Sunday, September 27, 2009

What is happening

The extended curfew was ended on Wednesday and so I went to a conference of Project Honduras in Copán Ruinas. The conference bought together mostly people from the US who work with groups in Honduras. I went last year and it was a good way to connect with people working throughout the country. Most are Episcopalians or evangelicals. There were very few Catholics, despite the fast that the country is overwhelmingly Catholic.

The organizer, who has been doing this for a decade, had decided – since before the coup – that there would be no public discussion of politics. But that didn’t stop me from having a few conversations.

Friday night I spoke with an evangelical from San Pedro Sula who is, as far as I can tell, for the National Party candidate, Pepe Lobo. We had a very civil conversation, though it was quite heated and honest, though at times surreal. For example, he told me that a few months before the coup an evangelical leader that President Zelaya was going to permit gay marriage. Such were the rumors that were going around to undermine Zelaya. But my interlocutor also thought that Zelaya had “touched” the rich, in the sense of having touched a live wire because of his actions that sought to assist the poor; therefore they arrested him and threw him out of the country.

I think he was also trying to get me to "accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior." My belief is that Jesus Christ is our interpersonal Savior, Lord above all political leaders, and liberator of the poor.

During the conference I also took advantage of several opportunities to share my views in small groups and to share the view of the church in this part of the country. I had a good number of dialogues.

I felt buoyed up because I had just received the statement of the priests of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán and translated this. (See a previous blog entry.)

Thursday there seemed to be some possibilities after Tegucigalpa auxiliary bishop Juan Pineda visited with President Zelaya in the Brazilian embassy. Four presidential candidates met later with Zelaya. There seemed to be some possibilities for dialogue.

But since then the situation has gotten worse. The Honduran military are using a sound weapon that emits sounds of 151 decibels! There are also reports of use of toxic agents. Though the UN and international human rights have called for an end of the attacks on the embassy, they have continued. (And I have yet to hear a condemnation of these attacks by the Obama administration. I hope they have and that I've only not heard them.)

On Friday, our bishop, Monseñor Luis Alfonse Santos, attempted to visit the president and others in the embassy. The military would not permit him to enter.

However, the International Red Cross was able to enter as well as some others to bring them food.

But the de facto government just seems to get more intransigent. The Organization of American States sent some government officials to help start a dialogue. Four of them were not allowed to enter the country.

There has been a curfew every night this week. The major curfew that kept us inside for two days seems to have had an economic effect. Jesús Canahuati, vice president of the Honduran chapter of the Business Council of Latin America, mentioned that Honduras was losing $50 million a day during the days of the curfew this week. He also noted that the country’s $14.1 billion economy has lost up to $200 million in investments since June 28, the day of the coup.

But since Wednesday the curfew has not been for the whole country. The Bay Islands, havens for tourists, had been spared since Wednesday noon. Several other parts of the country have also been spared temporarily. The past two nights Puerto Cortes, the major Caribbean port, has been exempted from the curfew. In Copán Ruinas, another tourist site, there was an arrangement with the police that the curfew wouldn’t begin until 11 pm and only go to 4 am. If you are tourist or a major importer or exporter, you are spared the curfew.

I wonder how the curfew is being observed in the countryside. My guess that it is not much observed in the villages. A friend made a pastoral visit to a rural community. Despite the curfew the community had a meeting. But the community could not get to town to sell its goods or buy what they needed.

How long will this continue?

There are reports that a 45 day state of siege has been declared but I have not seen any official report of this. According to the Radio Globo commentator this would mean a suspension of the rights of habeas corpus and rights of association, free expression, and more. The military would be in charge or enforcing this executive degree.

If this is true, Honduras begins to look like a military-enforced dictatorship.

I am supposed to leave on October 4 for three weeks in the US. I almost don’t want to leave. I really want to do what I can to accompany the people of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán.


Another perspective

This morning I went to Mass in the San Martin chapel up the hill. Father Henry gave the homily which left me a little confused.

In some ways I think father was reflecting the confusion of the people and their desire for peace.

He talked a lot about peace and reconciliation, very clearly critiquing the use of violence.

He also talked about injustice, taking as his starting point the reading from the letter of James, 5: 1-6. (Read it. It should make you squirm.)

He asked who was rich. I had to raise my hand. But he wouldn’t let the poor off the hook. He talked about injustice in the family, asking at one point, “Are you paying your wife fairly?” – which elicited a laugh from the congregation. He asked about fair wages for employees, including domestic workers. He widened the critique to a local bank – and of course to the country where “10 families” rule and have the economic power.

He critiqued both sides of the current conflict – but very interestingly critiqued specifically only of “the fanatics” of the Resistance, not impugning the whole Resistance. He also specifically called “tercos” – stubborn, obdurate – those in the Presidential Palace and the Brazilian embassy. He mentioned that perhaps in a year or so Micheletti and Zelaya will be kissing each other (as Zelaya did with four presidential candidates this weeks) but they’d both be laughing at us poor.

I think this reflects what many feel. They are fed up with the system that has kept the poor down for 100 plus years (as father also said), but they have great doubts about the politicians.

A final word - from James. I hope that all of use take this to heart.
Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.
Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten,
your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;
it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days.
Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud,
and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;
you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.
You have condemned;
you have murdered the righteous one;
he offers you no resistance.
James 5: 1-6 (New American Bible translation)


Doug Zylstra said...


just saw thus on Reuters:

El Gobierno 'de facto' suspende por decreto la libertad de expresión, de reunión y de información
   TEGUCIGALPA, 28 Sep. (Reuters/EP) -

   Honduras ha suspendido mediante un decreto la libertad de expresión, ha prohibido las manifestaciones y se ha otorgado el derecho a suspender a los medios de comunicación que puedan "alterar la paz", informaron fuentes del Gobierno 'de facto'.

   Según la copia del decreto obtenida por Reuters, fechada el 26 de septiembre, el ministro de Interior 'de facto', Óscar Matute, insta a  que todos los medios de comunicación que inciten a la violencia sean regulados. Las fuentes consultadas por la agencia británica afirman que el decreto ya ha sido impreso en el boletín oficial del estado.

Doug Zylstra said...

Haven't seen official word yet though..

Doug Zylstra said...

Decreto official: