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November 3, 2009
Looking beyond the Honduran political crisis

A young woman in Minas de Oro. Photo: Flickr user lonqueta

The United States has been actively engaged lately in solving the Honduran presidential crisis. The U.S. State Department officials have helped broker a deal to end the sometimes violent dispute between Mel Zelaya, the deposed Honduran president, and Roberto Micheletti, designated as president when the Honduran military escorted Zelaya out of town in his nightclothes. Let’s hope the crisis is resolved once and for all today.

Consider me an idealist, but I’m thinking beyond that — about steps that might solve the underlying social issues that plague Honduras.

As the months-long battle between the two presidents in Honduras moves toward a rational resolution, what about the abjectly poor Honduran majority?

Honduras needs financial support, economic relief, and definitely social help – why can’t the U.S. and other nations increase their involvement? Fifty percent of Honduras’ 7.7 million people are below the poverty line, and almost 40 percent are children. There is talk of a national unity government by the end of the year. Will that government be able to change the paradigm without international aid?

Inevitably, the U.S. has a role. It has characteristically abandoned social concerns once it finishes with its little wars and interventions. Don’t we have an ongoing responsibility in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and the rest of the region?

Twenty-five years ago, probably the only positive part of turning Honduras into a U.S. staging base for American adventurism in Central America was that American military field hospitals scheduled regular health clinics in the countryside.

I remember seeing poor people waiting in line weekly medical screening, checkups and even surgeries that otherwise would not have taken place. I’m positive that thousands of Hondurans who rarely otherwise had seen a doctor benefited from American military largesse, even though the ulterior motives were not crystalline. It was part of the “hearts and minds” doctrine.

But development aid and social support are more than a handout. Stability in the Hemisphere is good for everyone.

First things first: Solve the political problem and then deal with underlying issues.

Honduras has taken a step backward during this crisis, according to Human Rights Watch.

“Honduras urgently needs to address the serious damage to human rights since the coup,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director at Human Rights Watch. “Honduras needs to roll back repressive legislation and give unequivocal orders to security forces to end their abuses and cooperate with the investigations of the human rights unit of the Attorney General’s office.”

– Peter Eisner

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Peter Eisner is an editorial consultant with Worldfocus and a 30-year veteran of international news. He has been an editor and foreign correspondent at The Washington Post, Newsday and The Associated Press. He co-authored “The Italian Letter,” which details fraudulent intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. He was founder and president of Newscom, an international online news service, and speaks Spanish and Portuguese.

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