National Election Outcome is Uncertain in Honduras, but There’s Progress at Local Level

New Orleans   Almost all of the headlines from Honduras in the wake of the recent election have been very, very troubling. The earliest reports indicated that a more progressive party and candidate was leading the voting decisively over the incumbent who had won the presidency in the wake of the United States backed golipista coup pulled off by the conservatives to steal the seat from the popularly elected president. This coup has roiled politics in Honduras for years, even as some stability had returned. Later as the reporting on the vote count stretched out from days to over a week, the incumbent’s party claimed to have been re-elected by 50,000 votes. Recounts are now being demanded because of these and other irregularities in both the voting and the tabulation. Protests are widespread given the uncertainty, and both sides are claiming victory.

ACORN has been organizing in Honduras for years in Tegucigalpa as well as in San Pedro Sula and the working-class suburbs in this industrial city, sometimes touted as the most dangerous in North America. The issues are rock solid and often have centered around winning basic city services in the colonias like potable water, recreation centers, paved streets, and school improvements. The issue of security has been particularly intense in our neighborhoods, and they were regularly among the most impacted, as threats to families forced many to send children fleeing to the US border during the refugee crisis poorly handled by the Obama Administration. ACORN has pushed the government on this issue, and even won some support from the First Lady directly in helping repatriate children that were in holding camps in the US after having been caught at the border.

Nonetheless, the election brought all of these tensions around the coup, the disenfranchisement of low and moderate income people, and the continued outrage over the undermining of Honduran democracy to the surface. In a lesson that speaks to the United States experience, the resistance, so to speak, continued to burn as hot coals even when the flames were no longer as visible to outsiders past the ring of fire. Reports of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of women being motivated to run for office in elections post-Trump, find an analogy in the awakening of grassroots political interest and involvement in Honduran communities as well.

Recently, in a call with ACORN Honduras organizers, we came to understand something more of the full measure of the changes and continued reactions at the grassroots level where the coup polarized and politicized so many. In San Pedro Sula and its suburbs four ACORN members had been elected as representatives to the national Congress, Sherly Ariagas, Edgardo Castro, Samuel Madrid, and Patricia Murillo, who was one of the founding leaders of San Pedro Sula ACORN. Four city councillors were elected, one in Tegucigalpa, and others in the San Pedro Sula working class suburbs of Cholomo, Progresso, and San Antonio Cortes. ACORN members and supporters were also elected as mayors in Macuclizo and San Antonio Cortes.

Certainly, it says a lot about ACORN’s work and organizing in Honduras in recent years, but no matter how the national election is finally determined, perhaps more importantly, these kinds of election victories, multiplied many times over throughout the country at the local level, also speak to a wave of change that is coming in Honduras that will not be stopped and cannot be stolen.

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Looking at Migration from Honduras Up, Rather than US Down

London   Draft rules being prepared by the US Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency for ICE, Immigration and Custom Enforcement, would provide for expedited procedures for anyone in the US over two weeks, rather than two years, immediate deportation at the border, and potential legal action against parents sending unaccompanied minors. Honduras, where ACORN works in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, the two largest cities, was frequently leading the list of countries sending children. We were fortunate to have an intern from Tulane University, Jordan Sticklin, do some research to help our organizers in Honduras understand what many of our members and their families are facing. Looking deeply at the situation in Honduras reveals a more complicated story than many might want to understand.

The crisis of insecurity and violence in many lower income communities forcing families to flee for safety is a real issue, which we confront in our neighborhoods daily, and there is little debate that the government of Honduras has not been able to develop sufficient capacity to protect families. The child migration problem though dates back before this time though to the destruction of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and its continued aftermath. Many families were displaced then, and a US program allowing temporary stay permits facilitated the migration of many Hondurans during the emergency. Families were often separated then with children left with relatives as migrants hoped to reclaim them once they stabilized in the US and legalized their migratory status. The failure of the US to provide a policy solution there has exacerbated the problem.

A Honduran agency found that between 2013-2016, more than 9,000 Honduran children were detained upon trying to enter the US, and in 276 cases they were unaccompanied minors. Inarguably, the issue in Honduras is not unaccompanied children, but entire families fleeing their communities, and frankly running for their lives. Given this fear-to-flight situation, it is easier to understand the harsh reality that negates much of the US policy discussion. Polls in Honduras indicate that 80% surveyed believed that policies under President Trump for migrants would worsen, yet 40% still believed that they had no choice and would still be forced to migrate.

Meanwhile Mexico is caught in the middle with US pressure to tighten up its borders to prevent transit of migrants from Honduras and other Central America countries to the US. In 2015, 91% of the migrants returned to Central America were from Mexico and only 8% were from the USA. The draft Trump deportation rules, if implemented, will increase the pressure – and cost – to Mexico in handling increased numbers of migrants at the border who are now being housed in the US while waiting on deportation or other adjudication, who will now just be pushed back across the border. We can expect to see the nightmarish pictures coming on television similar to the squatters’ camps in France where African migrants try to figure out how to get across the English Channel to England.

We can keep blaming and shaming, but none of this is a solution, nor is it humanitarian or show any respect for human rights or the basic reality of the situation. At best it looks like a way to make Mexico pay for migrants, whether they pay for the wall or not. None of this will end well.

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