Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández announced on May 6 that the country had arrived at an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a 311 million dollar loan. He stated that the agreement would help support the growth of Honduras’ “privileged” economy which continues to outshine the rest of the economies in the region and it would help “support social mobility” for the most vulnerable in Honduras.
His comments are seemingly out of touch with reality as 65% of Honduras’ population lives in poverty with over 40% in conditions of extreme poverty. Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and it is also the second most unequal country in the region.
The announcement came days after the “Law of Restructuring and Transformation of the National Education and Healthcare System” was defeated by massive street protests by students, doctors and teachers. The measure would have further privatized the public sector and would have led to mass personnel cutbacks. The Law was initially passed by Honduras’ National Congress with the major opposition from the Partido Libertad y Refundación (Liberty and Refoundation Party), but after the protests, the Congress was forced to revoke it.
Many read the measure as an attempt by the Honduran government to abide by IMF demands to cut the public expenditure as they were on the verge of closing an agreement with the institution. With the 311 million IMF loan agreement made official, many expect that the already weak public sector will suffer bigger blows.
On Tuesday May 7, Honduran newspaper El Heraldo released a report claiming that Honduras was coming to a tripartite military training agreement with the United States and Israel. The agreement calls for 1,000 Israeli soldiers to come to Honduras’ Palmerola Air base, the largest US military base in Latin America. to train the Armed Forces of Honduras and the National Police in the area of control and protection of borders and new tactics against organized crime.
The opposition block in Honduras’ National Congress led by the Partido Libertad y Refundación, a left-wing opposition party that emerged out of the resistance movement against the 2009 coup d’état, has already announced that they would oppose the agreement if it is brought to vote in the legislature.
The president of the Defense Commission of the National Congress, David Chavez Madison, and member of the far-right ruling party the National Party, said in an interview to HCH News that “those who oppose the arrival of Israeli soldiers in the exchange between states is practically in favor of organized crime”
Olivia Zúniga, a deputy from the Partido Libertad y Refundación, condemned the fact that “While our people are dying of hunger, and do not have access to health, to education and to the most basic services for the survival of a human being, the narco-dictatorship of Juan Orlando Hernández spends our money on buying weapons of war, on military advising, and so that they come and repress the people.”
Zúniga highlighted that the latest agreement -which has neither been confirmed nor denied by Government authorities – is not the first of its kind. She stated that after the coup d’état in 2009, the Honduran government began to impose the mining and energy ex1tractivist model with more force, coupled with a strengthening and expansion of the military forces.
She explained that the post-coup dictatorial government “began to make military contracts and agreements where the Honduran army would receive more training, and it is all paid for with the taxes of the Honduran people and all of the general budget that was destined for health, education, public services is reduced. So the money of all Honduran men and women, is destined for buying arms, military advising, training and this of course is done at the back of the people without asking the people through closed door agreements that the National Congress and the executive power approves.”
Zúniga also pointed out the very blatant contradictions in the agreement, “They say they are coming to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, but Honduras has had one of the longest and biggest military occupations and is also home to the largest US military base in the world. At the same time, Honduras for decades has been a paradise for drug trafficking. So this is all a fallacy. This war on drugs, war against drug-trafficking, war against terrorism is a lie. Which terrorists are they even referring to? The terrorists who impose terror against the Honduran people are those who shoot at us, that repress us, that shoot live bullets, that assassinate our people.”
She concluded that “it is clear that this is a war against the Honduran people that it will be against our people that they will use the military training of the Honduran army, that it will be against our people that they will use the bullets, torture and violence. These are specialists in genocide, specialists in torture, which they do against the Palestini1an people.”
The geo-strategic significance of Honduras as a launch point of US imperialism is also key. “This agreement comes at the same time as the failure of the US empire to defeat the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuel1a. It is forcing them to strengthen their pieces in the waist of America, in Honduras and obliging them to put more pieces in a country that is geopolitically strategic for war,” Zúniga highlighted.
News also emerged that the brigade of 25 Cuban doctors who have served the Honduran people for the past 20 years will begin to leave the country as the cooperation agreement that ended on April 30 was not renewed by JOH’s government. The Cuban doctors offered free services across the Central American nation where access to quality health care is a big challenge.