Honduras Situation Report

C.E. Flores 

Situated in Central America, Honduras occupies 112.088 square kilometers and has an agriculture and forestry-based economy. Bordering El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, it has a population of 5 million according to latest figures. Literacy is about 50%, infant mortality 70/1000. In recent years unemployment has risen with the introduction by the government of a neo-liberal policy of privatisation. Of an economically active population of 2,5 million only 1,5 million have formal employment, the remaining million being jobless. It is estimated that about 80% of GDP is absorbed by just 20% of the population, or conversely 80% of the population receive 20% of the nation's wealth... According to the WHO 2,5 million people are below the official poverty line. This shows that our problem is less the levying of taxes than the levying of our young people to feed wars which we are forced to carry out in the name of external interests supported by the taxes of other countries.

During the 1980s one of the most flagrant acts of military repression was carried out by means of low-intensity psychological warfare and geo-strategic domination by the United States in the aftermath of the overthrow of Somoza and the revolutionary groundswell in Nicaragua.

From 1979 on Honduras was converted into a war base; all sorts of strategic installations of exclusively military use were built. Joint Honduras-USA military bases proliferated, forcing the country into a constantly provocative stance, particularly towards the Sandinista government, while the Honduran people endured constant insecurity and repression.

It should be recalled that throughout the 1980s about 15.000 Contras occupied an area of some 400 square kilometers of our territory, not only digging in, but moving to and fro destroying Honduran peasant families and communities.

This whole situation drew Honduras into an absurd war in which Honduras had nothing to gain, and yet taxes for the Defence budget tripled. The burden of the war was placed on the shoulders of the Honduran people, even allowing for the strong support for the war received from the USA.

With the advance of this war situation came growing unemployment, food shortages, freezing of minimum wage levels and the suppression of human rights. Grotesque death squads, torture, disappearances, exile and illegal imprisonment were used against any who even dared to express coherent thoughts against what was going on.

Against this sombre backdrop, there was a revival of the activity of the churches. The Mennonite Church of Honduras through the Social Action Committee of churches and other humanitarian organisations began the risky work of caring for the large urban groups of displaced, banished and marginalised people. As expected, criticism, disapproval, surveillance and harassment by the army soon followed. At the same time, the Friends, the United Brethren, the churches and others, drew up a paper to be presented at the parliament in which we stated our principled objections to the war and to compulsory military service, proposing alternatives for a better way of life and an alternative form of service for youth attached to the churches. The paper was not tabled, but nevertheless for the first time it was acknowledged that there was a group of churches that did not go along with the war, and this was already a first step in the direction of peace.

Meanwhile, steps were being taken at international level to find solutions to the Central America situation, and that of Honduras in particular. From 1983 on the Contadora group was organising consultations aimed at conciliation between the conflicting forces in Central America. These gave rise to the well-known Guatemala Accord, an important step on the road to peace which recommends, among other things, national reconciliation, cease-fire, democratisation, suspension of military aid and development assistance.

As a follow-up to the Guatemala Accord, a series of meetings has been organised between governments and various irregular forces to try to carry out the agreements, which have been very difficult to put into effect. There has been success in demobilizing the Contras, achieving the cease-fire in El Salvador and setting up the Free Trade area. But the basic needs of the people have not been met, since rather than promoting development the current neo-liberal policy is tending to create more and more poverty, thus breeding an atmosphere of insecurity among the Honduran population.

There is a worldwide trend towards reductions in armed forces from which Honduras cannot escape; however, resistance to it from the army is growing all the time. Faced with this situation, the Mennonite Church has reiterated its statement against compulsory military service in the hope that the present decade will see real progress in action for peace in Honduras and Central America. We are confident that in this pilgrimage the God of peace will be with us and will guide and support us to live and work for peace.

August 7 1992.