Summit of the Americas:
The 7th annual Summit of the Americas occurred from Friday to Saturday this weekend. The Summit of the Americas is an important event which helps to promote the multinational agenda of the Western Hemisphere. Events pertaining to Honduras which took place at the Summit include: Juan Orlando meeting with Obama, and Juan Orlando’s statements concerning the drug trade and violence related to it being a problem requiring American cooperation with Honduran forces. Additionally Honduras was a part of the five main themes being discussed, “migration from the Northern Triangle” the North Triangle being the name given to the region made up of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
A new self-appointed leader is rising within LIBRE. Rasel Tome believes he is fit to be the next Honduran president. He has basically announced his intentions to face off against Xiomara in LIBRE’s internal elections and is confident of his own abilities to win. Another opponent will be Esdras Amado Lopez, the leader of “Nueva Ruta” who nearly split off from LIBRE a few years ago.
Marines arrive in Honduras, politicians react differently depending on political allegiance:
5 politicians from 5 Honduran political parties have spoken out either for or against the Marines who arrived just yesterday in Honduras.
Augusto Cruz of the Christian Democrats said “The Marines are welcome so long as they assist us in the delicate situation we face facing off against drug-traffickers. This fight is going to require international cooperation. The Marines are welcome here but they must obey national laws.”
Mauricio Villeda the leader of the Liberal Party seems to think that the Marines might be somewhat of a distraction as the Honduran Supreme Court debates presidential reelection. “Honduras does not need to protect (or pay for) their land. That was a mistake of the past” Was another set of his statements. He’s clearly not enthused over the expanding presence of the USA in Honduras.
Guillermo Valle of PINU (Innovation and Unity, a usually quiet alternative to the Liberals and the Nationalists) has these thoughts on the matter “The military assistance is welcome so long as it remains honest, legitimate, and respects us and our land.”
Rasel Tome of LIBRE is against the presence of the Marines, stating “I do not agree with This political strategy and these guerrillas.” Taking a strong stance against the marines, he seems to believe that the Marines will support the right-wing of the Honduran government.
Rafael Padilla (Of PAC, the Anti-Corruption Party) is for the marines stating “PAC is a friend of the United States. We are not going to reject the Northern Country for wanting to expand its military presence.”
I’m somewhat neutral. I believe that a US military presence could have its ups and downs. La Mosquitia is a remote region, fairly unprotected and mostly farm lands or rainforest. It’s also one of the places many believe has a drug cartel presence. And was the home of bandit attacks by neighboring Nicaraguans last month. It is difficult to safeguard. Expanded USA presence could be helpful. Unfortunately one of the last times the USA was in La Mosquitia it was unwelcome thanks to a scandal filled operation by the DEA and Honduran police officers in which some locals were gunned down by Honduran police.
Garifuna in Trujillo have lost homes and part of a community to an expanding Canadian presence in the area, and government corruption. The expanding USA presence in the area is likely to cause international tensions between the three groups, Canada (somewhat private, and somewhat governmental), Garifuna, and USA. It’s going to be an odd situation. The USA are conducting training over in Trujillo and in la Mosquitia.
I want to see what comes of this situation. I want to see what the Americans do before I try to pass judgment. The USA might help Hondurans, or it might support the Honduran right-wingers who want to privatize Trujillo and expand into La Mosquitia. Time will tell. What are your thoughts?
A member of the PAC (Anti-Corruption Party) is pushing a censorship law which would seek to prohibit pretty much any media which would glorify the culture of narco-trafficking and gang violence.
Additionally this law would seek to restrict the importation and selling of fake guns, which resemble real ones and have previously been used to commit crimes.
The law would also seek to create educational programs which aim to promote positive cultural values and begin to defeat the culture which has no issues with drug-traffickers which has gradually instilled itself in Honduras.
This is certainly a possible solution to people who may otherwise become desensitized to gang violence and drug violence. However is it really the solution we should seek? I’m unsure of how to feel about it. Although I do agree with beginning a crackdown on those who use fake guns to commit crimes, and beginning a cultural revolution which focuses on positive aspects of the Honduran Identity.
Additionally censorship is always a tricky issue, and someone could certainly see this legislation as a bit of a distraction from real issues which plague Honduras. I see it as that, but I also see it as an interesting way to cultivate interest in real measures to address the problem of drug-trafficking. If a real politician sees a positive reaction from this, he or she might take it as the beginning of a popular movement to crack down on the rampant influence of gangs and drug violence.
Scandal in ITH:
On Friday (April 10th) there was a rather interesting development concerning the Honduran Technical Institute (ITH) in Tegucigalpa. The director of the institute was suspended, for refusing to obey Marlon Escoto’s demands that students who participated in recent protests concerning extending the hours that students are in class be punished for participating in the protests.
He and his lawyer were dismissed because they decided to disobey the demands of the directional department of education in Tegucigalpa who told them that four of their students participated in protests and thus deserved expulsion from the institute.
This demonstrates that teachers and administrators exist in Honduras who view Marlon Escoto’s positions as unfavorable at best. This was known among individuals who pay attention to him and the ministry of education in Honduras, but it’s rare to see it so blunt, and actually documented among Honduran press.
Campaign aimed at increasing health in students begins:
First lady Ana Gracia began a campaign aimed at improving the health of students in San Pedro Sula. Beginning on April 13th and lasting through the 17th the initial phase of the campaign will take place in 18 departments and will take place in both public and private schools. It’s intended targets are students and children ages 2 through 14. In its first stage it will be aimed at helping to remove parasites from children.
However the campaign isn’t solely aimed at parasite removal. It’s also aimed at improving vaccine rates, next month vaccines will be given at health centers for children ages 2-4 and individuals who work on poultry farms, and the vaccines are for seasonal influenza and are giving out vitamins to improve general health.
Push for more classes:
After testing revealed a lack of understanding of the Honduran constitution, among various other things, there is a renewed push for students to enroll in classes.
Testing took place recently which judged Honduran students on understanding of a variety of topics. The testing was meant as a precursor to university and was given to high school seniors throughout Honduras. The basic results weren’t good but showed a lack of understanding concerning Honduran history and the constitution, in addition to difficult understanding math problems, among a multitude of other problems. Dennis Caceres the coordinator of the “educational quality” (a rough translation) stated that there is a need for teachers to truly master the basics of their subjects and focus on upgrading the basic standards of the curriculum.
Plan launched to improve literacy:
Students get involved in attempts to improve literacy throughout the country. Beginning in Tegucigalpa, several schools have opened their doors for 20 consecutive Saturdays in order to reach adults who want to get a higher level of education. The purpose of the program is to help teach basic literary to a projected 400,000 Hondurans, with this number being possible because each volunteer is projected to be able to teach 3 people the skills, and there are 55,000 to 60,000 and each can help reach about 3 people in their time spent working as a volunteer.
Students fight for right to protest:
In light of Marlon Escoto’s decision to put pressure on students who attempt to protest peacefully, some students in Tegucigalpa have decided to rally against their rights being taken from them. This announcement comes after the Honduran ministry of education more or less backed down on the additional time added onto the school day, which was the primary reason why they fought in the first place, a crucial part of the protests which led to Marlon Escoto’s decision to crackdown on the rights of students to protest. Part of this is linked to the Fundamental Education law, which they do not completely approve of, and want to be changed.
“The Time for Change is Now” By Luciano Gonzalez
As late as the very end of October 2014, the murder rate in San Pedro Sula was a shocking figure of 169 per 100,000 residents. The U.S.A.’s most dangerous city (Flint, Michigan) has a murder rate of 62 per 100,000. That’s almost three times as many people dying per 100,000 residents. San Pedro Sula is also an extremely important city economically for Honduras. San Pedro Sula is a complex city. If I’m being entirely honest, I don’t know how to write this. But I do San Pedro Sula is a city crying out. Regular citizens die. Normal people who want nothing more than to return home to their families will not see their children, or their spouse, their siblings, their parents again.
The task of writing something critical about Honduras is exceedingly difficult. But the fact of the matter is, that San Pedro Sula is so dangerous that information is actually accessible about the dangers which haunt the crowded streets, and the killers that lurk in lower class neighborhoods. The truth demands to be known.
La Prensa, a Honduran newspaper, published an article in early March of this year talking about San Pedro Sula. The headline read “Buying Drugs in San Pedro Sula is like buying candy”. It also reveals something extremely important. According to the article, some 70% of the murders committed in San Pedro Sula are related to the drug-trade. Now I don’t believe that personally (and by this I mean that I am skeptical of those exact numbers), but I do believe that the connection between the illegal trade of drugs and the violence which so often shatters families in the city are absolutely connected, and that one problem being solved will requires steps to handle both.
The reality is that the issues which create so much violence in the city are also connected to other things, such as poorly handled immigration regulation. Criminals of Honduran origin who come to the United States can and do get sent back to Honduras. Unfortunately this doesn’t make the lives of Hondurans easier.
Another article, published by Fox News Latino highlights this issue. The article talks about the deported felons coming to Honduras and basically recreating their gangs in Honduras. These gangs will then clash and the results are deadly, and are crucially connected to the illegal distribution of drugs that the La Prensa article highlights. Part of the activities the gangs that win the contested turf will do is sell drugs. That is a large motivation, because it is in that activity that they begin to gain a profit, so that they can buy more weapons and continue to expand their controlled land. They also create extortion rings, and murder businesspeople and regular Hondurans who don’t pay them.
The time has come to open up a serious discussion about how to handle these sorts of conflicts in places like San Pedro Sula. It is time to discuss legalization. The “war on drugs” has not been won. But it can be. The influence of drug cartels and small gangs in Honduras can be successfully fought. The lives of the hundreds of residents of San Pedro Sula who die in mere months can be reversed. Their deaths can have meaning.
It is time to begin the slow and steady process of bleeding these gangsters dry. And the main way that can be done, is by actually taking away what makes them capable of earning money. The gangs, and cartels have a market. It is time that the Honduran government accept that there are Hondurans who buy drugs. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The Honduran economy is terrible. Many Hondurans cannot find employment, and that motivates them to join gangs, and or to leave the country. That doesn’t help Honduras. Neither of those options help Honduras. What could help Honduras is creating jobs, and getting people out of jail and into the fields. Drug legalization is absolutely not a cure-all. But by prohibiting the drugs absolutely, the gangs and cartels have a monopoly. And in San Pedro Sula it is clear that this is profitable. So why can’t ordinary, law-abiding Hondurans profit off of that market? Why is it that only Hondurans and foreigners who have no problem with murder get to feed their families?
The time has come for a genuine movement to appear that plans to legalize drugs in Honduras. An intelligent, passionate, group of people who understand that zero-tolerance for drugs doesn’t help anyone aside from those who are willing to kill and maim in order to survive, and thrive.
An intelligent campaign designed to improve the quality of life in San Pedro Sula, and yes, all of Honduras cannot be done without the legislation of drugs. The evidence is clear, there is no question, outlawing drugs doesn’t keep them off of the streets, and out of the hands of people with an intention to buy them, including children. Outlawing drugs does not make them regulated. What does make drugs regulated is when they are produced by people with permits and the legal authorization to do so. If we as Hondurans, and international citizens want Honduras to improve it is time to actively shout for legalization.
The reality is simple. If given the opportunity to legally purchase drugs, or to risk life and death purchasing them from gang members odds are most Hondurans will or would buy them legally at safe stores, and be happy to no longer experience shame for the usage of drugs.
Additionally, the process by which drugs are made and refined requires workers. Currently in Honduras there is obviously the equipment needed to produce and transport drugs. Imagine if that equipment was seized when successful drug busts occurred, and give to individuals with the skills needed to produce drugs, but with the morality needed to keep careful stock of them, and legal licenses to be able to sell them. Imagine a Honduras where items taken from gangs and from drug cartels are used to combat those cartels and gangs, and continually weaken them, until they are but a memory in the minds of the oldest Hondurans.
Hondurans could have jobs producing, refining, and selling drugs. Hondurans who only want to help their country. And taxes acquired from the selling of these drugs could go into improving Honduran infrastructure. But instead 100% of the money made off of drug distribution goes into the pockets of gangsters who killed for it, or businessmen and politicians who assist with the transportation of the drugs into other countries, including yes into the United States.
Drugs are an unpleasant reality in Honduras. But ultimately this notion of prohibition is not working. Obviously a different approach needs to be taken. There are alternatives to prohibition that work better than prohibition, such as controlled regulation. Also, by removing the penalties associated with possession, and by actually working to treat drug-addiction and abuse as a health problem, Hondurans will begin to gain access to a higher quality of life.
These problems can be solved. And the fact that they continue to be real issues is insane. It is time for a new set of Honduran leaders to come to power, who have the energy needed to begin fighting the enemies of Honduras and Hondurans, including corruption, drug use, cartels, and gangs. The fight to end the monopoly on drug production and transportation in Honduras will be bloody. But continuing this false offense on gangs will be even more so. It will also be toxic to San Pedro Sula and motivate even more students and young people to flee the country.
The time has come. It is time to strip the drug cartels of their immunity, and come down on them like the hammer of God. Imagine a Honduras without cartels. Imagine a Honduras without gang members coming into homes and murdering people. Imagine a Honduras where people feel safe to go to school. Imagine a San Pedro Sula without a black market drug economy. Imagine a San Pedro Sula where it is safe to go to work. It can be done. The time is now.
This is something I’m in the process of creating which is a bi-weekly newsletter concerning a variety of events which occurred in Honduras, from educational news, to political news, to international news concerning Honduras. I’m looking for interested individuals to help me work on creating the most professional newsletter possible! Contact me if you’re interested at SonsanddaughtersofHonduras@gmail.com