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Man-made disasters need human solutions: Honduras conflict will only go away with international solidarity

January 2011

In June of 2009, a political earthquake hit Honduras bringing turmoil and claiming at least 17 lives. The coup shook diplomatic foundations between the United States and Latin America nations. Aftershocks of this political catastrophe still linger throughout Latin America and other parts of the World, as nations refuse to accept the outcome of the coup d’état orchestrated by local businessmen and the Army. Unlike natural disasters, man-made catastrophes are preventable and its problems will go away only with strong resolve.   Days before the coup, Grassroots International’s Executive Director, Nikhil Aziz, and I were in Honduras visiting our partners there, including the Via Campesina and other ally organizations.   “With the support of different sectors of the social movements, President Zelaya included a ballot initiative in the upcoming election. Many powerful people in Honduras are not so happy about it,” said  the Via Campesina’s Regional Coordinator Rafael Alegria. After a long pause, he looked at the floor trying to find the exact words. Then he said, “We should prepare for the worst.”   Just a few weeks later, Rafael’s advice seemed prescient as armed soldiers stormed into President Zelaya’s bedroom and kidnapped him at gunpoint, bundled him on to a plane in his nightclothes and left him on the tarmac of the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. In his place, the coup regime suspended civil liberties and began a systematic crack down on popular movements, including the Via Campesina.   Grassroots International is not a humanitarian aid organization, but the frequency of natural and man-made disasters force us to be ready for such occasions. As in the case of January 12 earthquake in Haiti, our general approach is to listen to and follow the leadership of our allies on the ground. The case of Honduras was not different. We spent days – which has turned into months – monitoring the situation there as well as coordinating with other funders and solidarity groups in the United States. Up to this day, we are still working to address reconstruction needs in Haiti and education and organizing efforts in Honduras with the same goal: Advocating for peasant and indigenous people’s rights to land, water and food.   The political conflict in Honduras still stands, as the local government refuses to address peasants and urban workers’ demands for a democratic constitutional process. The wounds of the political earthquake will remain unless we continue to build a strong international solidarity with the people of Honduras.

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