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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Protest by the Powerless…Congressmen

San Pedro Sula           In almost any work on social movements and social change organizations, authors are usually crystal clear:  protest is an exercise of the powerless.  Contemporary politics may be turning this world of certainty upside down.

In recent years we have already seen “walkouts” become popular among elected officials.  In India that tactic was used several years ago for several weeks in order to prevent large retail companies from being able to modify the percentage of allowable investments over fifty percent in order to block expansion by big-box companies.  In Texas, Wisconsin, and other states, we have seen outnumbered Democratic legislators decamp to parts unknown in order to prevent a quorum from being present to pass retrograde acts hurting women and others when their voices weren’t heard.  During the Obama years we even had Republican Congressmen hold signs and break the rules of decorum in Congress by calling the president a liar or in other ways acting out.  Heck, ACORN did this in 1972 when we controlled the majority on the Pulaski County Quorum Court.

Normally, we would be schooled to understand in high school civics classes, where they still might exist, that all of these electeds had a certain level of power.  They even would have claimed as much.  Certainly, they might want more and have their own gripes, but they were categorically not powerless like the poor or the rest of hoi polloi where such tactics were part of the customary repertoire of the voiceless seeking social changes.

Oh no, not now.  The cap is off of that bottle!  We’re now in the land of “no limits,” even in the halls of Congress. Everybody is ready to throw it up against the wall!

Thirty conservative Republican Congressman staged a classic protest move and pushed themselves into a closed-door hearing room to disrupt the testimony by a member of the State Department offering views to the House Investigations committee looking into the question of whether President Trump had committed impeachable acts.  Once through the door they shouted and carried on, took pictures with their cellphones, which are also banned, and, lordy-lordy, engaged in scuffling, pushing, and shoving with other house congressman as they sought to disrupt the hearing.  I can vividly imagine every moment of this action.  I’ve run this play scores of times as an organizer.  They didn’t stop the testimony, but they did delay it for a number of hours, and they did get press coverage, all of which is also about the best we ever get from similar actions.

Believe me, I get it.  I understand the tactic, but I also understand something that they may not have realized.  They just proved that emperor now has no clothes.  Rather than tout their prowess and power, they have done the opposite, even to the extent that one of the leaders was Louisiana’s Steve Scalise, the Republican whip and one of the top two or three Republicans in the House.  They were egged on by President Trump.  I can remember when one might rank the president of the USA as the most powerful person in the world.  No more!  They want to line up in the demonstration area for national politics affairs, rather than in the room pretending to make deals and be masters of our universe.

The message they are sending seems clear.  There are no insiders anymore.  We’re all outsiders now.  The country is a driverless car careening through the crosswalks, so pedestrians beware.  Believe that at your peril of course, but the message is that no one is now in charge, we’re all on our own, and no one can block the door anymore.

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Please enjoy Love Is Love by Grace Potter

Thanks to KABF.

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