I have been thinking of writing something about the situation here in Honduras for a few weeks. But today’s Mass at San Martin chapel in Santa Rosa was the push that prompts this post, which is more a diatribe than an analysis.
Padre Fausto Milla presided at the Mass and, as usual, spoke passionately about the situation in Honduras. He didn’t have to look far for his inspiration since the first reading was from Amos 8: 4-7.
Amos is a difficult prophet who challenged the political, economic, and religious leaders of his time.
Amos 6: 1, 3-4 addresses the leaders of Judah who are “complacent in Zion” and the leaders of Israel who are “overconfident.
Honduras is in the midst of the electoral campaign which will close with the November 24 elections. The powers that be are overconfident and hope that the system that has kept two corrupt political parties in power will continue. Some use all the means at their disposal to try to assure this. Even though several groups will be placing observers to monitor the election and the campaign, corruption is a reality.
The leaders “would put off the evil day, yet you hasten the reign of violence.”
Violence is epidemic here in Honduras, with the highest percentage of murders in the world. The political leaders are promoting various strategies to combat the violence, including the creation of a military police that will respond to the violence. The solutions proposed – except one on the creation of community-based police – all place their trust in the use of violence. More force is needed to combat violence. They ignore the social and political causes of violence and they do little to deal with the massive corruption in the police, who are in some places allied with crime – organized and other. And so violence continues. And the militarization of the “fight” against crime has the support of the US government.
The leaders, decried Amos, “lie on their beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches.”
Just this week, the Wealth-X report revealed that there are 215 multi-millionaires in Honduras whose fortunes are 30 billion US dollars. Yet there is massive inequality in Honduras and a poverty rate of near 70%, with 36% in extreme poverty. The richest
fifth of Honduras earn over 20 times more than the poorest fifth.
As Amos noted of Israel and Judah, so too in Honduras, “They eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall!” Although there are many landless campesinos who have no land to plant corn and beans, the staples of the Honduran diet, much land is used for cattle grazing.
The rich, as Amos 8:4 notes, “trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land.”
In the past few years there have been major conflicts over land ownership. In one case, the conflict in the area called the Baja Aguan was between one of the richest men in Honduras and campesinos trying to get land that they believed was theirs and that had been illegally taken. More than 40 people were killed in this conflict.
Recently there have been two major conflicts, one with mining interests in the northern department of Atlantida where several have been killed, the other over the impending construction of a mega dam on Lenca indigenous land where one leader was killed by the military and recently two leaders have been sentenced to prison.
Ames spoke the truth when he noted that the rich complain that they have to wait to make their gains and they “fix [their] scales for cheating.” The rich fix the scales and set low prices for buying coffee or other crops from the campesinos and charge high prices when they sell.
The coming elections are a time to watch for the prophecy of Amos 8: 4: “We will buy the lowly for silver and the poor for a pair of flip-flops.”
Often candidates will seek to “win over” voters by passing out bags of cement or tin for roofing. Often these “gifts” (bribes) are purchased by government funds.
In addition, the land of the poor is bought at a low price, when they have need of money. They get a pittance for their land. This is particularly evident when land is bought by mining interests or those who will profit by energy projects.
Amos concludes that the rich boast that “even the refuse of the wheat will we sell.” The quality of many products being sold is extremely poor. those who have money can buy goods from the US but the poor have to be content with shoddy merchandise – the refuse.
But there may be hope for, as Amos notes (8:7), the Lord has sworn: “Never will I forget a thing they have done.”
And as today’s responsorial psalm (Psalm 113:7) notes:
He raises up the lowly from the dust;
from the dunghill he lifts up the poor…
But the Lord needs the hands of the people and the conversion of those who hold economic and political power in Honduras, the United States, and the world.
This reflection is inspired by a work of the late Peter Ediger, “Amos Visits America.” A selection from that work follows:
Hear this word, O people of America!I am holding you accountable for what you do and what you fail to do.Woe to you who sell the needy for a stealth bomber, and the poor for a pair of guided missiles.Woe to you who stretch yourselves on fancy beds and eat rich foods from well-stocked supermarkets, who entertain yourselves with Reality TV but who close your eyes to the reality of the homeless in your back yard who do not see, and seeing not, care not that your brothers and sisters are hungering for jobs and food and full humanity.Woe to you who do not rise up in a massive voice of protest when your legislators appropriate billions on billions for weapons of mass destruction as they cut back the millions needed for education, health and human services.Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and bring the poor of the land into ever greater economic captivity. I will not forget any of your deeds.Shall not the land tremble when the accounts are settled?