Standing in solidarity with the people of Honduras was a matter of doing the right thing as far as Larry Couch was concerned. As Director of the Good Shepherd National Advocacy Center, he traveled to Honduras in February as part of a 50-member International Emergency Faith Delegation. This is his story.
I was intrigued when I was invited to join a 50-member International Emergency Faith Delegation to Honduras to act in solidarity with protesters against a fraudulent election. Having visited Honduras three times previously, I had many positive memories of the place and the people. However, I wasn’t sure if going to Honduras would be appropriate.
Ever since I was hired to work with the National Advocacy Center nine years ago, my focus has been entirely on domestic issues such as poverty, immigration, human trafficking, and domestic abuse.
But then I realized that what happens in Honduras is a domestic issue. If U.S. policy vis-a-vis Honduras fuels migration north, then it affects our domestic immigration policies. I was further persuaded to join the Delegation since our Good Shepherd Sisters have had a presence in Honduras for several decades.
Fraudulent election prompts protests
In November 2017 Juan Orlando Hernandez was reelected as president of Honduras in an election widely seen as both unconstitutional and fraudulent. Immediately, there were widespread protests. The Organization of American States urged new elections; however, the Honduran government responded with an iron fist. As of this date, at least 30 protesters have been killed by the military police.
Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously declared that he couldn’t define obscenity but said, “I know it when I see it.”
In like manner, I recognize political repression when I see it. I was present when some 200 military police, all heavily armed and many wearing black masks, confronted a group of less than 40 unarmed young people. The protesters, who had blocked a highway, were mainly high school age youths and some were even younger. When the military police charged the protesters, they lobbed more than 50 canisters of teargas. At another protest, as people held signs and chanted, car after car honked their horns in support.
For me, the most intense moment came when I was riding in the bed of a pickup truck headed toward another demonstration. Suddenly, the driver swerved into a network of side streets at high speed. The driver, a former member of Congress, had learned that his home was being ransacked and family members threatened with guns to their head by uniformed police. When we arrived, the police fled.
Future opportunities to be in solidarity with the people of Honduras
Looking to the future, I am sure there will be other opportunities to be in solidarity with the people of Honduras. Also, I hope to visit our Good Shepherd program in Honduras to learn of their good work during these days of political repression.
Meanwhile, the National Advocacy Center has issued an Action Alert calling for the passage of the Berta Carceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (H.R. 1299).
The Act suspends United States security assistance with Honduras until human rights violations by Honduran security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice. To take action, please go to http://bit.ly/HondurasAct.
Editor’s Note: You can visit Larry’s blog to read more about his experience in Honduras. http://www.gsadvocacy.org/larrys-blog