Honduras: Playing with Fire, Unaware of the Power Delegated by the People
Fed up with corruption, youth in Honduras are organizing protest marches demanding the president’s resignation. Will the political powers hear them?
- Honduras has one of the world’s highest murder rates. It is also one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism, ranking 129th out of 180 in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index. Journalists are regularly threatened, attacked, and killed for their work. The Honduran government fails to punish those who use violence against reporters, essentially granting them impunity. This space will be dedicated to examining the lack of protection for Honduran journalists exercising their profession. Topics will include the use of state-sponsored advertising as a mechanism to reward or punish publications, and censorship and self-censorship as hindrances to democratic progress.
- Born in Cofradía, Honduras, Dina Meza has been recognized by PEN International, Amnesty International, Index on Censorship and Reporters without Borders for her work as a journalist and human rights advocate. Currently, Dina is the driving force behind the creation of Honduras PEN Centre. In 2013, she wrote “Reign of Terror,” an in-depth report on threats to Honduran journalists for Index on Censorship’s magazine. In 2014, she was named one of Reporters Without Borders’ “100 Heroes and Heroines of Information.”
Despite the heavy military presence, the people took to the streets right from the start of the coup. The bullets, blows, tear gas and constant repression did nothing to pacify the citizens, fed up with the ignominy suffered for decades, which has widened the inequality and lined the pockets of a few at the expense of the hunger of the millions who have access to practically nothing: no work, no income, only economic pressure.
This June 28 it will be six years since the coup, and the national situation has worsened; the crisis of impunity and corruption has stopped the rule of law from getting off the ground, because the institutions established since the 90s have been corroded by influence peddling, organized crime, and drug trafficking; they have stopped working and the access to justice has vanished into thin air.
Last year, the scandalous theft of social security resources came to light; the funds were used in the current president’s political campaign. At this point it is still not known exactly how many thousands of millions of lempiras were transferred to the safes of the governing party to fund the electoral process; some say around $200 million US dollars, enough money for many people to be able to access health services. In any case, the theft caused more than 2,800 deaths due to the lack of medicine and necessary medical equipment in the Honduran health care system.
Thanks to the investigation of a diligent journalist, the tip of the iceberg of this shockingly corrupt operation was revealed last year. One of the corrupt individuals tried to discredit the investigation to begin with, alleging it was part of a conspiracy for money; in the long run however, such diligence prompted other investigations and leaks by the same media, which fully opened this can of worms.
This also fired up the indignation of a people who, a few weeks ago, used the torch marches –which took place not only all over the country but also abroad–as a form of protest. These torch marches, led by Honduran youth who are fed up with corruption and actions against social interests, are a way to condemn this theft. Although the demonstrations have been disparaged by the political class (the corrupt individuals in question) and their yes men, the torches cast their light despite the obstacles.
These forms of expression are possibly shaping a similar movement to that established in the coup. Amongst the demands is the renewed request for a National Constituent Assembly, which would establish a new constitution and social contract to safeguard Honduras against all these calamities caused by the families who took the country for themselves over 100 years ago.
The constant social pressure could force President Juan Orlando Hernández and other state powers to step down. The people are calling for the president, whose attitude to the thousands of people taking to the streets every day has been one of arrogance, to resign.
As a response, Hernández sent the National Party’s political activists to the streets to flex their muscles, but came off badly since the great majority is backing the torches.
President Hernández is playing with fire; he feels infallible from the heights of his power, as the ruling class did in France before the Revolution. But the impoverished people, the dispossessed, those who always see their country’s wealth pass them by and be shared amongst the greedy hands of the few, have decided to unite and say: enough.
The freedom of expression shown through the torch marches, combined with the popular indignation and constant actions, could change the outlook of the country’s leaders and show the political and economic class that playing with the fire of popular indignation has consequences.