Friday, November 17, 2017

Erosion of Free Speech in Honduras

Los Guaraguao, a Venezuelan music group which frequently has visited and performed in Honduras, found itself denied entry to Honduras on Thursday when they arrived at the airport in San Pedro Sula to perform in a political rally for Salvador Nasralla.  They were held 14 hours in the San Pedro airport, then expelled.  The Honduran government claimed "immigration irregularities" and declared the group "banned from the country."  The Honduran press considers it possible that this is a reaction to a statement by the Otto Reich, a right wing lobbyist, that Venezuela was trying to destabilize the Honduran elections in favor of "friends former President Manuel Zelaya Rosales".

Los Guaraguao are a group known as part of the Nueva Cancion (New Song) tradition in Latin America, performing typically leftist songs.  They blend traditional music with socially conscious lyrics.  The group formed in 1972 and shortly thereafter released their most famous song, "Casas de Cartón" (Cardboard Houses).  We first heard their music in Honduras in the 1980s when Radio Progreso had a 3 hour long Nueva Cancion radio program on Sundays.  That musical program was eventually banned by the Honduran government.  That was also the first time we saw them come to Honduras, to play a concert to over 10,000 people in El Progreso.  They have come to Honduras and played both concerts and political rallies many times since the 1980s, often sponsored by Radio Progreso.  They played at the "Voces Contra la Golpe" (Voices Against the Coup) concert in 2009 at the National University in Honduras.  Their last visit to Honduras was to play at a rally for Xiomara Castro during the last election in 2013.

Otto Reich, a right wing lobbyist and former government official, issued a statement on Wednesday saying that Venezuela was trying to infiltrate 145 delegates passing the borders as tourists, engineers, or businessmen to help in the campaign of the "friends of Manuel Zelaya Rosales."  He said that this was part of an attempt by the leftist government of Venezuela to "conquer" Honduras.  The effect of this campaign, Reich continued, "destabilization of the nation, violence, strikes, and attacks".  Reich connects this plan to destabilize Honduras to the Venezuelan government's financial support for Calalonian independence.  Reich favored the 2009 coup.

Los Guaraguao were placed on a flight to Panama yesterday, where they were informed they had been banned from Honduras, and had to return home to Venezuela instead of continuing on the El Salvador for a planned concert.

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