• Narrow screen resolution
  • Wide screen resolution
  • Auto width resolution
  • Increase font size
  • Decrease font size
  • Default font size
  • default color
  • red color
  • green color
Member Area


May 20th
¡Presente! Home
Protests Light Up Long Honduran Night PDF Print E-mail
For weeks now, tens of thousands of Hondurans in larger and larger marches throughout the country have lit their torches in protest against the government’s corruption and impunity, especially the bald, documented thievery of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the national health service (IHSS) into the coffers of the ruling National Party’s election fund, documented in May by Honduran journalist David Romero.

The scandal implicates not only President Juan Orlando Hernández (known as JOH) but dozens of others including the vice president, the president of Congress, and the president’s sister, who is minister of communications, as well as the attorney general.
The collapse of the once-respected IHSS in the past two years — used, critics charge, as a pretext for an IMF-dictated privatization — has been monumental. Newspapers report that medicines are often missing altogether or that there are no dialysis machines or plates for x-rays. Women who arrive to give birth are told to come back with all the supplies they’ll need — down to the wrist bracelet — even if it’s late at night and the pharmacies are closed. The torches, along with the crosses with names on them that many carry, symbolize the 3,000 people, at least, who are estimated to have died because of the IHSS’s collapse.

Reports indicate that the marchers in Tegucigalpa, largely middle class, span the country’s entire political spectrum from right to left; most of these people were apparently not part of the mass resistance against the 2009 military coup that deposed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya.

This Honduran middle class is now feeling the full ferocious pinch of the post-coup regime. They live in the same dangerous sea of violence as all Hondurans, and are now paying new taxes that the elites who run the government allegedly evade. They pay into and use the IHSS system, and pay taxes into it for their employees as well. Their financial lives are collapsing, I was told; they’re pulling their kids out of college because they can’t afford the fees.

Meanwhile, President Hernández has ridden roughshod over the rule of law, illegally naming four members of the Supreme Court and the attorney general, and sending the military to increasingly take over domestic policing in violation of the Constitution. A wide range of human rights groups have reported vast corruption among the police, judiciary, and public prosecutors. The Department of State recently described “corruption, intimidation, and institutional weaknesses of the justice system leading to widespread impunity.”

I watched another, much smaller torch march the night of June 27, this one overwhelmingly working-class, in La Lima, the old United Fruit company town on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula. It started with clusters of 10 or 20 weathered-looking men and laughing older women, most of whom had spent decades cutting down banana stems or packing fruit in the packinghouses. We all waited in the weeds for the march to start, while ants climbed my calves and a high school marching band unloaded their drums from an old yellow US school bus. As it got darker and the march began, the protesters shouted their way past the old headquarters of the United Fruit Company and over the bridge curving into the center of town. Hundreds of people from the very old to the very young joined, including dozens of tiny girls — some on their mini-bicycles, some in strollers, some sandwiched between their parents on motorcycles along the side.

Working people of La Lima have been marching through those exact same streets ever since the 1954 general strike from which all modern Honduran history flows. That night, they shouted the same slogans as had the middle-class Tegucigalpa marchers — “Fuera JOH!” (Hernández Out!) and “Cuál es la ruta? Sacar ese hijo de puta!” (”What is the route? Throw out that son of a whore!”). But their torches were almost all home-made, from plastic bottles and duct tape, and they marched along with a practiced ease born of lifetimes of struggle — including resistance to the 2009 coup —passed along, now, to yet another generation.
What happens next? To the marchers’ demand for his resignation, the firing of the attorney general, and a truly independent, UN-sponsored commission on impunity modeled on one in Guatemala, Hernández has craftily countered with a proposal for a national commission on impunity which he will control, with international advisors and “dialogue.” The protesters don’t appear to be fooled. How can a corrupt government investigate itself? they asked. It would be “the rats guarding the cheese,” I heard.

Signals from the US Embassy indicate that the Obama Administration is still shoring up Hernández. Well after the protests had escalated, US Ambassador James Nealon proclaimed, astonishingly, at the Embassy’s Fourth of July party that “relations between the United States and Honduras perhaps the best in history.” The White House continues to push Congress for a billion dollars in new aid for Central America, which would include a tripling of funds for the Honduran military.

Hondurans, meanwhile, are speaking eloquently for themselves. While Hernández has blocked almost all official avenues of democratic input, the middle class is discovering the power in the streets which working-class Hondurans have claimed for decades. In the long, dark, repressive night of post-coup Honduras, the protests, with their magical lighting and ferocious outrage, have brought a sudden burst of exhilarating hope.

Dana Frank is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. A longer version of this article was printed in the Miami Herald on July 16, 2015.

Hits: 26736
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters

< Prev   Next >
Featured Article
Download the Spring 2016 issue of Presente

The Spring issue contains mobilizing information for the SOA Watch Border Convergence, which is taking place from October 7-10, 2016 at the US/Mexico border in Nogales, and also focuses on recent developments in Latin America and within the SOA Watch movement.

Click here to download a PDF version of the Spring 2016 issue.

As this issue of Presente went to print, our hearts were heavy. The assassination of our dear friend and comrade Berta Cáceres, and the increased repression against social movement groups, have left us shocked and saddened. SOA Watch Latin America liaison Brigitte Gynther traveled to Honduras the morning after she learned about the assassination and has been coordinating SOA Watch’s response together with our partner groups on the ground. If you do not already receive Urgent Action emails from us, please click here to sign up now.

The recent decision by the U.S. judge in North Carolina to extradite one of the perpetrators of the 1989 massacre at the University of San Salvador gives us hope that justice will prevail in the end. It will take all of us to create change! Please join us as we mobilize to the U.S./Mexico border from October 7-10, 2016!

Other articles in this issue cover a protest by SOA Watch in Chile against US bases in Latin America, the FBI surveillance of SOA Watch, updates from Colombia and Mexico, news about the first Border Patrol agent to receive training at WHINSEC, background information about Direct Action, the Youth Encuentro in Guatemala, and more.

Download this issue of Presente here.

SOA Violence
Image SOA Grads Responsible For UCA Massacre Face Extradition, Military Officers Arrested in El Salvador The 1989 massacre of 16-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos, and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador, that galvanized opposition to the U.S. relationship with Central American death squads and that sparked the movement to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas, is making headlines again.
International Human Rights Encuentro in Bajo Aguán, Honduras

fathermila.jpgInterview with Father Fausto Mila in Honduras

SOA Watch participated in the International Human Rights Encuentro in Honduras in February 2012. Laura Jung spoke with Father Fausto Milla, a religious leader in the Honduran movement who has been persecuted by the State of Honduras.  

Local Organizing
For 25 Years the SOA Watch Movement has been on a Journey A journey to live into the radical hope that marked the lives of  14-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba, and Jesuit priest dissidents Ignacio Ellacuría, S.J., Ignacio Martín-Baró, S.J., Segundo Montes, S.J., Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J., Joaquín López y López, S.J., Amando López, SJ.
Direct Action
Moving the 2016 November Vigil to the Border? The 2015 Vigil is still going to take place at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, but there are discussions within the SOA Watch movement to move the 2016 vigil to the militarized U.S./Mexico border. What do you think?
Image Latin American Resistance & U.S. Solidarity Latin America has a 500 year history of resistance to the violence of colonialism, militarization, and elite domination. It is a legacy to treasure and honor.
SOA Watch in Latin America
SOA Watch Chile Declassified List with Names of WHINSEC Graduates

By Pablo Ruiz, Equipo Latinoamericano of SOA Watch
SOAW Chile achieved an important victory; to declassify the names of over 760 Chilean soldiers who took courses at the School of the Americas/WHINSEC during the past decade.

Image Looking Back to Move Ahead I was asked to write a piece about people of color organizing to attend the 2009 SOA Watch vigil and about our plans for 2010. I believe everything happens for a reason.
Ron Teska Ron Teska, a stone carver and organizer from Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania worked on this piece of art throughout the November Vigil weekend in Georgia.


Walk the street with us into history. Get off the sidewalk.

- Dolores Huerta


Book Tip

Cover of Leslie Gill's book



flickr  facebook MySpace twitter YouTube


On the Line

On the Line  

A challenging new documentary has quickly become one of the widest-reaching films to encapsulate the history of the SOA Watch movement.

Taxi to the Dark SideTaxi to the Dark Side

An in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, focusing on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed in 2002.



Which part of the campaign to close the SOA are you most interested in?

Who's Online

We have 3 guests online


Newspaper Delivery
Educate your community. 


Place your ad in ¡Presente! 


Piggy Bank
We rely on donations from supporters like you.

Contact Us

Contact Us
Complaints, suggestions, feedback or ideas?