2023 saw aggressive actions from the remnants of the narco-dictatorship and their supporters, encouraged by the State Department, fanning fears of the possibility of a political coup in Honduras. At the end of October, the National Congress's 2023 session came to its scheduled close in the grips of a crisis caused by the determination of right-wing congress members to keep the office of Attorney General under their control. Taking action to counter this, the President of Congress, Luis Redondo, created a Permanent Council of 9 members of Congress based on articles in the Constitution.
Members of a ten-day US/Canada delegation hosted by the Cross Border Network of Kansas City and the Honduras Solidarity Network of North America have investigated how their two nations prioritize protecting the political, economic, and military interests of their governments and corporations over the rights and interests of the Honduran people. The delegation visited communities affected by mining and land grabbing, met with labor movement activists, and spoke with US, Canadian and Honduran officials and found that the continuing poverty, inequality, and dispossession of the Honduran people result from the crimes of the narco-dictatorship that ruled Honduras since the U.S. and Canadian-supported coup in June 2009.
In a break from its hysterical coverage of the existential threat posed by Donald Trump, the Washington Post – house organ of the Democratic National Committee – cautions us of the other menace, China. “When the leader of this impoverished Central American country visited Beijing in June,” we are warned, “China laid out the warmest of welcomes.” Apparently in a grave threat to US national security, the president of Honduras attended a state banquet and actually ate Chinse food. What next for the country the Post affectionately describes as “long among the most docile of US regional partners”?
“Juan Orlando effectively operated Honduras as a narco-state, acquiring political power through narcotics-fueled bribes and maintaining it by allowing the free flow of drugs through Honduras,” US government prosecutors alleged in a May 1 motion filed in the Southern District of New York. Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment targeting Hernández on April 21, 2022, the same day that Honduras extradited him to the US. He currently faces three drug and weapons smuggling charges in the Southern District of New York, including one count of conspiracy to import cocaine to the United States. His trial begins this week, on September 18.
The ages-long severe oppression of descendants of West African slaves in Honduras has yet to receive wide attention. The Garifuna African people in Honduras are increasingly being denied their lands and livelihoods by the Honduran government and the multilateral institutions of the Global North. The plight of the Garifuna African people and their fight to restore their lands and livelihoods should no longer be left only to them to face, especially considering their small population of about 300,000. Continental Africans and those in the diaspora should raise awareness about the case. The Garifuna people are a part of Africa.
On May 3, Democratic U.S. lawmakers urged the U.S. Trade Representative and State Department to eliminate investor-state dispute settlement provisions from current and future trade deals and to intervene on behalf of Honduras against a U.S. company's nearly $11 billion claim against the country. In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Trade Representative Katherine Tai, 33 lawmakers said that investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) systems in trade deals constitute a "problematic corporate handout" that violates countries' sovereignty and democratic rights. ISDS mechanisms enable multinational corporations to sue the governments of foreign trading partners for profits they claim have been forfeited as a result of domestic policies designed to protect workers, consumers, and ecosystems.
Honduran President Xiomara Castro, on April 21, warned of a conspiracy against her government by the same conservative sectors that staged a coup d’état against former President Manuel Zelaya in 2009. President Castro alerted the Honduran people that these sectors are now trying to destabilize the current democratically elected government. “There is a conspiracy that is being formed and this has to be made clear to the Honduran people. Just look at who are the figures that are coming out, the same ones that contributed to a coup d’état in 2009. These same figures, who enjoy impunity, today are once again trying to destabilize a government elected by the people,” President Castro told local media following the event celebrating the 92nd anniversary of the Honduran Air Force (FAH).
The government of Honduras has announced that it is breaking formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognizing the People’s Republic of China. Honduras’ leftist President Xiomara Castro had pledged during her 2021 campaign that, if she won the election, she would recognize China. This March, she fulfilled that promise. This means that just 12 United Nations member states have formal diplomatic relations with the so-called “Republic of China” on the island of Taiwan. The other 99.51% of the global population live in countries that formally recognize that there is only one China, and that Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China.
In 2009, a military coup in Honduras carried out by a School of the Americas-trained General replaced then-President Manuel Zelaya. Despite massive popular opposition, citizens were unable at the time to revert it, thanks largely to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s enthusiastic support for the overthrow of the democratically-elected President Zelaya. In the 12 years that followed, Honduras descended into a neoliberal narco-dictatorship, with both of the post-coup presidents installed following violent and fraudulent elections (rubber-stamped by the United States) currently facing major drug trafficking charges in U.S. courts. Just as harmful as the transformation of Honduras into a narco-state, was the aggressive U.S.-led push to implement dramatic neoliberal reforms, accompanied by massive U.S. investment in militarization to repress opposition to them, in the name of “security.”
Honduran President Xiomara Castro, who took office in January, promised on the campaign trail to abolish special economic zones known as ZEDEs (“Economic Development and Employment Zones” in English), where private investors have outsized power to shape labor laws, judicial systems, and local governance. These zones have garnered fierce opposition in Honduras for undermining the basic tenets of democracy. In April, she achieved a major win when the Congress of Honduras unanimously voted to repeal the law that allows for ZEDEs, and to abolish the current ones, though the latter has to be ratified next year. But the forces who want to keep ZEDEs in operation are retaliating, and they’ve found allies on Capitol Hill.
For the last 3 months, more than 1,000 Honduran construction workers building the new United States embassy in Tegucigalpa have been striking against Alabama-based mega-prison contractor B.L. Harbert and their ultimate employer, the U.S. State Department, to demand safe working conditions, job security and fair compensation in compliance with Honduran labor law. Join the DSA International Committee and DSA Labor for a bilingual webinar to hear directly from the striking workers in Honduras, co-sponsored by US- and Honduras-based solidarity organizations. We seek to create opportunities for relationships to grow between the striking workers, Honduran civil society, and solidarity organizations around the Americas, and for workers in Honduras and the United States to hear directly from each other.
Last week, more than 1,000 fast food workers at San Francisco International Airport went on strike for three days over low wages, health benefits and pensions. They had not received a raise in more than three years and many worked multiple jobs. Workers building the new US embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras have been on strike off and on since early July over a new contract that deprives them of fair compensation and violates Honduran labor laws. They are being fired and police are violently repressing their pickets. Clearing the FOG speaks with Ted Waechter of UNITE-HERE Local 2 in San Francisco and Honduras expert Adrienne Pine about worker struggles in the US and abroad and the need for solidarity and greater militancy to fight an economic system that values profits more than people.
The Biden administration has pledged that “the United States will work with governments to strengthen ... the enforcement of labor laws, promote decent work, and support workers in exercising their freedom of association and collective bargaining rights,” as one of four pillars of its strategy to address the root causes of migration from Central America. In Honduras today the U.S. has an opportunity to practice this with the 1,100 workers it has hired to build a new embassy. But it’s blowing it. Instead, police have been called in to bust a strike that’s been going on at the construction site in Tegucigalpa since early July. Of course, the State Department and U.S. Ambassador Laura Dogu all deny that there’s a problem with the treatment of the workers, and they’re pressuring the Honduran government to criminalize the strikers rather than enforce Honduran labor laws.