In Spanish, the word hondura means "depth; profundity." The related word hondo means "deep, low; bottom." Hondon means "dell, glen, deep hole." An example given in my dictionary is meterse en honduras, "to go beyond one's depth."
I imagine some gold-seeking Spanish conquistador in the 16th century passing through the isthmus and, with a bit of cruel wit, calling the place where he stood The Hole. Sort of like when I was in the Army, Fort Hood, Texas, was known as "the a**hole of the world." In Honduras, my imaginary conquistador no doubt left a lieutenant with troops enough to turn the residents into slaves before he moved his army on to the more appealing Costa Rica.
Honduras is the saddest basket case in the Western Hemisphere, and the behemoth to the north has done everything in its power to keep poor Honduras in the basket case category. Technically, Honduras is a sovereign nation; but in reality it is a vassal state of the United States. Maybe more like a flea-ridden junkyard dog resigned to being kicked.
In 1935, two-time Medal of Honor winner and retired Marine General Smedley Butler famously wrote this in an essay for the socialist magazine Common Sense:
"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service, and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. ... I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. ... Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."
The US Border Patrol at work and children who want to live by unknown
It's an old story and a well-known one in Latin America. One of the highlights was the infamous 1954 CIA-led coup in Guatemala that overthrew an elected reform movement and institutionalized what became one of the most bloody, nefarious military regimes in western hemisphere history. Of course, there's Chile 1971. A decade later, Ronald Reagan used poor Honduras to mount an illegal war against its neighbor, Nicaragua. During this period, Honduras was ruled by a US proconsul, Ambassador John Negroponte, a man I'm sure has a forked tongue. The little nation was jokingly referred to as Aircraft Carrier Honduras.
The poor, members of trade unions and anyone opposed to US military occupation of Honduras were treated as hostile, subversive forces. Groups not aligned with the US-occupation were closed down; leaders were disappeared and murdered. In 1984, with five other Americans, I visited Honduras to speak with labor leaders about state violence. We were quickly put on the subversive list, arrested and deported.
After the US Contra War, the aircraft carrier reverted again to its basket case status. By 2009, it had elected a left-of-center president who spoke of reform. In the early morning hours of June 28, 2009, President Manuel Zelaya was arrested by military troops and flown to Costa Rica. The Obama administration used an updated forked tongue approach and first declared the coup illegal, then did everything in its power to facilitate the newly established government, which, naturally, was good for certain industries. Since any protection they might have had under a reform regime had been lifted, the left and the poor were now even more at the mercy of corrupt military and police violence.
As far as most comfortable North Americans were concerned the story out of Honduras was just a case of politics in a place described as a hole. It's sad people in places like Honduras are doomed to suffer. Plus, it's true, the Zelaya government had cozied up to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Honduras had joined ALBA, the leftist Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas. These links were broken and the United States took the opportunity to immediately establish a host of small special-ops military bases in Honduras to prosecute its Drug War. No doubt something out of a contingency file. Honduras was now more and more being used by the drug cartels as a transshipment point. The coup meant it was a war zone again. Not exactly an aircraft carrier; maybe just a pack of trained junkyard dogs this time.
It was the same old story for the poor of Honduras. Feeble efforts at reform were crushed by unaccountable strongmen with guns, and a US-friendly, pro-business smiling face was installed as the new president. As might be expected in such a dark predatorial swampland, existing violent gangs flourished even better after the coup. Any fool could see that top-down violence was an acceptable arbiter of societal order, so it followed by natural logic that gang violence was the way to respond from the bottom-up. Unregulated profit-making, capitalistic enterprise was facilitated at the top, while capitalist enterprise was deemed illegal at the bottom when the product to be marketed was marijuana and cocaine. In a moral sinkhole like this, the poor and those seeking to work hard to rise into a middle class are caught between police and gang violence.
PLUTOCRATS AND CRIMINALS
Nils Gilman, a social scientist at the University of California and co-editor of the academic journal Humanity, wrote an essay in the May issue of The American Interest called "The Twin Insurgency." He nicely explains the sort of sovereignty train wreck that is Honduras. These twin insurgencies began in the 1970s, he suggests, when "social modernists states were increasingly failing to deliver on their promises." Into the 1980s, with the growth of globalism, economic inequality grew as an empowered plutocratic class was on the rise and the political right was in its ascendancy.
"By the turn of the millennium, even elements of the Left had come to doubt whether states could be relied on to effectively and disinterestedly promote the public interest," Gilman writes.
Here, he introduces his idea of twin insurgencies that both feed off the declining modernist state. At the top, there's the plutocratic insurgency, made up of capitalists and financial manipulators who "see themselves as 'the deserving winners of a tough worldwide competition' and regard efforts to make them pay for public goods as little more than organized theft." As they distance themselves from the public-oriented functions of the state, these plutocrats take full advantage of the state's tax-based legal system, courts and the police to secure their rights and properties.
At the bottom, there's the criminal insurgency," which includes drug cartels and other "de facto political actors." The insurgency at the top is noted for its gated communities attitude, while the insurgency at the bottom assumes a leadership role in "feral 'no-go zones.'"
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