Honduras, at least my small slice of it, turned on its head last month after the murder of Berta Caceres. Unlike most crime here, nobody is brushing this death under the carpet. Graffiti has sprung up around the city. Caceres supporters continue to protest (and continue to be repressed.) The repercussions expand far beyond the city, or even the country. Secretary Kerry has been asked to protest by members of Congress, 60 of whom signed a letter demanding U.S. aid to be cut to Honduras. There’s a lot more than a $750 million American aid package on the line, though. This feels like it
should could be a pivotal moment for human rights in Honduras.
Then again, this is Honduras and the human rights track record would indicate otherwise. The continued pressure from Caceres supporters led the Honduran President to announce a massive purge of corrupt police officers. A newly formed commission can dismiss officers for any reason, perhaps including homicides, torture, and arbitrary detention, which authorities have already acknowledged were common occurrences in recent years.
But it’s not all doom and gloom in Honduras (minus the literal gloom from the current air pollution problem.) After another scary landing in Toncontin on our way back from Costa Rica, I was excited to read that a newer, safer airport might actually be built by the Soto Cano military base an hour outside the city.
A number of inspiring stories have made their way out of Honduras lately, too. A street vendor who sells horchata in his finest suit pridefully explains why: “I see myself like the owner of my own business, so I have to dress like one.” Hondurans aren’t afraid of hard work, but it’s inspiring to see someone take so much pride in it.
The same goes for Jessel Recinos, who was honored this month as an Emerging Young Leader by the State Department. A transformed ex-gang member, Recinos now runs a program to keep young Hondurans off the street… and on the skate park. USAID is partnering with Recinos to build Honduras’s first skate park just outside San Pedro Sula, the actual murder capital of the world. Recinos knows how important this project is, “because Honduras needs to change, and it’s the young people there who are changing the country.