The Scorching Summer of Honduras’ “Indignant” Opposition

Let us walk together, my country, I’m with you
I’ll climb down whatever chasms you ask me to
I’ll drink from your bitter cup
I’ll go blind so that you can have eyes
I’ll go hoarse so that you can sing
I must die so that you won’t die
So that your brilliant face can shine on the horizon
In every flower that is born from my bones

– Otto René Castillo. Guatemala

For Amanda Castro, builder of the great motherland

Source: Americas Program

I don’t know of any country more tropical than Honduras (except for maybe Nicaragua). And when I imagine Central America in general, I can’t avoid images of a scorching sun that falls like lead on people and things, or sweaty bodies, sweatier than ever now, soaked in the smell of gas. Bodies that have been carrying torches in the march against corruption.

Hondurans are known for taking their time and for being accommodating, but we had our first attack of rebelliousness during the coup d’etat in 2009 and we have continued to resist, sometimes publicly and sometimes in silence, for six years now.

So this sea of small fires that we have become belongs, like Galeano said, more to a scorching summer than to a “spring” full of flowers.

The torch-lit marches take place every week in response to the many cases of corruption that have come to light during the current government. One such case is the embezzlement of millions by the Honduran Institute of Social Security that has resulted in the death of approximately 3,000 people.

The demonstrations began in the big cities (Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula), and then it moved toward much smaller cities, and it spread like wildfire in more and more parts of the country.. The women and men at the head of the movement are mostly young people. They call themselves the “oposición indignada—the indignant opposition.

On Monday, June 22, two young people, Ariel Varela and Miguel Briceño, began a hunger strike. They were later joined by Osman Calero, Luis Banegas and Erlin Mejía, to demand the creation of the International Commission against Impunity in Honduras and to ask for the United Nations to intervene as a guarantor and mediator of this project.

Other demands include the removal of the assistant prosecutor and attorney general and also that the president of the Republic, Juan Orlando Hernández, step down from office.

In response to these demands, the executive branch has begun to create the Honduran Integral System to Combat Impunity and Corruption, or SIHCIC, an organization made up of national authorities. That means that the state would use its own mechanisms to judge itself.

The executive branch has also called for open and unconditional dialogue with all sectors of civil society, but at the same time it seeks to validate only predetermined civil society actors with which to dialogue.

Indignant opposition, along with various other social movements, has refused to engage in this dialogue as long as the president of the Republic won’t agree to create the anti- impunity commission. During the first week of July, more young people joined the strike. One of them is Germán Ayala, who, at the time the Spanish version of this article was released on July 7, had been on hunger strike for thirteen days, along with other members of the Tolupán indigenous community of San Francisco Locomapa (1) (seven men and one woman, Alejandra Cabrera) The government has not responded to the demands to create the commission. Now the movement is waiting for the United Nations to send a dialogue commission to hear the proposals of the indignant opposition.

The indignado movement is a space where the Honduran people have come together on a massive scale, and it is the harnessing of popular discontent and of responses to the fragrant violations to human rights we’ve seen grow in intensity since the coup d’etat in 2009.

The political parties and the governing elite have not been able to turn back the waves of human rights violations and of corruption that besiege us. The people have long been in resistance, whether or not they belong to the National Resistance Front or to any other political movement. As organizations and individuals many of us came out to protest during the coup and we continue to resist in spite of our differences or our affiliations with different parties.

Feminists in Resistance is a good example. It arises as a response to the rupture of the rule of law, with a feminist perspective and and in the tradition of women’s movements. And there are many more social movements like this one.

The obligatory questions are, then:

How can we not lose ourselves in this sea of dissatisfaction and in creating a proposal that is so different from the one the state wants to create? What can we do with a state that only listens to itself? With a state that is willing to see its citizens on hunger strike, putting their health and their lives in danger? How can we establish a dialogue with the Organization of American States (OEA) or with the United Nations and ensure that our demand for an International Commission against Impunity in Honduras be respected? And furthermore, how can we make our proposal fit our needs?

In short, what can we do with this country that we love to our very marrow and where we live today fragmented, among poverty, injustice, corruption, and violence? What are we to do with this Honduras that is in so much pain?

The answer is in the very social movement that is growing in the streets. From the north, there is an initiative to analyze the proposals and the structure of the indignado movement and to make concrete demands for mesas de indignación (forums for indignation) which, in my opinion, should be set up across the entire country.

I hope that we won’t tolerate the incursions of temporary leaders, who don’t support the hunger strike. I hope that a small group of people won’t present themselves as representatives of an entire movement, a movement that is diverse, broad, and that is born from the most deeply felt demands of Hondurans.

We hope that this sea of little flames that makes up the movement of the torches will not be extinguished, and that our steps won’t falter in the wide path of resistance that we have been walking for so long.

We support forums for indignation and we call for a citizens’ dialogue where we can represent ourselves and listen to each other, where the organizations and the people are truly represented, and not used to justify a few self-proclaimed spokespeople for all of civil society and all of our indignation.

Because the heart of our people is resistant, and the Honduran/Central American summer has only just begun, as reflected in these lights that glow like stubborn fireflies of discontent, burning suns, nighttime dancers who draw paths in the wide-awake heart of the motherland.

[1] The tolupanes are a group of first peoples in Honduras located in the central north of the country (in the departments of Yoro and Olancho). They have a documented history of resistance that dates back to the Spanish conquest, which attempted but failed to suppress them. The tolupanes continue to fight to recover their lands and liberty, and to demand that the state respect their rights.

Jessica Isla is a Honduran journalist, author, and member of Feministas en Resistencia. She is a columnist for the Americas Program.

Translated by Jenny Forsythe