Category Archives: International

Honduras is a Country at the Crossroads

San Pedro Sula           There’s no agreement in Honduras about much except the fact that the economy continues lagging and unemployment is acute, government is inept, and corruption is rampant.  Getting specifics past these general statements is a longer climb.

The big topic on all tongues is the conviction of the President’s brother in a jury trial in New York for drug trafficking.  The President was named as a co-conspirator.  In an upscale mall near the mountains at the edge of the city, we visited with several professionals who were giddy with the news.  On the other hand, talking to a television and radio broadcaster, he joined others in saying the sentence was unfair, based on secondhand observations, and further that the President had ducked the bullet by claiming that he was so clean he had helped send his own brother to jail.  Meanwhile, talking on the phone to a brother-in-law working as a civilian in a military base an hour outside Tegucigalpa, he reported that they were on lockdown there and couldn’t leave the base this week as demonstrations both pro-and-con over the decision created what the US military believed were security issues.  Some of the demonstrators at the gate were demanding that the US leave and close the base.

I heard about banana producers who were in desperate straits because the prices had fallen so low around the world.  They were looking everywhere for markets.  An encouraging opportunity in Hamburg, Germany for ten container loads a week fell apart over the demand that the bananas be organically grown, which takes time and money the producers lack. The worldwide drop in coffee prices had pushed many producers in Honduras to begin selling their best beans in-country where historically the best was always saved for export.  Many large producers had opened coffee shops that now seemed ubiquitous throughout the city, hoping to gain a domestic market.

Trump’s closing of the border had changed immigration patterns as it became more difficult.  Several people told me that security was a somewhat hyped issue in Honduras to mask the more serious economic issues.  Increasingly one observer pointed out, Honduras were heading for Spain now that the US seemed such a stretch.  Where there had been only one plane per week from San Pedro Sula, there were now two, and there were reports that a third would be added soon.

Meanwhile other issues are also coming to the forefront.  I was driven by a development now stalled under investigation at the foot of the mountain.  Residents in the city were concerned that the land was being developed by narcotraffickers, but the main issue was the potential desertification of the area because of damage to the aquafer both by these projects and by the water sucking maquila plants ringing the city.  Others talked about the decline in healthcare.

There’s no agreement, but while people talk about their love for the country, its people, and its beauty, they can’t stop worrying about the current crises everywhere and what it holds for the future and their children.

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Can Trump be Beaten on Foreign Policy?

New Orleans     Various polls indicate that the American people are increasingly open to impeachment proceedings on President Trump, but his hardcore Republican base continues to hold firm, seemingly against all odds.  Increasingly, I have to wonder giving the Teflon nature of his support, whether his Achilles heel is his hip-shooting, disastrous foreign policy.  I don’t mean just his efforts to involve foreign countries in domestic politics for his own ends, like Russia or Ukraine.  His base seems to believe in the old saying that “anything goes in love and war,” and they see politics as war.  Fair enough, but can his base continue to hold as strong if they are forced to understand that Trump is not strong, but weak, and caves into one country after another led by autocratic and ruthless men who are stronger.  Can Trump’s base be eroded on a line of attack that says he is not a deal-maker, but someone who allows every other country to eat his lunch?  Why can’t we beat Trump by arguing his real slogan is not “make America great again,” but “make America weak?”

The litany of cave-ins seems endless.

North Korea wants South Korea to end military exercises, Trump talks to the dictator, and caves in exchange for nothing.

Turkey wants to muscle up in Syria and advance its age-old conflict with our allies in Syria and the fight against ISIS, and Trump pulls us out without so much as a howdy-do to the Kurds unleashing a disaster on multiple grounds.

Israel’s weakening strongman wants to come to the White House to get some buzz for his recent re-election effort, which he loses, and announce a muscling in on the West Bank, and Trump nods him forward without any agreement for peace in the Middle East.

Hungary’s autocratic leader visits the White House and dishes dirt on Ukraine, and Trump takes his side and continues America’s support for Orban even as he loses municipal elections across the country.

China’s leadership is the subject of one tirade after another on trade and other issues, but when it comes to the bottom line, Trump steps back once again as his bluff is called.

Russia has Trump on speed-dial, and he excuses all of Putin’s behavior and appeases their every request.

The Saudi’s seem to be able to kill at will, and Trump remains a fan.

I could go on, but the point is clear.  Trump’s Christmas card list is one filled with dictators and wannabe dictators, while his attacks are constant on any moderate to liberal leaders and countries in the rest of the world.  Ironically, many of his best friends are losing badly when their own citizens are actually allowed to vote on their policies these days and demonstrations by their people are often ongoing.

As America becomes increasingly a global laughing stock, and Trump’s bizarre decision-making process makes the US weaker and weaker, how long will the red-blooded Trump base be willing to look the other way?  Forever, if there is no concerted attack, but I would bet moving on this front more aggressively and strategically could be a winning tactic in ending his reign of terror.

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