Honduras, TPS, and U.S. Policy

About this Episode

Guests
Dana Frank, Katherine Borland

The Trump administration has taken a hardline on immigration. News from the U.S. border that asylum seekers are being turned away, that parents are being separated from their children, and the termination of Temporary Protected Status for 57,000 Hondurans currently living in the U.S. has drawn widespread public attention. But why are people fleeing? What is life like in their home countries? And what role does the U.S. play in creating the conditions that spur migration? On this episode of History Talk, we zero in on Honduras, as hosts Brenna Miller and Jessica Viñas-Nelson speak with two experts, Professors Dana Frank and Katherine Borland, to learn why so many Hondurans are seeking refuge in the U.S., the political, economic, and social challenges faced by people living in Honduras, and the dynamics of migration and U.S. foreign policy at the heart of today's debates.

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Cite this Site

Brenna Miller, Jessica Viñas-Nelson , "Honduras, TPS, and U.S. Policy" , Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective
June, 2018
https://origins.osu.edu/historytalk/honduras-tps-and-us-policy?language_content_entity=en.
June, 2018

Transcript

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

Welcome to History Talk, the podcast that brings together a panel of experts to discuss current events in historical perspective. I'm your host, Jessica Vinas-Nelson.

 

Brenna Miller 

And I'm your other host, Brenna Miller. The Trump administration recently announced that it is ending the temporary protected status for Hondurans in the U.S., a program that has been in place since 1998. The program had allowed Hondurans to legally live, work, and raise families in the U.S.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

The decision means that 57,000 Hondurans will have to leave by 2020. Where will they go? And for those considering returning to Honduras, what is lifelike there? And why do people leave in the first place? Today on History Talk, we have two guests with us to discuss this most recent crisis in historical context. On the phone, we have Professor Dana Frank, an expert in modern Honduran history and contemporary Honduras and U.S. policy in Honduras in the history department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

 

Professor Dana Frank 

Hi, thanks for having me.

 

Brenna Miller 

And also in the studio with us, we have Professor Katherine Borland, an associate professor at The Ohio State University and director of the Center for Folklore Studies. She studies and teaches about ordinary life, and her work has looked at activism and solidarity in Honduras and Latin America.

 

Professor Katherine Borland 

Hi.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

Thanks for joining us today. To start, can you tell us a little about the plan to remove Hondurans' protected to status in the U.S.? Why were Hondurans given the status in the first place?

 

Professor Katherine Borland 

So in 1998, Hurricane Mitch happened with a devastating effect on Honduras, parts of Guatemala, and Nicaragua. And it created a natural disaster that became, very quickly, a humanitarian crisis because of the lack of social structure and support in Honduras and the extent of the devastation. So our government then allowed temporary protected status for people who were here so that they would not be deported to this situation of humanitarian crisis.

 

Professor Dana Frank 

Yeah, I would just underscore there was a humanitarian act, and these people could have the right to have work permits, but there's no path to citizenship. But now, people have been here, of course, for 20 years along with almost 200,000 Salvadoreans and also people from the Sudan, from Nepal, from Haiti, all of whom are being now ejected by the Trump administration.

 

Brenna Miller 

So why exactly now is the U.S. thinking about ending the temporary protected status?

 

Professor Katherine Borland 

Well, I think they're focusing on that word temporary. And the argument is that well, Hurricane Mitch occurred now many, many years ago. And so the initial reason for allowing people to remain is no longer really valid. What they ignore in that determination is, first of all, as Dana has said, the fact that people have made their lives here in the intervening years, and also that Honduras continues to be a place of great crisis. And I believe it's still, and has been, for many years, the murder capital of the world. There is a lot of instability, and so it's not a place that anyone, I think, would find easy to return to.

 

Professor Dana Frank 

I would just add that I think we need to understand this revocation of temporary protective status as part of a hostile and racist anti-immigrant policies by Trump and Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, and the Trump administration in general. This is part of what Trump promised when he was running for election. It's part of the politics of saying he's going to build this giant wall between the U.S. and Mexico. And it's this politics of scapegoating and viciously attacking immigrants and blaming them for the problems with the U.S. economy, and trying to get other people in the United States to turn against immigrants. So it's going after immigrant people, not just the TPS people from these countries, but also a larger discourse of attempting to make it sound like all immigrants from Latin America, particularly Central America, are gang members, when in fact, they're fleeing gang members, in many cases. Most recently, this rhetoric of calling immigrants "animals" and deliberately repeating that in a White House press statement the next day and even getting people to chant the "animals, animals, animals" during a Trump speech a few days ago. And this is the path to fascism, or if not already there. I mean, this is really scary. So what looked like a policy revocation is part of a larger politics of revoking the Dream Act, the so-called "dreamers" or DACA people, not recognizing asylum seekers at the border, or asylum seekers that are already within the border, as part of a broad spectrum of vicious anti-immigrant bashing.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

A lot of Americans probably don't know much about Honduras, its relationship to the U.S., or what life is like there. Can you briefly describe what Honduras is like today, and what life there is like for everyday people?

 

Professor Dana Frank 

There are almost nine million people in Honduras now. And it sits in Central America. It is massively poor. The recent poverty statistics are that it's 65 or 75% of the Honduran people live in poverty, and 35% or so are in so-called "extreme poverty," which means they're in starvation level and barely getting by. So we're talking about a massively poor country. It's run by 13 families, known as oligarchs, who've been running the two traditional political parties and the Honduran economy for the whole twentieth century in collaboration with transnational corporations. Honduras was historically known, along with other countries, as a classic "Banana Republic," because it was in fact dominated by the banana corporations in cahoots with the United States government and the Honduran elites. But Hondurans now understand that as a pejorative term, and in fact object to the use of it, because it diminishes them and also that most of the Honduran economy now is not bananas, so it doesn't even work now to understand what's driving the Honduran economy. But now there's a very little of a functioning formal economy. What's there is super exploitative and so-called "maquiladoras," or export processing plants that mostly make garments, that come to us in the United States, or auto parts, extractive industries like mining that are destroying the environment and indigenous land rights, and certain forms of hyper-exploitative agriculture, particularly melons and bananas. And that's most all there is of a formal economy. So people are just trying to find ways to survive in a massively unequal society that is run by these elites in collaboration with transnational corporations.

 

Professor Katherine Borland 

Just to add a tiny bit of depth, when we talk about banana republics, what we're really saying is that the government is organized in such a way that it supports global concerns and it's not really interested in creating a stable consumer class within the borders of the country. And so, currently, Honduran peasants are experiencing a number of different land grabbing incidents. There's a very wealthy individual named Miguel Facussé, who runs this group called Dinant, and he has been interested in getting territory in order to plant palm oil plantations. The problem is that a lot of this territory is owned by small farmers. And so over the past 10-15 years, he's used his security forces, basically, to clear the land and to assassinate the leaders of the peasant resistance. So that's just one incidence of something that's happening all over Latin America, but particularly in Honduras, because the government is structured in order to support those who have the means to exploit the environment. There's also international mining concerns that have created environmental contamination, who are left sort of unchecked, because there really isn't a rule of law.

 

Professor Dana Frank 

Throughout the early and mid-twentieth century, Honduras was never an independent nation. It was known as the "most captive nation" of the United States, and we can come back to U.S. policy, but it was under the domination of the United Fruit and Standard Fruit corporations in cahoots with the U.S. State Department and the CIA, for that matter, and the Honduran elite, so it never has a golden age of independence, or of a thriving middle class. So it's always had this tiny elite that has been in collaboration with U.S. and transnational elites, and that still stays in power. If we're talking about what it's like from daily life, it's a tremendously violent place, but it's not random violence. Often, in the U.S. media, Honduras gets portrayed as a place that has terrible violence caused by gangs and drug traffickers. And, yes, there is terrible violence caused by gangs and drug traffickers, but they are in collaboration and embedded with the police, the military, and the very top levels of the government. The Minister of Security has been named in U.S. federal court as overseeing drug flights. The top three new directors of the National Directors of the Police were reported by the Associated Press in January, to have been investigated for moving more than a ton of cocaine in 2013. And the police are tremendously corrupt and embedded with gang members who are engaged in extortion all over the country. So a lot of small businesses have been destroyed and are continuing to be destroyed by extortions where they just come around and every week, you have to pay a certain amount. And if you don't pay, you're killed within days, and that is destroying the small business sector, but the military are very tied in with drug trafficking. And a lot of deaths that you see in Honduras are people who said no to participating in various activities of organized crimes, gangs, and drug traffickers, and then they get killed for it. And then the government looks the other way. So we hear up in the United States that like, "Oh, they're fleeing terrible, terrible crime," but it's not like Hondurans are randomly violent. There's a government down there that is actively supporting and propagating this violence. And that's not even talking about the killings of human rights defenders and the opposition by state security forces.

 

Brenna Miller 

So to kind of turn a little bit then to look at the government, what exactly is the political climate in the country like? And in particular, why has there been so much unrest during the last election cycle? And does that play a factor in the general instability in Honduras?

 

Professor Katherine Borland 

So in 2009, Manuel Zelaya, who was the president of Honduras, he was the head of the Liberal Party, which was one of the two traditional parties that had shared power over the years in Honduras. A little bit earlier than 2009, he had begun to make concessions to progressive groups who were trying to lobby for greater civil rights, land rights, rights for workers, etc. So he was turning to the left and that was threatening to the status quo. And so in 2009, he was summarily removed in a military coup. And what's interesting about this situation is that the United States came out, under President Obama, against the coup, but then very quickly backtracked and basically argued that they didn't want to intervene in an internal crisis in Honduras, which was basically then providing support for the military and the unelected officials in the civil government. So that happened, and what is probably most surprising about the coup is Manuel Zelaya and his supporters managed to rally a pretty impressive resistance to this coup. And over the next year, year and a half, people were marching in the streets to try and resist this basic takeover of what was supposed to be a democracy. And they formed themselves eventually into a political party called Libre, which then stood in the next elections. Zelaya's wife, Xiomara Castro, ran on the presidential ticket, and unfortunately, she was defeated. But there were all sorts of questions about the election, and whether it had been free and fair. So that was happening in 2009, was the coup 2011-2012, was that election, and then that lays this sort of groundwork for what happened last fall.

 

Professor Dana Frank 

Yeah, I'll just add a couple things to that earlier period. I want to underscore the importance of the National Front of Popular Resistance as this sort of fantasy coalition of the women's movement, labor movement, Campesino movement, of LGBT movement, human rights group -

 

Professor Katherine Borland 

The environmental groups.

 

Professor Dana Frank 

- indigenous people, environmental groups, and it was really an amazing wing with hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people, and the U.S. very much supported the post-coup regime, they moved negotiations into a sphere where you could control it, there was a bogus illegitimate election during the coup regime in 2009, that the U.S. blessed the outcome of. The next presidential election, the man who came to power in that election was named Juan Orlando Hernandez. He has a long and criminal record in his political life. He chaired a congressional committee that endorsed the criminal coup in 2009. In 2012, when he was president of Congress, he led the so-called "technical coup" that overthrew the constitutional part of the Supreme Court and named new justices the next day illegally. And then that Supreme Court, that he had illegally imposed, then ruled that the Honduran constitution didn't apply, which says very clearly that no sitting president or vice president can run for reelection. In fact, it explicitly bans a sitting president even advocating it. So the Supreme Court that Juan Orlando had imposed then said, "Oh, no. The constitution doesn't apply." And of course, they can't do that. It's just like the United States, you have to have a constitutional amendment. And so Juan Orlando ran illegally for president in the primaries, and then in the general election this past November. So I want to underscore that his candidacy for re-election was itself a criminal act. He's also documented, he and his party, to have stolen as much as $90 million from the National Health Service in 2013, siphoned it off into his party's campaigns, and that led, in part, to the bankruptcy of the National Health Service and the deaths of thousands of people. So that brings us to this election of this past November when he was running against a united opposition that included Libre, the center-left party that came out of the post-coup resistance, and the Partido Anti Corrupción, or the anti-corruption party and people affiliated with it. And their candidate, a man named Salvador Nasralla, who was the sort of center-right guy and a sportscaster with not a lot of political history. He's a total wild card. But this united opposition platform he ran against Juan Orlando Hernandez, because they thought this was the only way to defeat Juan Orlando. So what happened when the elections happen, is everybody knew that Juan Orlando would do everything he could to steal the election. The shock was that the night of the election, the Election Commission started releasing the figures. And when 57% of the vote had been counted, they said that Nasralla was ahead by several points. And everybody was stunned that he was even allowed to win that much. And at that point, Juan Orlando's government shut down all counting of the votes, and then said that the computer had crashed. And then gradually over the next two weeks released the rest of the so-called statistics that supposedly said that Juan Orlando had won. So very clearly Juan Orlando stole the election, even the Organization of American States said that that you could not count on this outcome and that there should be a new election. So what happened in response was that the Honduran people, in vast anger and sadness and horror and disappointment and fury, poured into the streets, because that's the only way that they can protest because Juan's government, Juan Orlando, the dictator, controls the Supreme Court, the attorney general, the military, the police, and the Congress, and also most of the media. So people poured into the streets in peaceful demonstrations and in response, State Security horses killed, by different counts, somewhere between 30 and 40 people in the next week, and that remains in complete impunity. So now we're in a situation where you have an illegitimate government that clearly stole the election, and the Honduran people understand it that way, for the most part, and has been using live bullets to kill people. And this is just an escalation of the tremendous repression of civil liberties since the coup.

 

Brenna Miller 

Are these protests currently still going on? And what is happening with activists in Honduras right now?

 

Professor Dana Frank 

There's definitely still roadblocks going on. I mean, people are trying to underscore that this is not a legitimate government. There's various coalitions of faith based groups, human rights groups, other folks, labor folks that have called for a commission, they're calling for an international commission overseen by the United Nations that would investigate those killings independently and pressure the Honduran government to prosecute those who have committed these killings. And also there's a tremendous campaign to try to get those who were arrested since out of jail. And people are calling for a new election, and they're calling for international allies to support that. And people are also calling for an end of U.S. funding for Honduras' security funding. So there's a lot of grassroots activism going on. But I guess I would like to say that how dangerous it is for anyone to protest in any way right now. People don't have access to the media in many ways, people lose their jobs if they criticize the government on Facebook, journalists are being hunted down in their houses, lawyers are killed. So the selective repression is super terrifying, which is why international solidarity matters so much.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

So how did we get here? How does Honduras and its past contribute to present conditions? Are there legacies that still shape the country today?

 

Professor Katherine Borland 

During the 1980s, Honduras was the kind of staging ground for the Contra War in Nicaragua. And so because of that, it earned the title, "USS Honduras." So the idea was, there's a big military base there, there's the military airport that was built by the United States. So the influence of the United States in the country has been just enormous, even greater than in the other countries in Central America, which we have been casting a big shadow over for a century. So Honduras, in the 1980s, did have revolutionary groups that were trying to resist the dictatorships and trying to implement more progressive forms of governance, and they were just summarily assassinated. So the revolutionary groups that were forming in places like El Salvador, Guatemala, and had actually seized control of the state in Nicaragua, were sort of incipient in Honduras, but were kind of wiped out with the same kind of repressive tools that are occurring right now.

 

Professor Dana Frank 

And a lot of those assassinations were committed by the Battalion 3-16, and those Battalion 3-16 people have now resurfaced, and are allegedly committing some of the assassinations on the Hondurans today. So there's direct continuity from the '80s and the Reagan administration and its policies. Yeah, I guess I would just second what Kate was saying about the role of the military, because the Southern Command has a really big role here, not just because of Soto Cano Air Force Base, but it's also the Southern Command of the military is an engine that runs of itself. And in the last several years, until recently, it was run by the same John Kelly who is now Chief of Staff under President Trump. And Kelly clearly would exaggerate issues in Honduras, and just simply to get more money for his own military sector. But there's big geopolitical issues here, because the United States doesn't have a lot of allies left in Central America, because it's alienated so many people with its policies, so that all that's left or that it can't control is Honduras. So it's always been the "most captive nation." But now the U.S. can't control Nicaragua, El Salvador. It can't control the narco generals in Guatemala. So in terms of who it's going to turn to, Juan Orlando Hernandez fits the model of dancing with dictators in U.S. geopolitical interests, including this new Cold War with China, so that we have to be in bed with a vicious dictator, simply because if not, this country will go off and work with China. Well, they don't have any relationships with China that are, in any sense, a threat to the United States. And that's just like the Cold War with the Soviet Union. It becomes a pretext for repression of any kind, of move towards democracy and social justice. So here you can see this continuity between the military policy in the Trump administration. It's John Kelly who is dictating Central America policy and these vicious immigration policies. At the same time, he's shoring up Juan Orlando Hernandez in Honduras. He's praised Juan Orlando for doing a magnificent job of fighting drugs, when Juan Orlando is allegedly connected with drug trafficking on many fronts, certainly his staff and administrative officials in many cases are. He said, "He's a great guy and a good friend," last May. And the Associated Press has documented this all very recently, in an article about Kelly and Honduras. So there's these big geostrategic things that are going on, but also that are a corruption of U.S. values about democracy and equality and sovereignty. And these U.S. policies in Honduras of pouring money in the state for security forces, legitimating Juan Orlando Hernandez, and supporting the coup are all a part of this continuity in which the United States is not only creating the problem, but then trying to punish people for fleeing it. So if we want to come back to the immigration question, the U.S. is supporting this destruction of the rule of law, because what happened after the coup is that the criminals running the government just robbed the coffers blind, and money keeps pouring in from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to support these people as they do so. And that, in terms, has gutted the rule of law, so when you don't have a functioning state, you don't have a functioning rule of law, which means you can kill anybody you want, steal anything you want, and nothing will happen to you. And that's the context in which the gangs have proliferated. That's the context in which the economy has collapsed. That's the context that people are fleeing, when they do these things, like take the train across Mexico.

 

Professor Katherine Borland 

Just to add something, it's a great irony that the United States government sends money to Honduras for DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) campaigns, knowing full well that these interdictions are kind of like a show, that they are, in fact, feeding the very people who are holding the country hostage. So one of the things that we can do as North Americans is to simply say that the U.S. should stop supporting the military in Honduras and should stop sending more money for drug enforcement, that that is, in fact, making the situation worse for ordinary Hondurans.

 

Professor Dana Frank 

Yeah, I would just underscore that to also the police as well, and money for equipment and training, as well as just general funding. And there's initiatives in Congress to do this. There's the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras act, H.R. 1299, and 70 members of the House of Representatives have signed it. And so people can ask their Congress members to sign on to that. And also people can ask their senators to please cut all police and military aid to Honduras immediately, and really take this demand really seriously. And I want to underscore that this is the demand from the Honduras human rights groups as well. I guess the other thing I would want to add is, it's not like over here is the United States and over there is Honduras, because in two senses, it's our taxpayer money that is supporting and legitimating this vicious regime that people are fleeing. And then when we have Honduran immigrants in the United States, people trying to seek asylum in the United States as part of a beautiful history of welcoming asylum seekers, those people then get viciously attacked by Trump and Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration, and the Border Patrol. And this is emblematic of this larger pattern. Also, with El Salvador, why are the Salvadoreans here? Because of the U.S. supporting the war against the Salvadoran people in the '80s and supporting dictators there. And so we have been intervening in these countries for generations. And now the situation is so terrible that they're fleeing more and more, because they're dying, because of U.S. policies. They're refugees of U.S. policies, in part.

 

Professor Katherine Borland 

And another great irony in all of this is that post-Hurricane Mitch, we had an enormous outpouring of humanitarian assistance on the part of ordinary U.S. citizens, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of groups and projects trying to rebuild Honduras, and those who have gone to Honduras for a week or two and participated in a mission project have been absolutely silent about what is going on in terms of the stability of the country itself. As if humanitarian assistance has nothing to do with the political realities, the military realities that people are facing in that country. We, as Americans, need to educate ourselves more about you can't just parachute into a country and do a little project, and think that it's actually going to change anything if you're not willing to stand in support of the grassroots organizations in those countries that are working to protect civil rights.

 

Brenna Miller 

So this last year, there were quite a few news reports about what was described as a caravan of émigrés in Mexico. And it was suggested that many of those were people fleeing from Honduras.

 

Professor Katherine Borland  

Right.

 

Brenna Miller 

So can you tell us a little bit about the history of immigration from Honduras, and also whether this has caused conflicts with the U.S. in the past?

 

Professor Dana Frank 

Well, historically there has not been a large immigration of Hondurans to the United States. It's really picked up in the last 10 years as the economy started to plummet, and certainly since the coup with this destruction of the rule of law and the economy and the rise of repression and gang violence, and there were some undocumented people that came. And Honduran elites usually connected with the United Fruit Company, which is why you get a Honduran community in New Orleans and then Houston, but it really is shooting up in the most recent years of undocumented people trying to flee this terrifying situation. These caravans have been going on for several years. And this most recent one began in Tapachula, just over the Guatemalan border into Mexico. And it was led, and majority of the people in it were from Honduras. And one of the first things they did is they held a rally in Tapachula before they left and calling out the slogan, "Fuera JOH," which means "Juan Orlando Hernandez Out," which is very explicitly blaming the Juan Orlando Hernandez regime in Honduras for why they had to flee. And so people have been interviewed along the way, that many of these people in the caravan were Hondurans, including a congress member who recently finished her term, who was impoverished now and was afraid of getting killed because the way she'd spoken out, and but all kinds of ordinary people that specifically named the Honduran government for why they were having to leave and that they are refugees from this government. Some of them were just planning to make lives in Mexico, but many of them plan to and have cast themselves at the mercy of the Border Patrol, turning themselves in at the border and applying for asylum following a U.S. policy, which greets asylum seekers and allows them to make their legal case for why they should be given asylum status. But of course, Breitbart News and Fox News took this as this massive invasion of dangerous Central Americans. And Trump has then turned this into that somehow these are gang members that are invading when in fact, they are fleeing their gangs. And of course, those gangs that they're fleeing, which are indeed very dangerous, began in Los Angeles, when the U.S. responded to youth poverty and communities of color in Los Angeles by incarcerating them. And in that situation, the gang culture bred, and then those young people were deported to El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala, where the gang culture spread. So you can see it once again, that these pieces tie in together.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

Where do you anticipate the 57,000 Hondurans in the U.S. losing temporary protective status will go?

 

Professor Katherine Borland 

Well, I think what we're faced with right now is potentially a new Sanctuary Movement, whose basis is a little bit different from the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s. At that time, people came to the United States seeking sanctuary, seeking refugee status, which they were denied because they were coming from the wrong countries, the countries with which the United States had friendly relations. Nevertheless, they were fleeing civil war. And many North Americans, in solidarity with those refugees, provided sanctuary in churches, in homes, in various facilities, and basically created their own international relations because they were opposed to our national international relations. Today, the situation is a little bit different. Now we're talking about people who have been living here for 20-25 years, who have raised families here, who have strong connections, who have contributed to the economy. And so really, the basis for sanctuary is that they have a right to not be torn from the life they've made for themselves. It is unrealistic to think that they are going to return to Honduras and somehow prosper.

 

Professor Dana Frank 

Yeah, the Trump administration has given these people a cruel choice. And including because they have citizen children here that are in schools, I mean, and some of these people own small businesses that are thriving, and they've had jobs for 20 years. So are you going to walk away from all that? I think some people are going to try to see how long they can stay without being deported. But one thing important to understand about TPS is these people are publicly known to the government because they have to register once a year. So they're identified by Homeland Security in a way that's similar to the dreamers in that they're publicly known. I think what Katie said underscores that the answer to that question depends on all of us, it depends on what these folks are going to do, what people in their communities are going to do, what people in the faith communities are going to do, what the labor movement is going to do, what employers are going to do, and what all of us are going to do, and are we going to say this is acceptable? Are we going to say, "No, we're not. And that's not the kind of country we want to be. And that this is part of a package of hideous racism on the part of the Trump administration and that this is not the country we want, and that we want to welcome these people and celebrate them."

 

Brenna Miller 

Here at the end, we want to give you an opportunity for any final thoughts that you have on those things that you think Americans should really know, things that the United States can do?

 

Professor Katherine Borland 

Supporting legislation in favor of stopping this aid to an illegitimate government and military, I think that's really important to underscore.

 

Professor Dana Frank 

Yeah, just how many of these issues are connected to a lot of the hyper-exploitation of the Honduran people and economy is about destroying the natural environment, just taking away indigenous land rights for mining and hydroelectric projects that are destroying the environment. Honduras is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be an environmental activist, that indigenous rights are being trod on, the rate of killing of women, including domestic violence and by the state, is incredibly high, the so-called "femicide." So I think I want to underscore this feminist issue, that reporters are killed at one of the highest rates in the world. And so you can see there's a lot of pieces here of how this repressive government and is a front for an global economic project of extraction, hyper-exploitation in factories, it's where our melons come from, it's where our bananas come from, it's where our pineapples come from, our clothes, our auto parts, these things come from Honduras. And we have those products cheaply because of the destruction of the Honduran people, the economy, and the environment and indigenous rights. So I just want to say it's part of a global economy that we're embedded in, and that we profit off of, and that our government is in service to those same corporations that are exploiting us at home, and are exploiting the Honduran people and of course, bouncing all over the world, exploiting people in many other countries. Honduras is just emblematic of a bigger story, which is why Berta Cáceres, the indigenous environmental leader who was assassinated two years ago, and because she and her people were protesting a hydroelectric dam project, she's become an international icon, because she represents both the beautiful values that we support, and also her assassination by U.S.-funded state security forces and this repressive regime in Honduras. So I guess I just want to underscore the connections. It's not like we're over here and they're over there. There are Hondurans who are part of the people of the United States, and that the United States is the most powerful force within that country, and that we're responsible for that. And that, as they say, in Latin America, "Otra América es posible," and when they say America, they mean the whole continent, another America is possible.

 

Professor Katherine Borland 

And I think we also want remember that, in spite of all that, there are people, Hondurans in Honduras working at the grassroots to defend the environment, to defend civil rights, to defend their territories, to defend their work and their families. So Hondurans are not disorganized victims. They're suffering tremendous repression right now. But anything that we can do to support those people, we should because they're on the front lines.

 

Professor Dana Frank 

There's a lot of U.S. media coverage that's like, "Everybody in Honduras is like a sobbing, powerless victim of random violence and crime," when actually they're sophisticated analysts of how their government is behind this. They are not just sobbing over the dead body in the morgue. They're organizing, they have opposition political parties that probably won the last two presidential elections. There's electoral activism, there's land rights activism, there's indigenous activism. There's a very solid and beautiful labor movement, a beautiful human rights community. So it's not like, "Everybody's a victim there and we're going to go in and rescue them." It's more like, "We can listen to them and their beautiful commitment to social justice and democracy in Honduras."

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

Well, we'll wrap it up on that note. Thank you to our two guests, professors Katherine Borland and Dana Frank.

 

Professor Katherine Borland 

Thank you.

 

Professor Dana Frank 

Okay, thanks a lot.

 

Brenna Miller 

Thanks, everyone. This episode of History Talk podcast was brought to you by Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, an online publication of the Public History Initiative and the Goldberg Center and the history department at The Ohio State University in Columbus and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Our main editors are Steve Conn and Nicholas Breyfogle. Our executive producer is David Staley. Our audio and technical advisor is Paul Kotheimer. Our audio producers and hosts are Brenna Miller and Jessica Vinas-Nelson. Song and band information can be found on our website. You can find our podcasts and more on our website at origins.osu.edu, on iTunes and on SoundCloud, and as always, you can find us on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for listening.

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