For Xiomara Castro, who on Thursday began her adventure at the helm of Honduras, the conspiracy hatched by the right and a group of deputies from her own party could be just a foretaste of what’s to come. Right on the eve of the inauguration of the president with the most votes in the country’s history, 18 deputies of Libre (Libertad y Refundación) allied themselves with the narco-government of outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernández to elect a different leadership team for Congress, not the one that had been agreed upon between Castro and her deputy Salvador Nasralla.
The consequence is that the country now has two Congresses: one led by Luis Redondo of Nasralla’s Partido Salvador de Honduras, who garnered 48 votes, and the other chaired by ex-Libre Jorge Cálix, who got 82. Furthermore, after the expulsion of the 18 disloyal deputies, Libre’s parliamentary group is now composed of only 32 deputies out of 128.
We spoke about the current crisis and the future prospects with Miriam Miranda, a well-known coordinator of Ofraneh (Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña) and leader of the Garífuna people, an ethnic group of mixed indigenous and African origin that has been harshly persecuted under the Joh government.
How do you interpret the current parliamentary crisis?
The narco-government that has pushed the country into the worst crisis in its history is seeking once again to checkmate the precarious democracy that exists in Honduras, presenting itself as the “guarantor of democracy and governability.” We live in a country of the absurd. The corruption and betrayal of the 18 Libre deputies is part of a chain of coups that began in 2009 with the overthrow of Zelaya and continued with the “technical coup” against the Supreme Court of Justice in 2012, when four of its five judges were dismissed, and with the electoral coup in 2017, when victory was stolen from Salvador Nasralla. Twelve years of narco-dictatorship cannot be erased overnight. All the more so since the 2009 coup, Honduras has become a perfect political laboratory for that international neo-fascist strategy aimed at preventing peoples from taking the reins of their own destiny and at destroying the rule of law.
Does this strategy include the creation of so-called “model cities”?
A “failed state” like ours offers ideal conditions for foreign investors, who have found the door wide open thanks to a series of laws with which the government has ceded sovereignty, territories and the very life of the Honduran people. The narco-dictatorship’s plan for the control of territorial space has involved the creation—in areas potentially rich in biodiversity—of model cities or special development zones (ZEDE), subject to a different regime from that of the state. It is yet another, and more extreme, legitimization of the model of appropriation of territorial resources by multinational capital, under the pretext of promoting supposed development and creating jobs. It is the creation of a state within the state.
However, the people have said no to all of that. Can Xiomara Castro represent the hope of a new beginning?
In these 12 years, democratic institutions have been destroyed and the most basic human rights have been violated, starting with those of the indigenous peoples, the Garifuna people, the LGBT community, in an undeclared war that has produced, among other things, enormous caravans of migrants fleeing to the north, which served a plan of depopulation of the territories. Because of all of that, on November 28, the people (especially young people and women) wanted to change the course of history, placing at the helm of the country the first woman president of Honduras, and also the one who got the most votes in history. However, we know that the mafia that controls this country will not give up its privileges easily, hindering in every way the task of redeeming democracy and recovering peace and tranquility. And we are aware of how fragile the institutions are, of how deeply rooted corruption and impunity are and how widespread the buying and selling of wills and consciences is.
What is the situation of the Garífuna people?
We were among the hardest hit during the pandemic, due to the difficulty in accessing health care and the collapse of the health care system. But we are also among the main victims of the current land-grab model, suffering persecution and criminalization by a racist, classist and discriminatory justice enforcement system. In the last five years alone, more than 50 of our leaders have been assassinated. In these 12 years, we have had to face the genocidal plan of the narco-government to make us disappear as a people, but we have resisted and struggled, starting from below, from our communities, because we believe in our right to a better future and we want to create different living conditions for the generations to come.
What do you expect from the next government?
We demand the repeal of the laws and decrees imposed by Congress after the 2009 coup, a moratorium on the extraction of hydrocarbons and the exploitation of forest and river resources, and the abandonment of a development model based on the expansion of palm oil plantations and enclave tourism projects. We want full respect for the ancestral rights of the Garífuna people and indigenous peoples, and a stop to the persecution and criminalization of land defenders. And we demand the immediate application of the 2015 rulings with which the Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned the Honduran state for the violation of the collective property rights of the Garífuna communities of Punta Piedra and Triunfo de la Cruz. Six years have passed and nothing has been done.