soon be reestablished, with stability and hope for the beloved inhabitants and natives of the Republic of Honduras. Amen
The “soccer” war – the 100 hours war: fortieth anniversary

The so-called “soccer war” between El Salvador and Honduras began forty years ago today.

Honduras was in a critical economic situation with lots of unrest, especially among trade unions and teachers. The government and some private groups began to blame the 300,000 plus undocumented Salvadorans living in Honduras. Salvadorans were forced off their land since the land available for land reform was only for Hondurans. This was, in part, a ploy of large land owners to maintain control of their large plantations

Tensions were high during two football (soccer) games between the two countries as part of the World Cup elimination matches and violence erupted at the second game in El Salvador. The press helped to stir up emotions in Honduras against Salvadorans. As a consequence Salvadorans were attacked within Honduras.

On July 14, 1969, the Salvadoran air force began bombing Honduras. By the evening of the next day Salvadoran troops had advanced to Nuevo Ocotopeque. The Organization of American States called for an immediate ceasefire; Salvadoran troops were to leave Honduras. The ceasefire was agreed to on July 18, though Salvadoran troops didn’t leave Honduran territory until the beginning of August.

Who won? I heave heard both sides claim victory, but – as is common – the poor lost. Between 60,000 and 130,000 Salvadorans fled or were expelled from Honduras. About 2000, mostly Honduran civilians were killed and thousands more left homeless. Another source says there were 4000 casualties.

Again the poor suffered; again the powers that be manipulated the press; again the system that kept the poor down was maintained.

There is a book that I should have read a while ago, Thomas Anderson’s The War of the Dispossessed. It’s now on my reading list.

For this little note, I referred to and - maybe not the best sources, but what I had on hand.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Golpe de estado – day 16

Still quiet here – though I have heard the teachers are planning a major demonstration against the coup, tomorrow in Tegucigalpa. Also, in at least one city teachers are occupying two schools and say they’ll be there until ousted president Zelaya returns.

Lots of uncertainty about everything. For me, that is almost worse than lots of things happening. At least when things are happening I have an idea about what the situation is – and can talk with people or speculate about what it all means. All the uncertainty leaves someone like me – who doesn’t like things too open-ended – a little ill at ease. But I’ll get over it.

It’s amazing how the coup can in a way take hold of one’s life and one’s consciousness. It’s important to be aware of the demands of justice, but what I feel that I really need to do is to get back a little more into direct service and connection with the poor. Tomorrow I'll at least spend a little time at the comedor de niños, the lunch program for poor kids.

I am still trying to figure out the position of Tegucigalpa Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB. In an interview today in Clarín, an Argentinean newspaper, when he was asked, ”Why did you [the bishops] support the de facto government of Micheletti?” he answered: “That is not true. We have explained what happened; we have not legitimated anyone. What you have to see here is the process and how Zelaya was violating the Constitution.” However, many commentators are still saying that he is supporting and legitimizing the de facto government of Micheletti.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Golpe de estado – the fifteenth day

No curfew tonight. The BBC reports “The government said it had "reached its objective" of quelling opposition protests, in a statement read out on television and radio.” I guess that means that everything is “normal.” Yet I doubt that.

Today I accompanied Iowa State graduate Sarah Hood to San Pedro Sula so that she can fly out tomorrow. I know Sarah from her time at Iowa State and her involvement at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. She’s now teaching Spanish in Houston.

She has been with me for a month helping out in various projects – teaching English in the jail, in a weekend educational program sponsored by the Catholic Church (Maestro en Casa), and at the Franciscan Sisters house down the street. She got more than she expected when the coup of June 28 overtook us. It must have been hard for her, but she held up like a champion!

On the way to San Pedro Sula we had a comfortable air-conditioned direct bus and I slept a bit during the short two hour and 15 minute ride. (The driver was racing most of the way.)

On the way back I took the first bus I could – no air conditioning for three hours on hard seats. We passed at least two military checkpoints, but we weren’t stopped. And it took three hours!

But it was good, since I found myself among the regular folk. I read my book on Gandhi and had a lot of time to reflect, especially on Gandhi’s emphasis on Truth.

I also had some time to reflect on the homily that Padre Fausto gave this morning at the San Martín chapel, just a few blocks up the hill.

He was prophetic as he often is, though he started out telling us that he had decided not to preach this Sunday until he read the readings. He stuck fairly closely to the readings at first.

Here are some of his thoughts that struck me.
  1. The Psalm (85) includes the phrase “justice and peace shall kiss.” We are talking about the peace of Jesus, Padre said, not peace which is imposed, the peace of the empire. Jesus said, “I give you my peace,” not the peace of weapons, not the peace of violence.
  2. At one point he quoted Al Gore to the effect that “The incestuous marriage of power and money is the worst enemy of democracy” – and of the church, Padre Fausto added. Pastors need to be far from power and money.
  3. Injustice is always supported by weapons of the lie.
  4. He spoke passionately about the presence of Billy Joya as a security adviser of acting president Micheletti. Joya was involved with the military group 3-16 which has been accused of torture and of collaboration with death squads. Padre Fausto then spoke of his experience of being held in a jail in the 1980s and hearing the screams of a young man who was being tortured in the jail. As they dragged his limp, tortured body past Father’s cell he heard them telling the boy something like, “You SOB, you didn’t sing today. But what will we do tomorrow to make you sing.”
I hesitated identifying Padre Fausto by name, but decided to do it since he is not afraid to speak out. He spoke out last weekend in Tegucigalpa and appeared on television world wide. I pray for his safety. I sensed his concern when he said at the beginning of homily that he had to preach even if it was his last homily.

The last thing I’d like to pass on is what Pope Benedict XVI said in Saint Peter’s Square today, after praying the Angelus:
In these days I am following the events in Honduras with lively concern. Today I would like to invite you to pray for that dear country so that, through the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Suyapa, the authorities of the nation and all its inhabitants can patiently follow the way of dialogue, of reciprocal understanding, and reconciliation. That is possible if, overcoming particularist tendencies, everyone makes an effort to seek the truth and pursue the common good with tenacity: This is the condition for assuring peaceful coexistence and authentic democratic life! I assure the beloved Honduran people of my prayer and impart a special apostolic benediction.
Seek the truth and pursue the common good – with tenacity!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Golpe de Estado – day 14

This morning I ran across this quotation by E. B. White in an e-mail from The Writers’ Almanac:
I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
This is a beautiful time of the year here in Santa Rosa de Copán. It is usually sunny and warm – even hot – during the day until a thunderstorm brings heavy rains and very comfortable temperatures. It's great sleeping weather.

Two weeks tomorrow morning Zelaya was picked up by the Armed Forces and forced out of the country. In some ways it feels as if it happened yesterday and in other ways it feels as if it had not happened at all.

Besides my work and talking with people I know, I’m doing a lot on reading on the internet, trying to find out as much as I can – comparing stories and sources, trying to understand the situation and to bring as much light and truth on the situation as I can. I am inveterate reader, who is always seeking (and storing) information. I hear a lot of rumors but I try to share in my blog only what I have experienced myself or which I can verify.

Since I have not come across major stories today, here are a few things I read or heard today, though, that I’d like to pass on:
  • Interim government Finance Minister Gabriela Nunez said this week she expects the economy to shrink by up to 2 percent this year after growing by 4 percent in 2008 -- a far cry from forecasts for 2 percent to 3 percent growth predicted earlier this year.
  • Demonstrations continue – from both sides. An ecumenical prayer service with Catholic, evangelical, and Jewish participation. One of the organizers was the San Pedro Sula president of the Bakers Association, who was one of the leaders earlier this year of the opposition to raising the minimum wage to 5500 lempiras a month, about $290.85, if you work in the city.
  • This week Cardinal Rodríguez has spoken out forcibly against Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, “I want to take this opportunity to say that we totally reject the meddling of the Venezuelan president. We are a small country, but a sovereign one.”
  • Several of the Honduran congressional who refused to acknowledge Micheletti as president are experiencing intense pressure. There is an unconfirmed report of one deputy’s house being raided by about 100 soldiers. (I mention this because the source of this is reputable.)
  • The curfew, from 11:00 pm to 4:30 pm, continues until next Tuesday, at least.
How to understand all this? A reader sent me a reference to a very “thought-provoking article” that I think might help – “HONDURAS: Coup d'Etat - What's In a Name?” by Diana Cariboni. In the article Cariboni wrote:
The current constitution was drafted in 1981 by a constituent assembly that met under military tutelage – characteristic of political life in this country for a good part of the 20th century – and amidst a broader Central American context of guerrilla warfare, dictatorships and U.S. interference.

Nevertheless, since then the country began to build institutions that it previously lacked, in the areas of electoral, judicial and human rights issues, access to public information, and transparency in state finances and procurements.

But nearly three decades of fragile democracy have brought neither prosperity nor development to this country of 7.5 million people, where eight out of 10 people live on less than a dollar a day according to United Nations statistics.

Indeed, Honduras is the third poorest country in Latin America, after Haiti and Nicaragua.
I've heard a few slightly different statistics, including some saying that Honduras is the second poorest - after Haiti. But it’s hard living in Honduras today. For the poor, hunger has been increasing this year – even before the coup – because of the global economic crisis.

The insecurity in the nation and the lack of resolution of the conflict trouble me, though I feel personally safe and spiritually at peace.

To help me during this time I have been reading from two books of Orbis Books’ Modern Spiritual Masters Series: Dom Helder Camara: Essential Writings and Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings. This quote of Gandhi’s helps me keep things in perspective:
Our task is to work away on behalf of what we consider to be right and just and to leave the result to God, without whose permission or knowledge not a blade of grass moves.
Peace – with justice and reconciliation.

Pray for us and work for and with the poor - wherever they are and wherever you are.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Golpe de estado – day 13

There’s a lot of fear and anxiety here in Honduras, even while teams from both “presidents” meet with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. There are also those who fear that it may get worse. I don’t know.

Both sides had demonstrations today, from what I read. The protests throughout the country against the coup seems to have been mostly the work of teachers. Just outside of town the road was blocked off for several hours.

But the biggest question is “Where will this lead?” I hope, at least in the short run, to some sort of peace. But, as I’ve said, that is not enough.

There are all sorts of ramifications of the coup. A program to promote maternal and infant health in about three hundred towns in this region of Honduras is being put on hold. The funds were coming from the World Bank which has frozen all its funding. Again, the poor suffer.

This morning I read the statement from the Dominican provincial for Central America, Father Alex Páez Ovares, OP, and Father Carlos Flores, OP, the Peace and Justice Coordinator. Here are two paragraphs, translated on the blog iglesia descalza (The Barefoot Church):
16. We call on all religious and members of the Dominican Family in Central America to categorically reject, based on the principles stated here, the coup inflicted on the Honduran democratic institution and call for national and international support for the restoration of the same [the democratic institution] as soon as possible.

17. At the same time, we are called to express our solidarity with the neediest, the poorest and the most excluded people in Honduras, who are also those who have been most affected -- and sometimes even manipulated -- by critical situations like the present one.
The document is about five pages long and fairly theological – which one should expect from a Dominican. I have placed a downloaded copy of the Spanish on my website: (Additional link for the document in Spanish:

Last night I translated the Central American Jesuits’ Social Apostolate statement. The title, which was not on the copy I had received, is “The Truth will make you free.” It’s a very strong statement, but I especially am moved by this section:
The poor, ultimately, are those who will suffer by the break up of the fragile freedoms of democracy in Honduras and in whatever other country in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in the world. We wish to serve the poor in the pursuit of peace inseparable from justice and the defense of democratic cultural values, which include participation in the public life of civil society.
Again, what is missing in much of the debate and political maneuvering is “How will this give life – in abundance – to the poor?” It’s so much about holding on to power and to one’s wealth. It’s so much about legal interpretation.

For me, the words of the late Pope John Paul II ring true, but are so often ignored, especially here: “The needs of the poor take priority over the desires of the rich.”

A side note. This week Pope Benedict XVI issued his social justice encyclical, Caritas in Veritate – Charity in Truth. I’m trying to slowly work through it. I am sure it will have relevance for our crisis here in Honduras. Expect a theological blog entry on “Honduras and Pope Benedict.”

Peace - with justice and reconciliation.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Golpe de estado – day 12

The news is sparse – Costa Rican president Cosar Arias met with both Mel Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti, separately. Both left teams in Costa Rica to continue to negotiate.

Today I received numerous copies of statements from religious orders in Honduras. None are supportive of the coup, though some are more guarded than others. But the call for “dialogue leading to negotiating,” protests against the denial of civil rights, and concern for the poorest seem to be ever present. The concern is real from these groups of men and women religious who work with the poor and know their struggles.

I have translated two in prior posts. I have also placed copies or links to many of them in Spanish, as well as many pertinent documents in Spanish on my Spanish blog <>.

Today the word is clearly “negotiation,” but my concern is that the dialogue must somehow include the poor. Otherwise it’s just the same arrangement of chairs for economic and political elites. The poor must have their say.
Honduran Conference of Men and Women Religious Statement

“The new heavens and the new earth I am going to create will endure for ever…” (Isaiah 66:23)

As the Conference of Men and Women Religious of Honduras – CONFEREH – from our faith in Jesus Christ and his Good News of the Kingdom of God, from our option to accompany the feeling and the march of poor and pilgrim People in the history of Honduras; and in the face of the worsening of the political, economic, and social crisis provoked by the break up of the constitutional order on June 28 (the coup d’état):

We have a special concern about:
  • The situation of a people and of families divided and faced with polarized political and ideological politics and ideologies.
  • The lack of peace, the anxiety, fear, confusion and insecurity which the population in general lives in these moments.
  • The increase of the impoverishment of many Honduran families which deepens the historic inequality and injustice in the country.
  • The paralyzing of many activities which contribute to the development of our country, especially education and the unviersities.
We reject:
  • The rupture of the constitutional order and the limitation of constitutional guarantees for the population.
  • Whatever expression of violence, and the repression of the sector of the population which does not accept and protests what happened on June 28.
  • The control and manipulation of information by some of the media, violating the right to have objective and true information.
  • The repression made against some social alternative media.
  • Whatsoever threat of interference of other nations.
  • The using of and pressure on the working population for purposes and interests of partisan politicians or groups.
We propose and we accompany
  • The forces which will restore an environment of trust, justice, and peace in the population and which promote serenity and reconciliation in families.
  • A true dialogue among the different sectors and organizations in the society, where they lay aside passionate positions of political and ideological confrontation, and where they build beneficial consensuses, especially of benefit to the poor majorities.
  • The social means of communication which present the truth about what is happening to the population in general.
  • The population in strengthening a critical sense and discernment in order to seek new paths which favor the common good.

We encourage the people to maintain hope and the commitment to construct God’s Reign of justice, liberty, and peace. We join with all those persons and organizations which make efforts to restore a democracy which guarantees equality, participation, and the good of all in Honduras. May Mary [the Virgin] of Suyapa, who knew how to read the history of her people in a prophetic manner, intercede for everyone who lives on our soil.

Tegucigalpa, July 9, 2009

The original in Spanish can be found at

Corrected translation to reflect additions to the document provided by the source.

Central American Jesuits Social Apostolate statement

Communication from the Provincial Commission of the Social Apostolate (CPAS) of the Central American Province of the Society of Jesus in the face of events in Honduras

We have attentively followed with deep concern the events which since Thursday, June 25, have cast over the Honduran people the dark shadow of preparations for a coup d’état. In effect, it was on that date that members of the Armed Forces began to be deployed in the streets of Tegucigalpa. Sunday, June 28, the coup was carried out. In the best copy of the old military uprisings we believed we had already overcome, the President of the Republic was awakened in the early hours of the morning by a detachment of the Armed Forces, guns at the ready, and obliged to board a airplane that took him to Costa Rica where he appeared before the means of communication even though he was in his pajamas and without socks.

From that time, Radio Progreso – whose director is our companion and member of CPAS, Jesuit Ismael Moreno Coto – has suffered, first, the interruption of its broadcasting, forced by a squad of soldiers who threatened to destroy their equipment if they were not obeyed. And that [happened] despite the crowd of people at the doors of the station which showed itself ready to defend “the voice of the people.” Radio Progreso afterwards has resumed its broadcasting cautiously but under threat, and its frequency has been interfered with a few times. The same has happened with other radio and television stations, including some cable stations. Evidently some of those governing who, in order to buttress their government, feel the need to obstruct the transmission of information and its pluralism, show clearly the doubt which hounds them over their own legitimacy and the shifting sands on which they are moving.

Radio Progreso has called from Friday, June 26, for “dialogue for negotiation” between the institutions representative of democracy in Honduras and members of civil society institutions. Negotiating dialogue [is seen] as the only reasonable tool to discern among the diverse proposals and projects in the country. Dialogue and negotiation are the tools of democracy. The use of the Armed Forces, and then of the Police, to repress the citizenry who do not approve the coup d’état, are the tools of a power which fears – and therefore has prohibited – the right of demonstration, of association, of mobilizing, of free expression of opinion, of due process, and, above all, of the inviolability of one’s home and of people’s physical and mental integrity. These are the weapons of dictatorship.

Radio Progreso has again expressed, on Friday, July 3, its conviction that “dialogue for a negotiated settlement is, without doubt, the only way to avoid drowning in bloodshed.” Radio Progreso thinks that the leadership of the Liberal Party has called on the Armed Forces to help its socially elitist project and has misused them, and now also [the same with] the Police, in order to maintain a self-coup [autogolpe] of the civil State which imposes on the country, by anti-constitutional procedures, an authoritative and repressive regime that does not guarantee – although it so is proclaimed – the holding of this year’s November elections and their being clean.

Radio Progreso also thinks that, beyond the disputes, apparently vehement, between the two factions[groups] of government, “civil society has the right to go out into the streets and make its voice heard, not because the government of President Manuel Zelaya has been a good government but because the remedy of a coup d’état brings upon us a much worse political and social sickness than what we had with the improvised and chaotic administration” of President Zelaya and his group.

The Provincial Commission of the Social Apostolate [CPAS] of the Central American Province of the Society of Jesus [Jesuits] shares the analytical evaluation of Radio Progreso and, in every instance, considers that the way toward democratic political freedom can only be guaranteed if the diverse sources of public opinion can make their proper contribution in the pursuit of truth.

The CPAS, therefore, is with no hesitation in solidarity with Radio Progeso, with the Team of Reflection, Information and Communication [Equipo de Reflexión, Información y Comunicación] (ERIC), and with the director of both, Father Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J., and with all the workers who, through these groups, support democracy as citizens who seek truth with freedom from [the standpoint] of the option for the poor. The poor, ultimately, are those who will suffer by the break up of the fragile freedoms of democracy in Honduras and in whatever other country in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in the world. We wish to serve the poor in the pursuit of peace inseparable from justice and the defense of democratic cultural values, which include participation in the public life of civil society.

We appeal to the love for country of all those implicated in the political dispute in Honduras and we make a plea for negotiation so that so that paths are sought what return Honduras to the Rule of Law, which the entire community of nations and peoples demands.

We exhort the governments of Mexico and Central America is generously receive the refugees and those forcibly displaced from Honduras, provoked by this crisis.

Francisco Iznardo, S.J.
Coordinator of the Social Apostolate
Central American Province of the Society of Jesus

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Golpe de estado – day 10 11

Waiting, waiting, waiting. A time for me to reflect.

Tomorrow both “presidents” of Honduras are supposed to meet in Costa Rica with President Oscar Arias. I pray that both sides will stop posturing and be open to real negotiation to help bring same peace and stability here. One side says, ''We are going to find a way to reinstate my government, to reinstate my presidency,'' while the other counters, ''We are open to dialogue as long as it does not involve the return of President Zelaya.”

Today I had lunch at Weekends Pizza [best pizza in Central America?] with two Dubuque Franciscans working in Gracias, Lempira, Sisters Nancy Meyerhofer and Brenda Whetstone. It’s always great to meet with them. It’s a chance to share our joys and sorrows, our concerns and difficulties and to pass on what we have learned. Now was a really important time to do this, as the rumors are flying and there is so much confusion.

I had to leave for about half an hour to talk with the bishop and let him know that I had been misidentified and misquoted, as noted in an earlier post. I didn’t want him to get blind-sided. He was most gracious.

The sisters and I talked about many things but one thing we noted was the fear that so many are experiencing. They fear civil war, violence. The fabric of society is so fragile here that many fear it will break even further.

I have noted before the real poverty that so many experience here as well as the sense of powerlessness in the face of the elites and the corruption that keeps them in power. Democracy here was so fragile, I believe, because of the poverty and corruption. It will not be strengthened by a mere political solution; it needs some real changes in Honduras society and economy.

Since the society has been so polarized it will also need the renewal of trust. a first step would be for all parties to stop using provocative or insulting language.

A concern of mine has been the possibility of the suspension of US aid. The US government has suspended $16.5 million in military assistance programs to Honduras. But, according to a US State Department press release that a reader sent me, this will not affect humanitarian programs meant for the people and so “… among other things, all assistance supporting the provision of food aid, HIV/AIDS and other disease prevention, child survival, and disaster assistance, as well as elections assistance to facilitate free and fair presidential elections, is still being provided to the people of Honduras.” That is good, since suspension of all aid would only make the poor suffer more.

And so we wait – not expecting miracles from President Arias, but hoping that something might come of his efforts.

The people want peace; the people deserve justice; the poor must be able to live decently. A negotiated solution will be only a first step – but systematic changes are needed as well as real empowerment of the poor.
A correction

The statement from the Santa Rosa de Copán Diocesan Pastoral Council was read by the bishop of the diocese, Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, SDB, on Thursday, July 2, 2009, in San Marcos Ocotopeque - not in the cathedral.

I want to reiterate that the message, though read by the bishop, is from the Diocesan Pastoral Council, Consejo Diocesano de Pastoral.
So goes the Honduran press

Yesterday in a report in El Tiempo on line which seems to comes from AFP, presumably its Tegucigalpa correspondent, I am identified as a priest - which I am not and have never claimed to be. I am identified as a Jesuit, which I never claimed to be (though I have been trained by the Jesuits in college and in grad school and deeply respect them). It makes it appear that I am speaking about the Honduran bishops conference.

I at first wondered where the quote came from. Then I realized that it was a mistranslation of a remark I had made in a recent blog about an upcoming meeting of the directors of Caritas in Honduras: "I presume there will be a lot of discussion and debate, especially in light of the differences between the message of the Santa Rosa Diocesan Pastoral Council released by our bishop, Monseñor Santos, last Thursday in the cathedral, and the message of the Bishops Conference released on national tv and radio by Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez last Saturday."

The article has appeared in several other publications worldwide.

There are other errors, including the claim that the Santa Rosa de Copán statement was made hours before the Cardinal's statement. The statement was released on Thursday here in Ocotopeque, two days before the cardinal read the conference's statement on national television and radio. It was not sent out until Friday due to the difficulty of getting digital copies of a statement that had been finished on Thursday morning before it was read by the bishop in San Marcos Ocotopeque.

Revised to correct the site of the release of the message, July 9, 2009

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Golpe de estado – day 10

As I lay in bed this morning after the alarm went off I thought of how easy it is, here in Santa Rosa de Copán, to live as though there were no crisis in Honduras. Sure, I have to be in the house during the hours of curfew – but I am not in what little night life there is here in Santa Rosa. Other things are back to near normal – many of the schools had opened and I later heard the kids walking up the street to the grade school just about a half block away.

It is very easy to inure oneself to the reality that many face.

Tuesday is my day to help out at the comedor de niños, a lunch program for poor kids that the diocese started last year. Today there were not as many kids as last week when there was no school. But what struck me were the little kids who were really malnourished. Several of the kids looked to be two or younger; one little girl was four years old and one little boy, who looked to be one, was actually two and a half years old.

Those children are the reality of Honduras.

It is still tranquil here in Santa Rosa. There were marches throughout the country – two against the coup in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa and six for the coup. In Tegucigalpa, the wife of the deposed president, Xiomara de Zelaya, who had been staying in the US Embassy, joined the marchers.

In conversations this evening I got a few insights into the marches.

One person who had been at the Sunday march in Tegucigalpa to welcome deposed President Zelaya spoke about the size of the crowd and the efforts the organizers had made to keep it peaceful. He related one event that was revealing. It was a hot day. The protesters were on one side of the barbed wire protecting the airport with the soldiers in rows on the other side. It was a very hot day and many protesters had water. Here they sell water in bottles as well as in clear plastic bags. To help the soldiers relieve their thirst one protester threw a bag of water over the fence; soon many more followed and the thirsty soldiers were enthusiastically grabbing the bags.

Another person gave me a little insight into the Saturday March for Peace and Democracy here in Santa Rosa de Copán. In San Pedro Sula and in Tegucigalpa there were often a number of posters with insulting images and slogans, anti-Zelaya. When the organizers were planning, somehow someone saw that some organizers had brought some pre-made posters that were very insulting. For example, one was a double-headed snake with images of Zelaya and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Local public officials objected and said that this was supposed to be a march for peace and democracy. The insulting posters were not used.

I hope that these two examples will guide what happens in the next few weeks.

For there is at last a little hint of a way out. Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias agreed to mediate the Honduran crisis. Arias was Costa Rican president in the 1980s when he worked to resolve the civil wars in Guatemala and El Salvador and the contra war in Nicaragua. He was, in my opinion, only partly successful but won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. The Salvadoran civil war ended with a negotiated settlement in 1992. The Guatemalan civil war concluded a few years later. Nicaragua had a peaceful election that brought in a different government and the contras (supported by the US government) disappeared. He will be meeting with both deposed president Manuel Zelaya and interim president Roberto Micheletti this Thursday in Costa Rica. It will not be an easy or quick process, yet I hope that it will bring some measure of peace.

This evening the Franciscan sisters down the street invited me to join them to talk with a priest in his eighties who was at the march in Tegucigalpa on Saturday and Sunday. It was a fascinating conversation, but I need time to reflect on it and try to grasp the significance of all he said.

In the meantime, what I hope I can remember from today are the children at the comedor. I cam here “to be of service to those most in need” and so they need to remain the inspiration and driving force for all I do.

And so I close with these words of the Mahatma, Mohandas Gandhi, which I read last night before going to sleep: “Self-realization I hold to be impossible without service of and identification with the poorest.”

Not just service – but identification with them.

In the midst of a deeply divided society, these words of a seventh century Syrian saint from Nineveh (in modern Iraq) challenge us:

What is a merciful heart?

It is the heart’s burning for the sake of the entire creation, for men, for birds, for animals, for demons, and for every created thing; and by the recollection and sight of them the eyes of a merciful man pour forth abundant tears.

From the strong and vehement mercy which grips his heart and from his great compassion, his heart is humbled and he cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in creation.

For this reason he offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm him, that they be protected and receive mercy.

And in like manner he even prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns without measure in his heart in the likeness of God.

St Isaac of Syria

With deep gratitude to Jim Forest who shared this with his friends.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Golpe de estado – day nine

After all the drama and tension of yesterday things are fairly quiet here – and, I think, throughout the country, except for a few demonstrations in the major cities.

Today I spent a lot of time at Caritas – meeting with the program workers in the morning, as is our usual Monday routine. Father Efraín, the director of Caritas Santa Rosa, went off to a national meeting of the directors of Caritas, a meeting which had been schedule months before. I presume there will be a lot of discussion and debate, especially in light of the differences between the message of the Santa Rosa Diocesan Pastoral Council released by our bishop, Monseñor Santos, last Thursday in the cathedral San Marcos Ocotopeque, and the message of the Bishops Conference released on national tv and radio by Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez last Saturday.

But while meeting this morning, one of the staff who works on citizen participation programs told me that one of the security advisers of the interim government was retired captain Billy Joya, who is alleged to have been involved in death squads in the 1980s. This could be ominous, unless he has experienced a change of heart.

The afternoon was not very exciting – thank God. Between keeping up on e-mails, news, and other communications, I looked over the half-year report on the Citizenship Participation program. I have been impressed about the efforts that our three field staff do in three municipalities. Working with other non-governmental programs they have been training people in everything from how to set up an organization to how to hold a public hearing with the mayor and the municipal leaders. They’ve worked with local Transparency Commissions that are meant to be watch dogs over the municipal governments as well as with the Social Ministry leaders in the parishes. It’s hard work and has had lots of challenges; in at least one case only members of one party participated in a public event that was planned; in some cases it has been hard to get women involved, even though that is a underlying goal of man Caritas programs. But the program has been able to give the people they work with some skills and some sense of power. However, it has been a difficult month, because of the polarization that Honduras has been experiencing weeks before the coup.

When I got home I had dinner with Sarah who is volunteering here for a month. Then after some reading and computer work I headed out for my local base community meeting. The place where we meet was dark, but I ran into the leader and his wife who told that it had been canceled since they thought we would have another 6:30 pm curfew. No, it’s only a 10:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew.

Waiting is hard – and I feel that tension among some here. What will come next? I have read that Zelaya will meet with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton tomorrow and also that there are several representatives of the interim government who will meet with folks at the Organization of American States.

I hope these are steps that lead to real dialogue and some advancement toward peace with justice.

We shall see and we shall keep praying!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Golpe de estado – eighth day

It’s been quite an eighth day for us here in Honduras.

In the early Church, the day of Christ’ resurrection was thought of as the eighth day, the day on which all is brought to completion. But Honduras did not see much resurrection today.

I got up a half hour later than usual, prayed, washed some clothes and then went to Mass.

Father Henry celebrated Mass this morning in the chapel of San Martín de Porres up the hill from my house in Santa Rosa. Padre Fausto had gone to Tegucigalpa to join the thousands protesting the coup.

Father Henry spoke very pointedly about the role of Christians as prophets. “Do you get mad because you hear denunciations of injustice?” he asked.

Vaguely referring to yesterday’s demonstration for peace and democracy in Santa Rosa’s central plaza, he asked “How can you ask for peace if you are full of hatred, of resentment?...How can you ask for peace if you do not go to church or if you don’t pay your employees a decent wage?”

Our role as a prophet, he concluded is to announce the good news of Jesus as well as denounce injustice.

It was a thoughtful homily – not as straight-forwardly political as Padre Fausto’s sometimes are, but it touched me.

Much of today has been spent talking with people, looking for information on the internet, and corresponding with people by e-mail. It has been a great consolation to receive notes from friends through e-mail or Facebook. It has been even more moving to receive notes from people I don’t know who have come across my blog and write – many times wishing me “Stay safe.” I feel as if I am experiencing some of the “globalization of solidarity” – something we in Honduras deeply need.

Today’s Dramas or Tragicomedies

Deposed president Zelaya was supposed to return today and thousands were gathered in Tegucigalpa to greet him at the airport. But the government closed all the airports and sent troops to control the crowds. There are reports of clashes and at least two deaths.

While waiting for news I turned on the radio (since I don’t have a television). About 2:00 pm, regular programming was interrupted. The de facto president Roberto Micheletti and some of his advisors had a press conference which was broadcast on all the tv and radio stations. They call it a cadena and is broadcast by the government. The first statement was that that Nicaraguan troops were massing toward the border with Honduras. When questioned about details, no number or place was given and it was finally acknowledged that there were “small groups of Nicaraguan troops.” The de facto president admitted that the troops could be acting without authorization of their commanders. But it was also called a "psychological invasion." From a friend I learned that CCN Español reported that Nicaragua denied the allegation the US has not detected the movement of Nicaraguan troops on the border!

This press conference was repeated again on a national broadcast at 4:25. Though most stations were running it, the local Catholic radio station announced that since it was a repeat they would continue with broadcasting religious music instead of the repeat broadcast. One small courageous act.

Surfing the radio dial on Radio America later, I heard another national rebroadcast of the Cardinal’s statement from yesterday with words from another religious leader.

This feels a lot like fear mongering.

I must mention that acting president Micheletti mentioned that he had sent a letter to the Organization of American States suggesting dialogue but when asked what would be the issue for the dialogue an aide gave an ambiguous reply. it was reported that a US official said it was unclear what was the purpose of the proposed dialogue. Dialogue would be good – but it needs to include a wide consultation.

About 5:00 pm I was listening to the Catholic Radio station which reported that Zelaya’s plane was circling the Tegcigalpa airport. This sounded a little strange at first because a government official had earlier reported that Zelaya had landed in El Salvador. But I listened, even as I read e-mail reports from some one in the Caribbean. I called the Franciscan sisters who lived down the street and went to watch the television coverage.

The plane was circling with Zelaya and Father Miguel D’Escoto, the Nicaraguan Maryknoll priest who is General Secretary of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Three army vehicles on the runway were joined by a helicopter, preventing the landing. Eventually the plane went on to Nicaragua as a fuelling point, before going to El Salvador to meet up with the presidents of Argentina, Paraguay, and Ecuador who were waiting for him there.

Zelaya is still outside the country, for better or worse. Many had advised Zelaya not to return. Some, like Cardinal Rodríguez of Tegucigalpa, feared a bloodbath and there were tens of thousands waiting for him. (One figure, from a leftist source, said a half million were there.) Some were concerned about the jubilant welcome these might have given him.

But the government had closed all the nations airport to prevent him from landing. It seems strange to me that if the government had an arrest warrant for him on multiple charges (some of them probably legitimate), why would they not arrange a way for him to land somewhere and then arrest him on the spot. Maybe they did try to negotiate this, but I have not heard any news.

A serio-comic aside: during an interview on the plane Zelaya quipped, "I'm doing everything I can. If I had a parachute I would immediately jump out of this plane." That would have been quite a sight!

So where are we now?

First of all I’m in my house since there is a 6:30 pm to 5:00 am curfew. Evening Masses were canceled in Santa Rosa and Gracias - and probably other places in the country. Even they keep this early curfew up many religious meetings - for example, my neighborhood base community - will have to be canceled or we take the risk to share our faith with our neighbors.

Who knows what the various parties in this conflict will do next? Will Zelaya try to re-enter tomorrow? What kind of dialogue will Michiletti really offer? Will the teachers and the government workers will continue their strike?

But the central question is whether real dialogue, including all parties and the poor of this country, and concern for the common good will have a chance?


A correction?

In yesterday’s blog I said that I saw 400 to 600 people at the demonstration in the square. What I hadn’t known is that there was a march through the streets before the demonstration. La Prensa reported there were 5,000 people – which sounds a little high. But I still maintain two concerns: Where did the money come from for all the t-shirts? But, more importantly, are these good people being manipulated by the right wing?