Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oscar Alvarez's Lame Visions

Oscar Alvarez, Honduras's Security Minister, has visions. What else could account for his announcement Monday that the civilians, residents of Dulce Nombre, San Augustin, Dolores and Concepcion who took over the main road between Santa Rosa de Copan and Guatemala and El Salvador were colluding with narcotraffickers.

Alvarez told El Heraldo
"Could it be that they are in collusion with organized crime? Is drug money behind these actions? I say that so that the people will judge them and so that society will turn its back; we will proceed according to the law along with the Prosecutor."

According to Alvarez, its all part of a plot by organized crime to get the Police dispersed into the countryside, leaving the cities unprotected.

Despite Oscar Alvarez's fervent imagination, could it be there's a less sinister, more human explanation?


Under President Zelaya Rosales, Honduras was to build an airport in Concepción using international financing. The purpose of the airport is to make it easier for tourists to get to to the Maya ruins of Copan. . In order to receive the international funding, Honduras first had to pave the road from the highway to Concepcion before the money for the airport would be released. Zelaya inaugurated the project in March, 2008, but after making a few half-hearted attempts to start, apparently the firm contracted for the work walked off the job alleging they were not being paid. So nothing has happened. I have vastly oversimplified a politically charged decision here, one that upset powerful people in Copan, but that's not this story.

Fast forward to the present. The citizens of the affected towns want the road paved as promised. They'd like the airport too, but for now the road is much more important to their future. On Friday the mayors of the towns Alvarez named called for a strike to call attention to the lack of progress in paving their road. They organized a group to go up to the highway and take it over, but when they got there, there were about 100 soldiers, police, and special forces, and they decided to go home without taking over the highway.

On Monday they returned at 6 am. The police were already there, and there was some violence, with two children beaten so bad they had to be taken to the hospital in La Entrada. Nonetheless, they blocked the road, and called the Bishop of Santa Rosa de Copan, Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos, to defuse the situation. He called the Secretary of Transportation, Miguel Pastor and negotiated for Pastor to meet with the Mayors in Tegucigalapa on Wednesday and by late afternoon they quietly quit protesting and opened the roadway to traffic.

The story is told, in part first hand, in more detail on John Donaghy's blog in his "Waiting - but in the streets" post. As John says,
"The people who planned the blockade in Dulce Nombre were not drug traffickers, as far as I know. There are mayors involved in drug-trafficking but I've never heard this charge against any of them. Others involved are land-owners and business-owners. The poor supported the cause because an improved road would make transportation easier and because church leaders support the cause."

I couldn't have said it better. Mayors, land owners, business owners, the Catholic Church and campesinos, all uniting behind a simple attempt to get what they were promised by the government. Oscar Alvarez's lame attempt to criminalize the citizens of Dulce Nombre, Concepcion, Dulce Nombre, San Augustin, and Dolores should be thoroughly condemned by all.


John (Juancito) Donaghy said...

Actually, the latest word is that Minister of SOPTRAVI Pastor agreed to come to Dulce Nombre on Thursday.

RNS said...

Thanks for the correction. Having Pastor come to Dulce Nombre is better than having the mayors go to Tegucigalpa. With him in Dulce Nombre there's a better chance of a positive outcome. My thoughts will be with them on Thursday.

RNS said...

Another set of Alvarez's sueños:
"tiene informe que alrededor de 500 hombres están armados en la zona [Bajo Aguan]...."

"los organizadores [en el bajo aguan] de la toma tenian planificado hacer una masacre de campesinos para echarle la culpa al actual gobierno..."

Dream on.


Pete said...

So blocking a main highway is a legitimate way of airing your grievances, is it?

RNS said...

Blocking a roadway is a traditional form of protest in Honduras used by those whose voice isn't one traditionally found in the media. Its been used since at least 1954.

Its an effective tactic because the government usually responds by communicating with those involved; it gets press coverage which widens the distribution of their message (otherwise not covered by the press); it frequently ends peacefully, and it has a long history of use in Honduras.

Tambopaxi said...


I agree with RNS on the road closure tradition, and it's a tradition throughout Latin America, I might say. I've seen them in literally every country in Central America and down here in South America as well.

For the most part they achieve the objectives that RNS mentions, but there have been instances where they've ended tragically and violently, as I've personally seen in countries like Peru, El Sal, and Guatemala; to some extent that depends on a given country's proclivity to violence, and some countries definitely are more violent than others down here...

Anonymous said...

Most demonstrations block traffic to some degree.

Civil disobedience is so inconvenient to the people in power. Though usually less so than their wrongs are to the powerless.