Land and Community Struggles in Choloma

San Pedro Sula   Our ACORN International delegation spent our first day visiting with members and leaders of ACORN Honduras in the abutting city of Choloma where we have almost a half-dozen affiliated organizations.  Choloma is an industrial suburb to an industrial city.  The motto on the signs as the bus crossed into Choloma called the city of 70,000 the Cuidad de Maquilas, The City of Factories.   Like so many of the workers, we travelled by bus, by foot, by tut-tut or auto-rickshaw, as they are known in India, standing and sitting in the back of pickups, and crammed into taxis and members cars.  One organizer cracked that the only way we didn’t travel was by horseback, though we certainly strode in their hoof prints on several trails.

            We saw where one of our groups in frustration with the city had paved a steep incline themselves because the area was impassable to their homes in that sector.  Nearby they pointed out a pothole that was large enough to swallow small cars and certainly motorcycles.  Ironically,  the Mayor of Choloma addressed us later at the end of day, partially because he was pitching a new party, Partido Libre, though we could not easily determine if the party’s platform included street paving.

            Interestingly, the organizers and leaders took us to see several new organizing efforts in the countryside abutting Choloma, where we have members that have been squatting on contested lands and in some cases have won title to the lands, so that they and their neighbors can produce yucca, plantains, corn, and other goods for the local markets.  Many wanted to talk about how they could export their goods to get higher prices. The obstacles are staggering unfortunately.   We had been joined by one of the founders and another leader from COMUCAP, our partners from the coffee growing areas of La Paz across the country, so it was easy to talk with everyone about how hard the job of moving containers of coffee has been outside of Honduras.  We admired their struggle and applauded their victories, but exporting plantains and yucca is way past the skill level of a community organization, we were sad to share.

            The issue of land distribution has been a thorny one in Honduras.  One of our groups related a struggle – successful in their case – that had been waged for 21 years.  Another was hopeful that they could succeed where they were squatting, but less than a kilometer away, we could see the small single house development adding more houses, one by one, making it likely that the next time they come up the road, it will be to buy more land, not to purchase plantains.

            It was good to be visiting with organizers in Honduras, Mexico, Canada, and the United States and to await the coming reports, but none of this work is easy.

Choloma Audio Blog


Walmart, the Environmental Criminal, Too

San Pedro Sula  Walmart was very good some years ago at trying to split progressive ranks by pretending to care deeply about its environmental footprint even as it rough handled its workforce by underpaying women, busted unions, and settled millions of dollars for practicing wage theft.  They were going to listen supposedly.   They were going to change.  Skeptics like me and many others argued that they cared no more about the environment than anything else other than their own corporate interest, and they were only doing those things that saved them money anyway.

            The proof continues to pile up on this corporate criminal.

            This week Walmart pleaded guilty to 6 counts of violating the Clean Water Act in California by improperly dumping hazardous wastes and one count on pesticide disposal in Missouri, and agreed to pay $82 million in fines.

            Isolated case?   Hardly!

            According to the New York Times:

The guilty plea comes after settlements that Wal-Mart reached with California and Missouri in 2010 and 2012 on the same charges. Tuesday’s fines include $60 million for violations of the Clean Water Act in California; $14 million for a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act in Missouri; and a $7.6 million civil penalty to the E.P.A. In total, Wal-Mart will have paid more than $110 million to resolve all these related cases. Wal-Mart, which had $128 billion in revenues last year, said the payments should not have a material effect on its business.

            Put this together with their bribery mischief in Mexico, India and China, and god knows what else and we are all left to wonder when we are going to start dealing with the company as the corporate criminal it has proven to be?

          Walmart Audio Blog