The political crisis in Honduras stands at an impasse. The interim Honduran government has not accepted proposals by the international community because every proposal demands reinstating deposed president Mel Zelaya. As talks continue to fail, Honduras begins to feel the sting of international sanctions. The United States had already suspended roughly $35 million in government and military assistance and has now suspended tourist visas to the United States – with more new sanctions likely in upcoming days. A host of countries, including the United States, has dismissed Honduran ambassadors and consular officials for supporting the current Honduran government. Neighboring countries have reacted harshly, isolating Honduras economically and politically from the rest of Latin America. Amidst the conflict, Hondurans seem to be holding their breath, just waiting for the upcoming November elections to set the country back on track. However, as countries continue to withdraw their support, the question on everyones’ lips becomes “Will the upcoming elections be recognized and validated?” United States diplomats say that it is too early to tell, but continue to stand firm that restoring Zelaya to office is the only way to negotiate a solution to this political crisis.
On the ground, the political predicament has taken its toll on an already suffering Honduras. During the traditionally high tourist season, destinations such as the island of Roatan are quiet – with beachside resorts like ghost towns, waves crashing on silent, empty beaches. Businesses dependent on tourism have suffered a financial beating this year, many operating at a loss.
Due to safety concerns and political instability, Habitat for Humanity and other development organizations who rely on foreign volunteers for fundraising and labor have suspended brigade activities for the current year. Educational programs that bring exchange students are also withdrawing from Honduras. In government departments and many NGOs, next year’s programming budgets are in limbo during the freeze on IMF and country donor funds.In an economy already burdened by the global recession the effects have been deeply felt. Regardless of which side one stands on current issues, when sanctions are applied, when aid is suspended, when public schools close, the people that end up being penalized the most are those who can afford it the least: the poor. As most Adelante Foundation clients fall into this category, the last few months have been particularly difficult. In addition to economic concerns, Adelante has noted that clients have been struggling with shorter business hours due to government imposed curfews, less traffic along busy routes where goods are sold, and protests and roadblocks creating delays in travel and limiting access to supplies. There are a few silver linings to this black cloud. Curfews have been removed, there have been fewer paralyzing protests, and public school children are back in classes after nearly two months of teacher strikes.
In spite of all remaining obstacles, Hondurans are still hopeful that the situation will turn around, although they are not sure how or when. In the meantime, the Adelante Foundation will continue to move forward with their mission to improve the standard of living of extremely poor women living in Honduras, remaining dedicated to assisting those most vulnerable, who – in turn – are working to survive, caring for their families, and hoping their voices might also be heard amidst the clamorous sounds of international opinion and diplomatic negotiation.
By Desirae Wrathall