My pact with myself to read one article about Honduras every day continues. One of our fabulous LES at the Embassy asked me if I was getting to know the city yet, and my response was only through others’ eyes. The longer we spend here without getting out (where are you, car?!), the more important this commitment feels. So, what’s up with Honduras lately?
Unsurprisingly, the Syrian refugee crisis is commanding international news in the wake of the Paris attacks. It did come as a shock this week, though, when that international issue expanded into a global issue as far-reaching as Honduras. Five Syrians traveling on doctored Greek passports were arrested in Tegucigalpa a few days ago. Early journalistic and political reactions were hysterical, but no one is laughing. From what I’ve read, these particular Syrians were young students with no criminal history, all seeking refuge in the U.S. And they’re not the only ones; Latin America is the new springboard for refugees feeling the terrorists for whom they’re being mistaken. This new stress on our southern border weighs heavy on me, but the reaction to it is the greatest burden.
Meanwhile, as mentioned last month, the U.S. and Honduras have a homegrown immigration crisis to resolve. Unfortunately, one particularly infamous American reaction to this issue surfaced recently. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin justified deporting children back to Honduras because it’s a “beautiful country” with “gorgeous resort zones.” I’m conscious that the media is probably twisting his words, but his whole theory is questionable. Given the rampant government and police corruption and the unwieldy gang wars literally bleeding the country dry, building more resort zones as Senator Johnson suggests doesn’t seem like a viable solution. This coming from the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee…
Speaking of corruption, the U.S. dropped the hammer on one of the wealthiest Honduran families last month, indicting 3 members who had just landed in Miami. This included Jaime Rolando Rosenthal, a former vice president of Honduras, his son, and his nephew, all of whom are charged with laundering drug money. The family’s fingers are all over Honduras, in the media, banking, telecomm and real estate markets. Following the arrests, the Honduran government froze the family’s assets, which included shutting down one of the country’s largest banks and stalling a major newspaper. It’s been wild to watch how the downfall of one family has rippled throughout the country, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. But it gets wilder, because it’s not just affecting people. Apparently the Rosenthals also own a crocodile farm whose residents are starving to death now that the farmhands aren’t being paid.
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) November 3, 2015
In an attempt to learn Spanish, I’ve also been reading local and regional news. This article about dengue fever may be the first I truly understood. At our newcomer orientation, we shared some inappropriate laughs about dengue fever and chikungunya, the two mosquito borne illnesses endemic to this country. The names were enough to trigger a giggle from everyone at the table, but the nickname put the symptoms in clear perspective: break bone fever. These conditions are no joke and there’s no prophylactic or treatment beyond fluids and rest. Most people seem to write it off since “only a handful” of Mission personnel contract the illnesses each year. But according to that article and my unreliable Spanish, there are many more cases reported through Honduras, and the government has even been accused of manipulating the numbers.
One of these months I’ll find some fun news to share, perhaps even a fun story or two of my own. Until then, peace, love, and Deet.