Archive for October, 2018

The caravan: Who is behind it, what internal factors provoke it, how to situate ourselves?

Reflection, Research and Communication Team ERIC – SJ

 

Ismael Moreno Coto, s.j. (Padre Melo)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

 

http://wp.radioprogresohn.net/la-caravana-quienes-la-empujan-que-factores-internos-la-provocan-como-situarnos/

 

Overflow

 

The caravan is a social migratory phenomenon that has overflowed any political and institutional foresight. It is world news. In all the international media, which never have anything to say about Honduras, today they have put it in the “eye of the hurricane” news. It is a phenomenon that has overwhelmed churches, sectors of civil society, NGOs and governments. It is an avalanche that at the beginning of this dramatic period began with a few hundred Hondurans to become an uncountable number, growing and uncontrollable, which is answered with simple gestures of solidarity, generosity and spontaneity on the part of people who see migrants pass by, and even with the highest-level military responses as the Trump administration threatens, and as the Honduran regime continues to unsuccessfully create a police wall on the border between Honduras and Guatemala.

 

 

 

 

Born in the “Juarez City of the South” It is not just a caravan. It is a social phenomenon led by thousands of impoverished rural and urban settlers that manifests itself in large and massive spontaneous and improvised caravans, with no more organization than the one that has taught the basics of survival and the manifest decision to go north to reach the territory of the USA. It’s not the first time. Last year, 2017, in the month of April there was a caravan of about 800 Central Americans, 75% of whom were Hondurans. At the same time, there is a constant movement of some 300 Hondurans who daily seek to cross the border of Aguascalientes, between Honduras and Guatemala, resulting in many of whom are lost on the road. This human and social avalanche exploded like a powerful far-reaching bomb gaining second or third importance news in the city of San Pedro Sula where it all began. San Pedro Sula is known worldwide as one of the most violent, and thus various researchers and analysts often call it the “Juarez City of the South”. It is similar with the boom of the maquilas (sweatshops) that characterize this Mexican city bordering El Paso, Texas, which was promoted in the 1970’s as a response to poverty in Mexico. Juarez City is best known worldwide for other by-products: an endless flood of internal migration, juvenile delinquency, and drug trafficking. What was this news in San Pedro Sula? A group of about 200 Hondurans announced that they were organizing a caravan to migrate north, leaving the bus terminal in San Pedro Sula, on the Honduran Atlantic coast, on Saturday, October 13.

Who was behind it?

In the beginning, the caravan was identified with the name of Bartolo Fuentes, a social and political leader based in the city of El Progreso, who said in an interview to the local media, that he would join the caravan for a few days. Bartolo Fuentes as a journalist accompanied the previous caravan of April 2017. Being also a politician of the LIBRE (Freedom and Refoundation) Party of the Honduran opposition, Bartolo Fuentes quickly became the political “scapegoat”. He was accused of such at a press conference by the government minister of Foreign Affairs while she was accompanied by the Minister of Human Rights. “Bartolo Fuentes is responsible for this caravan, he organized and instigated many people to manipulate them and lead them on this dangerous journey” she said, while calling on the Public Ministry to proceed with charges against the person to whom the regime downloaded all responsibility as a representative of the radical political opposition of Honduras. As with most things, Bartolo’s name was soon discarded and other scapegoats emerged, still more powerful than a mere local and national social and political leader.

By the time the caravan crossed the border at the Aguascalientes crossing to Guatemala it has already swelled to about four thousand people, who managed to topple the fence that police from both Honduras and Guatemala had established at the border post. And it continued to grow in numbers as it crossed Guatemalan territory and approached the Mexican border. The Honduran regime, undoubtedly with financing from the government of the United States, conceived a plan between October 17 and 20 with the purpose of convincing the migrants to return to the country. A few hundred seemed to accept this proposal, many of whom were transported by bus and others by airlift, as each person was promised immediate help and a package of undetermined services. However there are witnesses who revealed that not a few of the returning migrants were in fact activists of the National Party (the Honduran government) who sought to entice the Caravaners, and above all, to provide official publicity for the government. However, from October 23 on and with figures that increased as the days passed, the Caravan grew to almost 10 thousand migrants crossing through the State of Chiapas in the Mexican Republic.

 

   A pressure cooker The Honduran government accuses the opposition and criminal groups for being responsible for the caravans for destabilizing political purposes. The government of the United States added its weight to this accusation going so far as to accuse the Democratic Party of instigating and financing political and criminal groups so that the migrants would invade US territory in order to destabilize the American government. All these accusations have no real basis. The phenomenon of caravans is the expression of the desperation of a population for which it is increasingly risky to live in a country that denies employment, public safety and a life time of permanently gleaning for leftovers. The caravan is the explosion of a pressure cooker that the Honduran government in association with a small business and transnational elite has been stirring for at least a decade. This is the government that abandoned public social policies and replaced them with public handout programs, while consolidating the development model based on investment in the extractive industry and the privatization and concession of public goods and services.

State and corruption understood as business In turn, the public administration is led by a sector of politicians who have understood the State as their private enterprise.  They have plundered public institutions, such as the Honduran Institute of Social Security, the health system in general, and the electric energy corporation, among many others. These politicians protect themselves with political control of the justice system. The population has been progressively experiencing helplessness and abandonment. This experience and feeling was reinforced with the elections of November 2017 when the government was re-elected in violation of the Constitution of the Republic and was awarded a victory that some 70 percent of the population acknowledges was the result of organized fraud. The population no longer has confidence in politicians, the government and the higher levels of private business. The caravans are a phenomenon that expresses the despair and anguish of a people that no longer believes in solutions inside the country. This decision of the people to find their own just solution results in this extreme expression of flight.

 

Everyone looking for someone to blame and take advantage of

The government of Honduras and the government of the United States seem to need someone to hold responsible. This is so because in the end they represent an elitist sector of society that systematically despises populations with low economic resources, and will never give credit to their initiatives. Everything that comes from these lower sectors is understood as a threat, and in many cases like the one that is now observed with migrants, the initiatives are perceived as delinquent or criminal acts. They do not believe or accept the decisions, initiatives and creativity of the people. Theirs is the expression of contempt, discrimination and racism. They assume that the people cannot think are unable to decide on their own. There must be a factor, or some external actor that encourages, that manipulates their decisions. Obviously, the phenomenon of the caravan can serve to benefit the interests of other sectors. There are opposition sectors in Honduras, and perhaps in the United States, which seek to benefit from the instability caused by this migratory movement. Surely, the extreme right of the Trump administration is especially interested in capitalizing on this phenomenon to strengthen the anti-immigrant

Hunger

movement, one of the fundamental policies of his administration. The mid-term elections in the United States are a thermometer to establish whether or not Trump will continue for a second term. Accusing the Democrats of funding the migrations is a convenient argument to empower Trump towards the Republican triumph in the November elections. In turn, opposition political sectors in Honduras have also shown signs of taking advantage of this phenomenon to further weaken the government of Juan Orlando Hernández, who is also interested in using the migrant movement to accuse the opposition of being responsible for causing greater instability to the national government.

From shameful to dignified

The phenomenon of the caravan has brought light to a daily hidden reality. The caravan has been happening every day, and surely in less than a month the number of people who have been leaving is comparable to those who joined the massive exit in a single day. This daily caravan has been silent, dry, discreet, private, invisible and even shameful. But with this explosion it has become a visible, public and even dignifying caravan. This phenomenon has unmasked the false discourse and laid bare the official failure. It has dismantled that triumphalism that has claimed that the country was improving. It has proven that social compensation programs of the regime not only do not solve the problems but deepen the precariousness of the majority of society. It has revealed that a society that allows only 35 percent to participate in the formal economy is unsustainable. The massive caravan is the expression of a massive phenomenon of a model of systemic social exclusion.

Elites and regime, wounded in their self-esteem

Repression – State brutality

The caravan that started on October 13, and that opened the valve for subsequent caravans, suddenly woke up the political sectors and the business elite accustomed to having strict control over everything that happens in the country, and they strive to avoid undesirable surprises, or at least they are experts in capitalizing in their favor the discomforts or skirmishes of protests and claims of the social sectors. The elites have enjoyed the privileges of the State and only react when their infinite profits are hindered by adverse reactions, as is happening with the opposition of communities and organizations to extractive projects and concessions granted by the government to national and transnational companies. This is how it is explained that business elites react with extreme aggression when there are people who hinder their accumulation of wealth, to the point of assassinating their leaders as happened in March 2016 with the murder of Berta Cáceres.

Violence – Death Squads

In the same way, these sectors feel beaten in their self-love when, feeling at ease in their privileges, the reality of the excluded unmasks their lies with a single demonstration. This is what the caravan has done. Just after the elites and the regime of Juan Orlando Hernández have invested millions of dollars in publicizing that the country is on the right track, that the economy is healthy, and that the people are happy with the social programs, then this caravan of thousands of citizens breaks out and creates the alternative news that goes around the world. The shame of the elites is transformed into accusations against the opposition while they conspire to

Poverty – 2/3 live in poverty, half of them in extreme poverty

look for scapegoats, which in the last days of October passed from blaming a specific person, to the radical political opposition, to the Democrats, to the businessman Soros, until finally deciding to blame their denominated “axis of evil” made up of Cuba, Venezuela and Ortega de Nicaragua. It is the answer to the shame that the Honduran elites experience while not accepting the extent that those who unmask them are those sectors that the elites believe do not deserve to be considered equal because they are second, third or fourth category citizens.

 

Characteristics that help interpret this mass exodus

This phenomenon of massive human migration to foreign lands also denotes some features that contribute to understanding what underlies Honduran society:

First factor: extreme dependence on the outside. Looking outside of the country for the answers and solutions to solve needs and problems. This is a mind-set that has been accentuated for more than a century, after the establishment of the banana enclave at the beginning of the twentieth century. Looking northward and taking the road to the United States has been the dramatic reminiscence of a society that shaped its minds and hearts around the “American dream”, wanting to be like an American, with their dollars, hoping to earn dollars to buy things, to be able to spend money as it is spent in the United States. Going to the United States is that deep desire to pursue the love of a capitalism that has not been experienced within the country. It is a spontaneous movement to go in search of the promised land, it is a desperate defense of the country of consumption and of “the land of bread to carry”, as the Honduran poet Rafael Heliodoro Valle once said. It is not a massive anti-system movement. It is an intra-system avalanche of the dispossessed people who continue stubbornly to look up, to the north, for the dream that they have lived as a nightmare in Honduras. These starving migrants do not know that their initiative is shaking the system; what they do is to look in the center of the system for an answer to their needs and problems. As politicians and wealthy elites do in other ways, they always have their eyes and hearts turned northwards towards the United States, in a frank submissive attitude. It is the same attitude as that of the thousands of migrants, only that theirs is from the position of managers, of internal protectors of the interests of the empire.

Second factor: a society trapped in the struggle to survive.

Countries of Greatest Inequality – Honduras #3

In the day to day struggle, everyone is looking after their own selves, everyone and individually scratching crumbs out of the system without questioning it. The mass exodus of Hondurans has no organization other than the mutual protection offered by traveling in a group but still it is just a group of individuals searching for a new life in another country, in the country of the north. The decision to leave the country is not the result of some organization within the poor, but the expression of these individuals seeking in the same way and time the solution to their problems.

 

This trait of the characteristic and behavior of Honduran society, submerges its people in confinement, in the political evil of isolation, which leads to each person being locked into their own search, individually preoccupied in resolving their own individual affairs, under the adage that “the ox licks only itself”[i], or what they say on the roads and streets of our neighborhoods and villages: “Everyone is getting what they can.”[ii]  It is the logic of survival; everyone seeks to find their own solutions and will make commitments with anyone, in order to get ahead. Other people only get in the way, uniting with others to meet and search together seems to hinder their search. Everybody complains about what is happening, about the rising costs of fuel, water, and electric power.

Everyone protests against the government, but when it comes to looking for common solutions, the default is to let others do so. The massive exit to the north reveals that people still do not put trust in others and the community. It is an expressed rejection towards the organization, towards the political parties and towards institutions of any sort. The massive exit is the failure of any kind of public response, and the resounding triumph of an individualistic reaction. The phenomenon of caravans is the extreme expression of the individual seeking to escape from a structural and systemic problem. In such an environment, everything that comes from above and from outside is absorbed, and then even those who have crushed the people still get elected, in exchange for a “charity bag” or some dubious handouts. In a society trapped in the “rebusque”[iii], the charity handout programs have an immediate success, but when the problems remain intact, and the privatization or concessions policies take even more away, the struggle to survive becomes unbearable until ending with explosions like the massive caravans of migrants.

 

Third factor:

Half of the children do not attend school

a society that opts for the vertical relationship in detriment of horizontal relationships.

People look to “go up”, to the north and upwards. The mirage of the migrants is focused upwards and outwards. They stopped looking to their sides, everyone walks, advances with their own steps forward, without seeing who is at their side. It is the syndrome of the “banana republic” seeded by the Americans and leaving them left waiting and enthralled for the return of the white people. There are many, thousands who are taking these same steps, but each one looking out for themselves, the self-interest of the individual. In this individualistic culture they were born, they were schooled in its message, they grew, and they have suffered for it.  And so they seek their escape to the north – individually. Even if they are in a caravan, even if they are thousands. It is a caravan of individual journeys.

 

Honduran relationships are based on looking upwards, on the vertical, depending on those higher up in a relationship where the vertical line is the decisive one. It is the paradigm of power, of the patriarch, of the “caudillo”[iv] in the Honduran case. The caudillo is expected to solve ones’ personal or family problem; the leader who solves  problems in exchange for loyalty. It is the United States, the maximum expression of the caudillos, the father of the caudillos. That vertical line is sustained at the cost of weakening the horizontal line of relationships, the line of equals. The horizontal line is so tenuous that it is almost invisible, as if it does not exist.  At most we see each other, to see who can get more with whom or who are moving upwards, to see who has climbed in the power of those who are in command.

 

This vertical mentality[v] has permeated strongly social organizations, community organizations, NGOs and their leaders. The phenomenon of international cooperation has contributed particularly strongly to this mentality. The relations that are established with special emphasis are bilateral between the donor organism and the beneficiary organization, which in turn accentuates direct and vertical relations with the grassroots organizations. And these, by benefiting from cooperative funding, strengthen relations of dependence with the NGO which in turn, has a vertical dependency with their donor organism.

 

This vertical line is prioritized over the horizontal lines. The relations between the grassroots organizations, the encounters among the different grassroots leaders, are linked by a tenuous horizontal line, because the emphasis is placed in the vertical line, in the upward dependence. Finally, social organizations and NGOs are left alone, with very little impact on the people. When the people turn to force, not only does this exceed the capacity of existing organizations, but the first to be surprised are these same social and popular organizations and their leaderships. These groups have a lot to say and many formulations, but the people are not with them.

 

The axis of evil.

 

Instead of looking for “scapegoats” inside and outside Honduras, the fundamental problem is a Honduras in the hands of some alliances that can be named as the axis of evil. These alliances are made up from a small political elite that has lived embedded in the State and uses its resources as its private property, in collusion with an authentically oligarchic business elite that manages the threads of the entire economy and state investments. They are but a minor partner of the capital of transnational companies. This triple collusion forms the real Honduran government, which is structured around a model of infinite accumulation at the proportional expense of denying opportunities to some six million of the nine million Hondurans that make up the population.

 

These three actors are co-opted by three other powerful actors: the American Embassy based in the capital, the armed bodies led by the high-ranking officers of the Armed Forces, and by public and hidden figures of organized crime. These six allied actors form the real axis of evil, wherein lies the highest share of responsibility of what happens with the almost endless deterioration of Honduran society. In this axis of evil and its development model, based on the accumulation of wealth with the corrupt control and exploitation of natural assets and the privatization of public goods and services, that one begins to find the fundamental answer to the question of “Why are the Hondurans fleeing and why are they forming caravans that attract thousands of Hondurans?”.

 

How to understand our position in reference to the migrants in this phenomenon of caravans?

 

  1. First of all, to accompany the analysis and research, to scrutinize the internal dynamics of the movement and provide elements so that society can have its own criteria, and thus to avoid manipulation by political sectors, the corporate media and officials whose interest is to manipulate and capitalize in their favor this human tragedy. The migrant population has something to tell us, it has in itself a message, searching for external elements within, but the most important actor is the people who emigrate, who are uprooted. Not to listen to them while seeking some forces that push them, is to fall into the same script narrated by Trump and Juan Orlando Hernández. The migrant people have something to say (their own word), their suffering and exclusion gives them the right to be considered sacred, and we have to respect and listen to them.
  2. Accompanying, being close to caravans to listen to their voice and contribute to meeting their immediate and basic needs, is a condition that makes analysis and reflection valid. To accompany does not necessarily require giving material aid. It may be necessary to support with resources, but it can also be a temptation to free ourselves from the helplessness of not knowing how to answer the fundamental questions that arise from their sufferings and anguish.
  3. The coordination between national and Central American, Mexican and continental networks is fundamental since it is a phenomenon that originates in Honduras, but has repercussions and international connotations. No network is in itself sufficient as the reality of the caravan phenomenon can exceed all resources. Isolated or independent efforts make the response more sterile. Effectiveness is increased when responses connect with the greatest number of instances of support.
  4. To denounce and unveil the official discourse of the political manipulation of the caravan. The different international sectors should help to find answers first from Honduras, and from Hondurans, not from the “official spin” of Honduran powers, but from those sectors that have been and are close to the populations from which the Caravans originate. This search for answers must start from a pivotal observation: political responsibility resides fundamentally in the current Honduran regime and in the development model based on investment in extractivism and the privatization of public goods and services, in a system of corruption and impunity. From this denunciation, we Hondurans demand that there be new elections to allow an early return to the constitutional order, and that with a new government a great national dialogue would be convened to formulate the priorities leading to the reversion of the current state of social calamity that has exploded in this massive migration.
  5. A direct pastoral support of consolation, mercy and solidarity with the pain and despair of our people, expressed in communication strategies that link traditional media, such as radio, television and written media, with social networks.

 

[i] “el buey solo se lame” idiom “Independence is greatly appreciated” or “better to trust in oneself than others”

[ii]  “cada quien librando su cacaste” idiom “everyone taking care of their own interests”

[iii]  “rebusque” idiom for “search” for an alternative or a way out

[iv] Caudillo – strongman or dictator

[v] An Adlerian understanding of this “vertical mentality” is characterized by an admiration for those “at the top”, or those aspiring upwards rather than towards others

 

(translation and footnotes by Phil Little)

Las 5 Familias mas poderosas de Honduras

La caída de la familia Rosenthal tuvo como consecuencia el reordenamiento del poderío económico en Honduras, por muchos años la poderosa familia Rosenthal manejo los hilos financieros y políticos en la zona norte del país, área donde viven y mantienen sus capitales los más adinerados. Aquí los 5 hombres económicamente más poderosos del país.

Jorge Canahuati Larach es un empresario de origen palestino de padres hondureños nació en Estados Unidos consolido su poderío económico en el área de las comunicaciones, actual propietario y presidente de grupo OPSA La Prensa, El Heraldo, Diez, Estilo también con fuertes inversiones en el sector de embotelladoras, franquicias alimenticias y farmaceutica: Pizza Hut, Kentucky, Embotedallora de Sula (Agua Azul, Aquafina, Pepsi, Seven Up, Mirinda Naranja Mirinda Uva, 7Teen,  Enjoy,  Adrenaline, Gatorade, Quanty, Link, SoBe Energy, Té Lipton envasado) Laboratorios Finlay. Jugo un papel  importante como financista y ejecutor en el golpe de estado de 2009 desde entonces su poder económico ha ido en asenso.

Puesto #4

Fredy Antonio Nasser Selman es un empresario hondureño de ascendencia judeo-palestina.

Presidente y propietario de “Grupo Terra” un conglomerado de compañías y negocios vinculados al sector energético, concesiones y comunicaciones, su grupo es dueño de los aeropuertos de Honduras los cuales fueron concesionados a su persona por los próximos 20 años en el sector energético se consolida como el dueño de Gasolineras  “UNO”  Emce, Enersa, planta termoeléctrica, Río Blanco, planta termoeléctrica, Lufussa, planta termoeléctrica, planta termoeléctrica, Petróleos de Honduras (Hondupetrol) es considerado un magnate a nivel centroamericano ya que sus inversiones sobrepasaron nuestras fronteras.

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Puesto #3

Miguel Mauricio Facusse de ascendencia palestina, es heredero de la fortuna de su padre el extinto Miguel Facusse Barjum una fortuna bañada de sangre que casi desemboca en una guerra civil al interior de una zona llamada “El bajo agúan” su fortuna se debe a los múltiples negocios con el estado y entre sus empresas se encuentran Yummies Zambos, tajaditas y yuquitas, Yummies Ranchitas, nachos y jalapechos, Cappy, maíz con queso, gorditos y tornitos, Zibas, papas y anillitos de papa, Ziba’s Costi Rica, papas fritas, Ziba’s francesa, papas a la francesa, Taco del Rancho, picante, jalapeño y barbacoa,  Chicharrones del Rancho, limón y picosito, Mazola, aceite y margarina, manteca Pura, Íssima, pasta de tomate La Rojita y Sofrito, Íssima, salsas para pastas Ranchera, Íssima, salsas para pastas Tomate y Albahaca , Íssima, salsas para pastas Con hongos y 3 quesos, Íssima, Ketchup, Isssima, sopas de pollo, camarón y resollo Oriental, Íssima, spaguetti y tallarines, Íssima, consomé de gallina y depollo así como grandes extensiones de tierras a los ancho y largo de Honduras.

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Puesto #2

Camilo Alejandro Atala Faraj es un magnate hondureño de origenárabe palestino. Es el presidente ejecutivo del Grupo Financiero FICOHSA que es propietaria de Banco Ficohsa , Interamericana de Seguros, Ficohsa Express, PSI, Proyectos y Servicios Inmobiliarios, Dicorp, divisas corporativas, Fundación Ficohsa, DIUNSA, Supermercados la colonia y en el area hotelera cuenta con la inversión publico privada mas grande del caribe Indura Beach Resort que cuenta con el campo de golf mas grande del caribe.

Puesto #1

Mohamad Yusuf Amdani Bai Presidente de Grupo Karim’s, de origen Pakistaní, naturalizado hondureño, es el hombre mas rico de Honduras, Karim’s tiene su matiz en Pakistán, en la actualidad las compañías del conglomerado operan en Estados Unidos, Honduras, México, Guatemala, Republica Dominicana, Nicaragua y Emiratos Árabes, siendo los sectores textil y bienes y raíces donde mantiene la mayoría de operaciones. En Honduras sus inversiones van desde Green Valley hasta Altia Bussiness Park fue el principal financista en la campaña del actual presidente Juan Orlando Hernandez y un colaborador muy cercano a este.

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La vida política del país en los últimos 30 años ha sido marcada por las decisiones de estos 5 hombres en representación de sus familias. Este articulo ha sido realizado con las siguientes fuentes de información:

http://www.mundoculturalhispano.com/spip.php?article5500

http://www.elmundo.es/america/2009/11/27/noticias/1259331572.html

Drama at the IHSS of San Pedro Sula.

          What I saw and heard.

 

written by Fr. Ismael (Melo) Moreno, sj – Director of Radio Progreso and E.R.I.C. in El Progreso, Honduras

 

October 17, 2018

 

From pain and helplessness

 

It has been my preference to never publish or divulge personal or family matters, and even less to make use of the institutional means where I work to address personal issues. This time I do it not only because of the deep and heartbreaking pain and helplessness that I live in the face of the deplorable state of health of my younger sister – primarily caused by the inhuman attention in the health system that operates in the San Pedro Sula Social Security hospital, but because I also feel the ethical obligation to denounce the outrage and mistreatment, the notable lack of medical equipment, the absence of medications and in general the deplorable hospital conditions that together make the lives of patients and their families an authentic torment. And I do it from what I saw and heard in the weeks when I visited my younger sister as she suffered debilitating conditions when she was in this hospital center of the Social Security (IHSS) in San Pedro Sula[i].

Rarely in my life have I experienced the most absolute helplessness I have felt in the environments and corridors, in the halls and on the benches of the facilities of this hospital center, compared only to those moments of the threats that I lived in the ill-fated times of the 2009 coup d’état when I did not know who, where and at what moment the actions against me or against any of the members of my Radio Progreso team could come true. The two experiences have to do with that helplessness that puts one face to face before the limits between life and death. This is the experience that I lived in the weeks that I was visiting my sick sister between the end of May and June of this year 2018.

 

One can be sure that when Social Security admits a sick family member, nothing and nobody can be assured if that relative will come back alive. But what I am sure of without a doubt is that my sister walked in to the hospital and when she left we had to carry her prostrate on a stretcher to take her to a private clinic to rescue her from an imminent ungrateful death. And we took her out because the Social Security (IHSS) authorities did not want to continue any treatment. They expelled her like a cockroach.

 

One situation among tens of thousands This short narrative is a testimony of what I have seen and what I have been told about the lives and treatment of patients in the Social Security hospital of San Pedro Sula as witnessed with the illness of my younger sister.  At the same time this is a desperate denunciation about this health system, the defenselessness in which Honduran society finds itself before it, and the need to demand profound changes in public policies in order to achieve a health system that responds not to the interests of small political and business groups but to the health needs of a people who because they are Honduran are condemned to live mistreated and ill. What happens to the sick Honduran population is not by divine will, but by the corrupt and greedy will of those of the Honduran state who make the decisions.

 

“A better life”? The health situation of my younger sister is a case among tens of thousands. She is in a state of total physical collapse, and although one can notice by what she sees, what she learns and what others tell her, that theoretically she could continue towards a condition of stability and still progress to a 48-year-old life with a basic level of dignity, there remains the same impotence and frustration when we come face to face with the health system in our Honduras.  I can not forget that as my helplessness grew in the face of the growing deterioration of my sister’s health, and while we unsuccessfully begged the medical staff for a treatment that could calm her cries of pain, often we would hear the voice of Juan Orlando Hernández saying that the the country was moving to higher levels of dignity and its inhabitants were beginning to receive the benefits of a “Better Life”. His words in the situation that I lived and experienced in the Social Security hospital struck me as an insult and as a blow to the liver.

 

Let them die outside so as not to stain the medical records After several weeks of receiving care at the Social Security Hospital in San Pedro Sula, my younger sister, Inés Moreno Coto, was diagnosed with Lupus. But important to clarify, this diagnosis was not given in the Social Security hospital nor was she attended to when she received the results of the tests. The diagnosis was revealed by an analysis ordered for her by a private doctor. When she was diagnosed with this disease, my sister had been out of Social Security system for several weeks even though the doctors had discharged her just when she had warning signs that if she did not receive emergency treatment, she could die.  This treatment came in the private clinic, where she had to be admitted due to the signs of extreme emergency that she displayed. When my sister entered the Social Security system in San Pedro Sula, her condition was so delicate that in the emergency department they decided that she should be admitted. The days passed and my younger sister’s state of health continued to worsen, and, curiously, as her health condition became more delicate, the professional attention decreased ostensibly. The specialist doctor would pass by for a couple of minutes every 24 hours, he would look at her as if seeing someone else, and he would say she was better. Then at the beginning of July of this year she was discharged from the Social Security hospital in San Pedro Sula. The doctors and nurses knew that my sister was in much worse condition than when she entered. Nobody at Social Security said anything when the doctor who attended her said with indifference and without even looking at her face, that she should leave the hospital. “She is not doing anything here,” were his final and dismissing words. Several people have told me that the decision to discharge my sister in the condition in which she was at that time was to ensure that she would die outside the hospital. This would avoid the required registration of death statistics because higher death rates results in a reduced scale provided to the medical staff. As such, it is a factory to produce deaths, but the medical staff must assure that these deaths do not occur inside the hospital premises so that there is no stain on their files. Doctors in a sick and failed society The title of doctor in an overwhelmingly failed society places the professional at a level of superiority that he displays even with his gaze, which is never direct, but out of the corner of his eye or looking the other way. It is the arrogance of the professional in a failed society like the Honduran one, so much so that the generalized use of the doctors’ diminishing language towards patients becomes a nomenclature of power and contempt, which establishes the difference and distance between those who have knowledge and control of the situation about the sick person, who will always be the despised one, the one who is placed below, for the mere fact of not being a professional, and for being sick in a country where the illness of others gives doctors an overwhelming position of power. My family had to seek the help other people to carry the stretcher and hired an ambulance to bring her home. The medical authorities released my sister to die. For about two months they were killing her bit by bit inside the hospital, many times they did not give her water, and all the tests had to be done outside the system, in private laboratories, with payment extracted from the family. I witnessed the useless visits of medical specialists. Two minutes at most every 24 hours was given for these visits. They did not look at her, they did not touch her, they asked cold, sharp and sometimes cruel questions, and left without leaving with the family a diagnosis and at most a prescription for medicines that, of course, had to be bought in the private pharmacy system. “You need another brain and I cannot give it to you” My sister came out dying, unable to stand on her own. These same doctors said that my sister did not have a fatal illness, and that the infection they detected in her brain was reversible. But the hospital system in our country is able to convert all diseases into mortal threats. And from this I give testimony based on the attention that my sister received in the Social Security hospital. With support from friends, the family had to put her in a private clinic, where after six days they had to pay about two hundred thousand lempiras (US$9,000)[ii], an amount that for a family of such low income was almost unattainable. But the life of a person has no price, and not only in those six days, but in the following occasions, my sister had to be admitted to receive some attention with dignity. Today, the health of my sister depends on the amount of money that the family manages to get to continue receiving private medical care and buying medicines that represent an average of four thousand lempiras (US$200) per week, an amount that makes disease in our country either a luxury or a curse. If it depended on the service of the Social Security system (IHSS), my sister would be waiting to die. My own sister says that one day in the hospital she was suffering from a severe headache and as the doctor passed very close to her stretcher, she asked him to give her something to calm her pain. The doctor, without looking at her, and as if addressing some inanimate object, said: “What you need is another brain, and I cannot give it to you.” On another occasion, a nurse arrived with some pills that my sister was supposed to take. My sister asked her to please give her the pills because she could not move her arms. The nurse said, “I’m not your nanny to put things in your mouth.” My sister, desperate, asked her to at least bring some water. The nurse threw a bottle of water at her, but my sister could not take her pills because the nurse refused to help, nor could she drink the water because she did not have the strength to open the bottle. She had to wait until the family visiting hours so they could help her.  The people do not deserve information! On several occasions when I visited my sister at the Social Security hospital, I tried to inquire with doctors about the process of her illness, and about the medications she was prescribed. No one gave me information that would allow me to be aware of what was happening with my sister. One of them just told me to have some tests done to determine if the source of the infection was viral or bacterial. But the exams, of course, had to be done and paid for at a private clinic. At some point they gave me to understand between the lines that the information about the disease and the medications was privileged information only for the doctors and that this was not shared with just anyone. That is to say, that we, the relatives, do not deserve to have information about the state of health and the medicines that they administer to our relatives. If that is the attitude that is demonstrated towards me, with my ability to understand and assimilate more of what is happening, then what they do not do and what they do not say to the vast majority of our people, whom they really treat as if they were nothing more than a hindrance is abusive.  The parallel system of levers People who know the intricacies of the hospital system have managed to create a parallel and informal system of patient care. Someone who knows you gives you the recommendation of a nurse or a doctor or a friend of a member of the medical staff to get some special attention for a patient: even in small things, such as a family member staying longer, to allow the patient to receive visits outside the established schedule, to speed up the date for a surgical intervention or to access medications that are not offered to everyone but only to those in the parallel system. Sometimes it happens that before interning a patient, someone will talk to someone who works in  the system to recommend the patient to someone from the medical staff. If there are connections the patient can have some advantages. Those who does not have any such contact or recommendation can expect to find a health system that crushes and discriminates. This is exactly what happened with my younger sister. This informal parallel system is what works well for some and reveals the irrationality and ineffectiveness of the official health system.

I received the testimony of a person who told me that on the same days my sister was suffering from her illness, her mother had been killed in Social Security. At 83, her mother complained with screams of pain as nurses and doctors passed by avoiding contact. At one point, when the daughter cried out because the nurse who ought to have provided care to the mother, passed by without stopping and said, as if she was not saying anything important: “Madam, I do not know why you are so upset, as your mother has already lived too long.”

 

Social Security: machinery to kill people. I accuse.

 

The Social Security hospital in San Pedro Sula is a death producing machine. I, Ismael Moreno Coto, give testimony and I stand by this affirmation. And I blame first the authorities directly responsible for this hospital system in San Pedro Sula, and secondly, the government presided by Juan Orlando Hernández and those who lead the National Party for having a direct relationship in the looting of this institution and to protect people and groups involved in this crime. I hold them responsible for the physical damage and the irreversible emotional damage caused to my sister Inés Moreno Coto. If I had the possibility of making a legal claim against these authorities, I would certainly be giving a service to the whole society, but in our country the lawyers are experts in putting the law at the service of the strong to protect them, and to manipulate the same law to jail those who cannot defend themselves.

 

Medical helplessness, legal defenselessness

 

We live in a country with so much helplessness that it would not be unreasonable for me to file a lawsuit against those responsible in the Social Security system for violating the life of my sister, and that at the end of the process I would be the one sentenced to go to jail instead of the guilty, because here our experience tells us that those who have power have the ability to twist the laws to favor themselves. If there were lawyers who are supportive and professionally competent, here they would have a case, but I clarify that my family would never be able to pay for such professional services for they lack sufficient resources other than to cover basic needs.  Nevertheless, this would be an opportunity to challenge the bases of impunity and corruption in this hospital system of Social Security (IHSS based on a verifiable case.

 

However, my experience is that lawyers who are close have neither an ethical commitment nor the time to take on cases like these, since these offer neither the publicity that offers them notoriety nor sufficient compensation as they risk their very professions. And I say this, having an understanding of this situation perhaps better than the common Honduran citizen and with links to legal professionals, and still I feel helpless, let alone what the vast majority of Hondurans must feel and live, for whom any medical attention is an extraordinary luxury, and legal protection remains an impossible luxury to enjoy.

 

With prostrate hopes

 

My sister is bedridden, with her prostrated hopes and in a family atmosphere very close also to the same abject condition suffering this atmosphere of discouragement and depression, as do the immense majority of Honduran families who struggle to breathe and survive in the same environment. She came into the hospital system of Social Security walking, and she left carried on the arms and shoulders of my relatives, and immediately had to be admitted, as I said, in a private clinic, which was possible thanks to family contributions and the solidarity of members of my Radio and ERIC team and other friends. In situations like these you are especially grateful for this presence, closeness and solidarity.

 

I reiterate that the diagnosis of her illness was not given during the weeks that she was in the hospital. In the Social Security hospital she received only contempt and mistreatment. I myself witnessed several times not only the indifference, but the discriminatory treatment my sister received from nurses and doctors. When she left dying, the medical authorities did not reveal what illness she suffered as she left; they only discharged her without giving a single explanation. Discharging my sister was a synonym for a death sentence decreed by the Social Security authorities. She was discharged at the beginning of the month of July of the current year, and since then she has been totally excluded from this medical service, having to be attended by private doctors and with the purchase of medicines under the sole responsibility of the family.

 

Case closed, impunity sealed.

 

For the Social Security authorities, the case of my sister, Inés Moreno Coto, is closed. For them, my sister ought to be dead, or in any case, it does not matter, because she does not exist, whether she is alive or dead. She was just a number that went through those gloomy patient rooms. The medical staff is still in their posts exactly as if nothing has happened. And so it is, if this testimony were to come to any of them, it is that they would not even know about whom this speaks, because without a doubt, thousands of cases such as that of my sister are hapening, and in the end they will receive the same treatment while the details are buried in the mantle of impunity. Nobody knows anything, nobody gives an account of anything. Everyone carries out their own sick, all go on to bury their dead. For my part in addition to bearing the pain and helplessness of seeing my sister suffering, I leave this written account of what I have lived and felt about the health system of the Social Security[iii] of San Pedro Sula where sick people do not count, are just a number, which only count to add or erase in their statistics.

[i] To be able to access a Social Security hospital or clinic one must be employed and thus paying into this service through wage deductions. Only a small portion of the Honduran population has this health protection.

[ii] The Honduran currency is the Lempira, valued US$1 = L.22. Minimal wage earners receive L.6000 to 8000 / month ($260-370/month) , teachers earn $250-500/month,  a graduate engineer may earn $600/month, for the poor self employed ; the “Living family wage” is L.9300/month ($420/month), so the cost of L.200,000 represents for someone at the lower wage level the equivalent of 4 years salary

[iii] During the 2013 electoral process the political party of the dictatorship (the National Party) stripped the Social Security Institute (IHSS) of most assets. This fraud has been directly linked to the President but only a few lower operatives have been jailed. Medicines have been replaced with cheap placebos and ordinary equipment found in hospitals and clinics have either disappeared or fallen into disrepair.

 

(translation and comments by Phil Little in Saltair, BC)