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.