(Excerpted from Chapter 18: Overland to Costa Rica: The Grateful Unrich…)
Trujillo, Honduras is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It is wedged between the Madre de Dios and the Caribbean, sitting on a huge bay.
Columbus and his henchmen must have been blown away when they stepped ashore here in 1502. William Walker was literally blown away by local Indians. The pirate is buried in the town cemetery, a good distance from more decent folks.
This morning we hike into Capiro y Calentura National Park. The butterfly assortment is amazing and the quiet is welcome. We ponder a trip south into the remote Miskito Coast region, but it is expensive getting around and quite dangerous, since it is a major drug-running route from South America. We decide to head for the capital instead.
Tegucigalpa – 2-12-97
The old bus chugs toward Juticalpa carrying the usual assortment of biscuit vendors, acrobats and relatives of those needing heart operations- all shaking their coffee cans full of lempira. At Juticalpa we board another bus for Tegoose, as Hondurans call their capital with an unlikely combination of affection and dread. I sit next to a young woman who is bound for the city to catch a flight to Houston, where she has high hopes of living the good life. For now her hopes are overshadowed by her fears. She has left her two children with her mother and will send for them once she gets on her Texas feet. The irony of this woman sitting next to an American who had considered moving to Honduras to enjoy the good life makes me feel ridiculous. As she talks of the squalor and the hardship she has endured, I feel foolish that I could have mistaken this hell for paradise.
These feelings grow stronger at 4:30 AM, when we are dumped into a militarized encampment known as Comayaguella, the poor ugly stepsister of Tegucigalpa on the opposite bank of the Rio Choluteca. We are accosted by heavily armed uniformed thugs demanding passports, otherwise known as the Honduran Army. A crowd is gathering for the morning market. They walk gingerly past the thugs. We hide in the lobby of a hotel in Barrio Conception and wait for the manager to arise so we can check in.
The sun is bearable this morning- owing to the high altitude- as we work our way through the bustle of crowded Mercado San Isidro. We cross a concrete bridge over a filthy cesspool. A green sign says, “Rio Choluteca”. Now in the heart of downtown Tegucigalpa, we grab a coffee at a small comedor and proceed to Parque Central. On the way we notice a crowd gathering outside Banco Occidente on the walking mall. The bank is closed- guarded by a line of riot police wearing helmets, wielding large metal shields and strapped with automatic weapons. Opposite the police are a couple hundred Honduran peasants- clothes badly soiled, stony faces angrily focused on the cops. Some hold banners. Their leaders- marked by the red bandanas around their necks- are facing off with the president of the bank, whose face has turned the color of the bandanas.
We stop to show solidarity and to ask what the people protest. They say they are tired of the constant price increases of basic goods and services and of the lack of salary increases which might offset these hikes. Yesterday labor unions organized a protest of over 10,000 people here. Similar marches occurred in San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba. A bomb exploded near a bank in San Pedro. President Reine quickly attributed it to drug traffickers, but one wryly smiling peasant tells me he finds it hard to believe that a drug trafficker would target his friends at the bank. Where would they turn to launder their proceeds?
Here in Tegoose the global poor confront the IMF neo-liberal agenda of globalization, which has been digging their graves for decades and now makes one more attempt to do them in, to rid the planet of the “unproductive elements”, as World Bank President and North Vietnamese carpet bombing liberal Robert McNamara once termed the world’s poor. While neo-colonialism clings to its short-term victories, the people- at least here today- are serving the buccaneers notice. They have at least one scarlet-faced suit well on his heels, ready to go crying home to Mommy.
As the protest breaks up, we continue toward the plaza. Suddenly there is a great commotion. A dozen or so of the jack-booted cops are chasing a young man, whose friends and family are in turn chasing the storm troopers. Invigorated by the bank rally, I join in the chase. Running as fast as I can- I overtake the family, the cops and the young man. I snap a photo, then watch as the cops corner the boy and drag him into a police station. My white face draws a crowd. Many say that this station is famous for torture and that the man may never be seen again. I wonder if a cigar-smoking head of Chiquita isn’t beaming instructions to the cops via a huge TV monitor inside.
A few in the crowd begin throwing rocks at the cops. Soon we are all pelting them with stones. We push toward the police station and began beating on the windows of this chamber of death. Soon a new contingent of cops arrives, using their shields to push us back. One woman- probably the boy’s mother- is yelling frantically at the police. One policeman goes mad- lashing out at the closing crowd with his silver shield like a conquistador. I am told that the boy they grabbed had done nothing and that his crime was to have attended the protest. The reinforced police now advance on us. I step to the front of the crowd, thinking even these thugs would know better than to attack a foreigner, especially one from America- which props up these fascists as a bastion of “stability” in the region, which created these narco-dictators to counter successful liberation struggles in Nicaragua and El Salvador, and which trained and unleashed its contra death squads from US bases within these borders.
I am wrong. When a young policeman pushes me with his shield, I push back. His face turns devilish and he reaches for the AK-47. A fellow rioter grabs me from behind and pulls me away from danger. At that moment the crowd- with a fresh memory of the many times these cops have gunned down protesters- turns and runs. One block away we regroup and face off with the cops again, pelting them with another barrage of rocks and sticks and street garbage and whatever we can find. I am approached by a man who asks if I will come with him, that he has something important that I should see. I nervously follow him.
We climb a narrow stairway and enter the offices of COFADEH- Committee of the Detained & Disappeared in Honduras. The walls and office partitions are covered in photographs of the thousands of Hondurans, who like the young man we had just followed, were grabbed by the police and never heard from again. They ask me to make a statement and to file a complaint against the police for what I’d seen, then to take the statement to the US Embassy.
While we are talking a throng of reporters begins funneling into the small office. Channel 9, the biggest TV station in Honduras, interviews me as the lead story for their 6:00 PM broadcast. I talk of how the CIA, Chiquita and cocaine money stand behind these cops and that the international bankers stand behind it all- raking in their millions. Radio Espanol airs my interview to its audience in Honduras, as well as to markets in Miami and Houston. The staff tells me that during the Nicaraguan contra war, tens of thousands of Hondurans who protested contra training here were disappeared, tortured and killed by a CIA-trained Army unit known as Battalion 301. The leader of the death squad- General Alpirez- later became President and is godfather to US Ambassador Donald Winter’s son.
This afternoon I take a taxi to the US Embassy to deliver my complaint. We are only allowed to wait outside the metal cage, behind which the spooks hide. A rude secretary tells us she will pass along my letter, but we doubt that the spooks upstairs in the Intercontinental Hotel- which is part of the same building- will ever see it. If they do they will just put me on a watch list and laugh it off. But more likely they will just go on snorting their coke and fucking their whores, before pimping them out for the night to move their coke. Downstairs, where poor Hondurans sign up for green cards they’ll never get, the bathrooms are worse than those at a Honduran bus station. There is no soap or toilet paper. Uncle Sam doesn’t give a fuck about Honduras.
We watch local news in the restaurant of out hotel. The kitchen staff does double takes at me, sure that I am the same man now being interviewed on the tube. Another American in the hotel tells us that I’ve been on the news all day long on every channel. Good deal I’ve already made plans to head for the Nicaragua border tomorrow. The death squads are probably already looking for me. But they just aren’t very fucking smart. It’s the inbreeding.
Dean Henderson is the author of five books: Big Oil & Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families & Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics & Terror Network, The Grateful Unrich: Revolution in 50 Countries,Das Kartell der Federal Reserve, Stickin’ it to the Matrix & The Federal Reserve Cartel. You can subscribe free to his weekly Left Hook column @www.hendersonlefthook.wordpress.com