It happened that three world leaders traveling together were in an accident and all died. Juan Orlando Hernández, dictator of Honduras, Obama of the USA and Tony Blair from the U.K. Not surprisingly to anyone other than themselves they realized they were in hell. Accustomed to having things their way they demanded the right to make a phone call. The devil, always wanting to accommodate those who had served him so well on earth granted their requests but not without cost. First Obama made his call to his legal team at the White House and was disappointed with their advice. On finishing the devil told him that it would cost $2 million, so Obama was able to write out a cheque. Blair who had recently returned from an armament sale to Saudi Arabia then moved to the only phone that was available and he made his call to the Saudi king, but was as well disappointed that little could be offered to help him out of this predicament. The devil was right there to inform him that the call would cost him £4million and after a futile protest Blair had to write out a cheque.
Then Juan Orlando took his turn to call Honduras, and he made a direct call to the American embassy which had put him in office, but again no rescue could be planned, so Juan Orlando braced himself for the account balance as the devil approached. To his surprise the devil asked him for only L.(lempira) 2, which is the equivalent of an American dime. Obama and Blair immediately protested this ridiculously low fee for a phone call to Honduras.
The devil responded: “I took into account the many factors – the unemployment, the pothole filled highways, the price of gasoline, the extortion rackets, the highway tolls everywhere in the country, the miserable low salaries, the rule of criminal gangs in many neighbourhoods, the narco-politicians and narco-military, high inflation and rising costs of basic needs, few children attending schools, the highest murder rate in the world, ….. my friend Juan Orlando has turned Honduras into a hell on earth. Thus for him a phone call to Honduras is considered to be a “local call”.
I received this joke last week, but it really isn’t that funny. It is not because I really don’t believe in a “hell” somewhere after death but because it speaks to the reality in Honduras. Can it really get that much worse? The answer is “yes” and daily. Since Honduras came onto my radar a few years ago, I have become more attentive to the news that comes out of this small, original banana republic. Invaded three times by the US army to depose elected governments, currently there are 11 US military bases in Honduras, a country heavily armed by the US since the influx of weapons of the “contras” and then since then continuous military shipments of weapons and equipment that often ends up in the hands of the drug cartels. Two cities in Honduras are on the list of the 10 most dangerous and violent cities in the world, in non-war situations. The very poor at the bottom are the fastest growing demographic.
At the same time, I have met and shared time with some extraordinary people who resist the oppressive measures of the government and work to defend human rights. The teams that surround Padre Melo, from the radio station and the human rights centre ERIC, are all dedicated and enthusiastic workers. Spending some time with them is inspiring and a real privilege.
So again, with Anne Marie’s support, I will be leaving on November 2 for 5 weeks to accompany my dear friend and brother, Padre Melo. Just last night he was illegally detained on the highway for a couple of hours at one of the illegal highway toll booths. Since the assassination of his close friend Berta Caceres in March, Melo has been more direct in denouncing the injustices and supporting actions that call out the government and the military for its abuses.
I recently attended a forum in Victoria by a trade unionist who had participated in a fact finding mission to Honduras in June. One aspect that he discovered was the high value given to accompaniment projects which seek to protect human rights defenders in Honduras. I didn’t need that confirmation but it tells me that perhaps my visits are more effective than I realize.
I will do my blog again, which has shifted away from a travelogue to a documentation of the things that I am learning. Honduras – so unknown to Canadians – has been an eye-opener for me and I hope that by sharing this others too might question our Canadian involvement in Honduras, beginning with a hugely unbalanced “Free Trade” agreement that the Trudeau government supports.
Keep me in your thoughts. If your email box is too full, I am not offended if the delete button is used generously. Feed back is always welcome.