Honduras and COVID-19: Three Irrefutable Truths, a New Paradigm, and the Inevitable Future

May 1, 2020
3:34 PM

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández answers questions from the Associated Press, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019, as he leaves a meeting at the Organization of American States, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Spanish version here.

Let’s be clear and blunt so that the skeptics who don’t believe in the reality of COVID-19 will think clearer about their steps forward and we can all collaborate. There are three truths given the current situation in Honduras that we cannot ignore:

  1. COVID-19, yes, it exists. It is a real sickness (regardless of its origins, that I will address later). It is killing many, many people in Honduras. It is even more than, I am sure, of what the “official” statistics of the Honduran dictatorship claims.
  2. The arrival of COVID-19 coincides with the perfect scenario of the miserable conditions of Honduras, that the illegally elected dictator Juan Orlando Hernández and his entourage of corrupt supporters (protected by organized crime, the armed forces, and a network of international supporters related to this new form of democracy) can finish looting what that remains of the Honduran state coffers, ensure the international corporations have their earnings, and kill (with absolute impunity) whoever tries to stop, speaks out against, or generates critical thought about the acts of corruption they are doing.
  3. COVID-19 in Honduras is not just a health problem, it is a matter of indifference, a lack of organization and articulation from the people to demand efficacy and build fair collective responses for our homeland.

Let’s Examine the Situation Closely

From people very close and dear to me, I have heard that the coronavirus does not exist. These people claim it is an invention of the dictatorship that illegally governs Honduras, headed by National Party leader Juan Orlando Hernández; they claim it is a punishment from God, or that it was created only to keep us locked up in our homes. To these people I say: I have suffered from a distance the burials of loved ones, and the half-recoveries of family and friends infected by the virus.

Neither God nor Juan Orlando Hernández was there to do something for them, and only their families, who at the moment of their pain, the impact of the truth was silenced. This is because the world is highly prone to discriminate and dehumanize those who suffer from sicknesses like COVID-19 and those closest to them.  The disease is here, and it is screwing over the poor, because the rich, in their opulence and eternal pettiness, continue swimming in their private pools, planning their family picnics, and organizing ways to plunder the rest of us with their excessive ambition, in order to take advantage of the current supply and demand. But us poor, with the pressure of our hunger pains, are exposing ourselves to the disease in the dimensions and measures that the government wants us to do. Being hungry demands we seek the opportunity to work (even if we do not have a job), to look for food (even if there is no food), and to move around the streets (even if there is no reasonable condition that would justify it). But we are poor, and at this moment it often seems sufficient enough to go to the streets even if that means putting the community’s wellness at risk.

The primary front in fighting this virus is us. It is us in the extent that we must assume the responsibility for the care of others. It is not a matter of faith, religion, social status, geography, color, or identity. It is a matter of health. And as long as the virus does not have other ways to control it, nothing, absolutely nothing, justifies that you, waving flags like the ones described above, expose your own community to total contagion. Staying at home could be, if we do it with conscience, the greatest act of civil disobedience against this dictatorship. I assure you it could even defeat it.

It Is Not the Problem

COVID-19 in Honduras is not the problem. We have had the problem since 2009 and it is named Juan Orlando Hernández. Before the coronavirus, up until 2018 to be exact, this criminal and his supporters had already stolen 64 billion lempiras (about 2.5 billion US dollars) from the state treasury, according to the figures given by organizations such as the FOSDEH and the CNA. You may wonder how many hospitals, how many schools, and how many social development projects could be done with all that money stolen by Juan Orlando Hernández and his entourage. If you are one of those people who believes that COVID-19 alone screwed us, let me be clear: COVID-19, relative to the virus of corruption imposed by Juan Orlando Hernández and his regime, is only a simple flu. In fact, the impact of COVID-19 in Honduras is so deadly because before its arrival, the dictatorship of Juan Orlando Hernández had already stolen everything that could be used to create a real defense strategy.

With the presence of COVID-19, this regime of corruption was reconfigured. For example, it is no coincidence that in times of quarantine those who are allowed to continue with their businesses are the banks, mega-supermarkets, mega-hardware stores, and communication channels that, incidentally, are owned by two hundred people who, integrated into four families, are those who monopolize the economic, political, military, and religious life in Honduras. To be clear, it is these four families who decide what you eat and when, where you sleep and with whom, when you die and in what manner, and in the least of cases, in which jail you end up in and for what crime you are charged. The small producer and the everyday consumer remain at the hands of the manipulation that these families impose. They use the institutional dynamics of the Honduran state and the breaking point of COVID-19 to do so.

Using the excuse of fighting COVID-19, Juan Orlando Hernández and his organized crime members are squandering (I imagine…) almost three billion dollars. This money comes mostly from a hypocritical community of international bank loans. Even though it is well known that the government of Honduras steals the money, the banks continue to entrust them with loans that eventually will condemn the people. To disguise this robbery, they have created a huge network of NGOs, special distributors, companies, offshore corporations, and private interest foundations that, together with small-scale officials (but among whom are equally thieves, including deputies, mayors, military, police , religious pastors, and priests) launder and filter the money and steal it through corruption. That money will not go to medical supplies, schools, or hospitals to cure us of the epidemic. It will end, I am sure, in the moneybags of corruption, just like the surplus recently did, that disappeared with the young minister who used his magic at the government organization COPECO.

Juan Orlando Hernández knows that he can steal at will and he will not be judged, because he controls the legal, political, and military apparatus of Honduras. In addition, much of his security comes from outside of Honduras, because figures such as Donald Trump, who governs the United States, champion and exalt Juan Orlando Hernández in the fight against drugs that Juan Orlando Hernández himself and his family traffic!  Trump praises Juan Orlando Hernández whenever he can (or at least he does during the interludes between each of his stupid tweets, such as when Trump suggested ingesting disinfectant to cure oneself of the virus). Thus, do not expect anything good to come from that money and do not have immediate hope; the future of Honduras is long and rough and many will remain on the roadside.

My Greatest Fear

My greatest fear at this moment is that the collective response necessary to overcome the current situation is not being generated. The indifference to the reality of the disease and the painfulness of corruption in the majority of the Honduran population is for me the highest risk of contagion and death that we have. It cannot be possible to recover when our interest remains only political and electoral, when solidarity action is only populist, and when the hunger of the poor is first and foremost a business.

The response of our government has been classist and what must be structural is dictatorial. This is an unscrupulous game between two groups: those who know that while the majority will lose they themselves will win, and among those who, knowing themselves to be losers, bet on gaining a tiny bit, even if that means losing twice. I am afraid of the impossibility of coming together, of building, of dialoguing, of making decisions, of promoting actions without only the leaders’ egos or needs prevailing.

This is why I am afraid of the politicians, given the side that they are on, and I do not believe that in them we will find the answers that Honduras needs. Up until now, what we have needed most as Hondurans are shows of common sense, and not warriors for the homeland. Their only homeland is summarized in the electoral process and the right to be elected to public office. My fear remains hunger – not the hunger of the stomach – but instead the hunger one feels when gain a bit of power or a tiny portion of cash and they use to buy a suit to disguise their rot.

The New Paradigm

The world is changing, and the elites in power that are imposed on humanity make adjustments to their own security and, as always, the world’s poor pay the consequences. Just as HIV/AIDS, Ebola, yellow fever and measles were introduced and decimated the human will, today comes COVID-19. These epidemics are not a coincidence, nor an accident; they are the project of the Machiavellian minds of the planet that in their efforts to hoard they find that many of us consume what they could accumulate. this is, in my opinion, the global paradigm, the new war, the reconfiguration of power and the condemnation of being a “have-not”. But this world paradigm in Honduras can offer us another way of looking at things, another way of struggling, and the possibility of building hope despite the fact that the world’s elites want to disappear us. 

From the current situation and these unavoidable conditions, a new paradigm of struggle is opening up for Honduras, although not all Hondurans want to see it. The fight is now from our homes as we stay in confinement but still with the dignity of our flag. We need to be faithful, honest, and respectful within ourselves. We need to return to the local struggle, to the territory, and be with our people. A national struggle is necessary, but it will not be possible if we do not break through the local barriers. And for that we need enough courage to ensure people like Gabriel Rubí and Omar Rivera (local politicians) to be expelled from the public, who along with other local rogues, destroy our municipality.

Dialogues —monologues, really— generated within the framework of partisan politics, given the passionate, visceral currents and located so far from our realities do not work. What we need is for people to understand that the so-called solidarity bag of food takes away our immediate hunger, but it also condemns us to dependency and ignorance forever. Given this, we should invest our time at home by generating a true social conscience, by participating in the political formation of the people near us, and in the firm and permanent denunciation of corruption in virtual networks as long as possible.

At this moment we must be careful to not simply trust discourse because we hear it, or trust appearances without considering the amendments; in our own municipality, we are full of people that talk without restraint. The way out of this crisis does not come with the usual orthodox ideas or the gladiators who go after their own scepter of freedom. It is in our communities, in you and I, in our neighborhoods, before the quarantine is suspended and we are all infected that we must clear the road (now and forever) of the narco-dictatorship that governs Honduras.

The Honduran Future

It is inevitable that we sometimes lose hope given the current conditions and with the emotional situation that confronts us. But we must not be overwhelmed, we must get up and continue. Although death surrounds us and corruption continues unabated, I believe, and I will continue to believe, that the stream of water can only run over the water pitcher for so long before it will break. And Juan Orlando Hernández, even as much as Trump protects him, will end up being the useful fool for what he was created for, and they will send him with a kick in the ass to the wells that he himself built. I hope it will be soon.

However, in the near future, I worry about the accelerated return that we are taking, as a country, to electoral political bipartisanship in which ideology is discourse and populism is solidarity. From these mechanisms there is no solution and the country as such is condemned to death. And at this moment, with the ruptures it causes, it is time to shed, like snakes, our old skin to use the new one with dignity.

It is very clear to me that returning to normality is not an option in our possible Honduran future, since normality is exactly our problem. From this situation we must return as a phoenix, better, without selfishness, more caring and above all again: human.

Chaco de la Pitoreta

(Hector Efrén Flores)

Poet and Cultural Representative in Honduras

Translated to English by Kate E. Kedley