by John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening, 13 July 2014
In Spanish, the word hondura means “depth; profundity.” The related word hondo means “deep, low; bottom.” Hondon means “dell, glen, deep hole.” An example given in my dictionary is meterse en honduras, “to go beyond one’s depth.”
I imagine some gold-seeking Spanish conquistador in the 16th century passing through the isthmus and, with a bit of cruel wit, calling the place where he stood The Hole. Sort of like when I was in the Army, Fort Hood, Texas, was known as “the asshole of the world.” In Honduras, my imaginary conquistador no doubt left a lieutenant with troops enough to turn the residents into slaves before he moved his army on to the more appealing Costa Rica.
Honduras is the saddest basket case in the Western Hemisphere, and the behemoth to the north has done everything in its power to keep poor Honduras in the basket case category. Technically, Honduras is a sovereign nation; but in reality it is a vassal state of the United States. Maybe more like a flea-ridden junkyard dog resigned to being kicked.
In 1935, two-time Medal of Honor winner and retired Marine General Smedley Butler famously wrote this in an essay for the socialist magazine Common Sense:
“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service, and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. … I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. … Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
It’s an old story and a well-known one in Latin America. One of the highlights was the infamous 1954 CIA-led coup in Guatemala that overthrew an elected reform movement and institutionalized what became one of the most bloody, nefarious military regimes in western hemisphere history. Of course, there’s Chile 1971. A decade later, Ronald Reagan used poor Honduras to mount an illegal war against its neighbor, Nicaragua. During this period, Honduras was ruled by a US proconsul, Ambassador John Negroponte, a man I’m sure has a forked tongue. The little nation was jokingly referred to as Aircraft Carrier Honduras.
The poor, members of trade unions and anyone opposed to US military occupation of Honduras were treated as hostile, subversive forces. Groups not aligned with the US-occupation were closed down; leaders were disappeared and murdered. In 1984, with five other Americans, I visited Honduras to speak with labor leaders about state violence. We were quickly put on the subversive list, arrested and deported….
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