Friday, October 4, 2013

OYE's Youth are Resilient - A Look at Honduras

By: Samuel Rioux, Development Coordinator OYE Honduras 


As the difficulties abound, OYE is cultivating excellence. The work done at OYE is neither easy for staff, beneficiaries, nor donors. Every day we see the situation on the ground becoming more complicated and more riddled with crime, corruption, and violence. There is no doubt that living in Honduras is a challenge. OYE's students come from some of El Progreso's most dangerous neighborhoods. They have grown up in a world of violence and danger. When we say that the OYE youth are at social risk, we are talking about many factors; to name a few migration, drugs, gangs, family disintegration, coercion, extortion, and economic hardship.  These factors and adversity are the fire and the hammer that forge strong leaders. There is no doubt that each of OYE's students is special. To arrive at OYE they have already demonstrated an incredible resilience to the dangers, threats, and temptations that surround them. OYE has the privilege of honing these students into capable, confident leaders who will be responsible for positive changes in Honduran society.




A cursory survey of the news represents Honduras as a country riddled
with crime, drugs, and gangs. The US Treasury Department recently identified international drug traffickers, "Los Cachiros" in three of Honduras' 18 counties. The national police seized a number of businesses linked to their trafficking and money-laundering operation including the country's largest zoo. As seen in Mexico and Colombia, drug traffickers do not just get arrested and go away. Major drug cartels often serve as stabilizing or limiting factors for smaller gangs. They control, pay-off, and contract small gangs to do their dirty work exercising control over the greater macro-situation. However, as US and Honduran authorities close in on major drug traffickers, gang presence escalates in the cities of San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, La Ceiba, and even El Progreso. It is not out of the question to expect drug traffickers to strike back at authorities or note an increase in gang violence as the "Cachiro" power vacuum is filled.


Elections will be held soon in Honduras, so that should be beckon of hope, right? Elections are what make Democracy work, giving the people a chance to elect leaders based on their morals, values, and experience to represent the wants and needs of the population. Honduras' election machine is churning, and a tension is mounting. Support is closing around two new parties, Libre and Partido Anti-Corrupcion (PAC), and Hondurans’ support for the traditional Liberal and Nacional parties that have dominated the elections for years is dwindling. However, despite the break from tradition, Hondurans project little faith that their vote will change the circumstances of their reality. 
CID Gallup executed a poll in September that shows Libre candidate Xiomara Zelaya, wife of disposed President Mel Zelaya, leading with 29% of the popular vote but followed closely by the Nacional Party's Juan Orlando Hernandez with 27%. Given the +-2 margin of error this poll places the two in a dead heat. Although the whole process is complicated by the fact that 33% of the population anticipates that Juan Orlando will be Honduras' next President, possibly due to their "reported doubts about the capacity of the Tribunal Supremo Electoral to organize and execute honest and transparent elections".



The results of the election will be straining enough without the added pressure of the mounting crime and murder rates. Juan Orlando, the anticipated next President is basing his campaign around a strongman iron fist on crime. He has talked about beefing up security or increasing the number of a new hybrid military police force saying: "Voy hacer lo que tengo que hacer!" (I am going to do what needs to be done!) Numbers of these new military police have already begun training and
Billy Joya proposes his legislation to
Congress
operations thanks to what is known as 
Law 747 or the Billy Joya Law. Billy Joya is one of Honduras' most controversial figures forming part of one of Honduras' most notorious death squads, Battalion 316, in the 1980s. Today, he is running for Congress with the Patriotic Alliance Party, works as a political consultant, and pushed through this law creating a situation very similar to martial law in some parts of the country. 

Candidate Juan Orlando draws a stark dichotomy between right and wrong when it comes to security-right being the Law 747 or martial law and wrong returning the military to the barracks. He insinuates that his political opponents favor taking Honduras down the bad road returning the army to the barracks and permitting crime to prevail. Perhaps he has chosen his allies correctly, given the Central American tendency to rely on military intervention when politics become too convoluted, or perhaps he truly believes in martial law. One thing is clear, if he is elected there will be an increased gun presence on the streets, hopefully in the hands of the “good guys,” but if he loses will the army return to the barracks peacefully?



Where are the youth in all of this? Tragically there is a distinct sense of apathy among many Honduran youth. They have traditionally turned out to vote in low numbers and made little effort to inform themselves on the issues. However, this year a new trend is emerging. PAC and Libre have motivated young voters – this excitement is obvious in their online presence PACLibre. In fact, the age of new media has arrived to Honduras in full and traditional Nacional and Liberal parties have also adopted and elevated youth organizers to the forefront. OYE has cultivated political awareness through workshops with its scholars and is proud to see seven of its scholars and staff members participate as election monitors with Caritas Yoro, an international development NGO, and the Tribunal Supremo Electoral, the Honduran institution charged holding the elections.



However, it doesn't end there. Youth are taking actions, starting movements, and becoming involved. At the Conference on Honduras, the volunteer movement Jovenes Contra La Violencia (Youth Against Violence) presented their strategies and actions around reducing the violence in Honduras. They have executed unique projects on a complete volunteer basis and developed a real youth movement. Several OYE students  like Gerald Velasquez, form part of the movement, and OYE looks forward to future collaborations with these inspiring youth.

"If there were more art schools than military outposts, there would be more guitars and than rifles, and more artists than assassins!" - Gerald Velasquez
These hard times have make great leaders-at OYE we are cultivating strong resilient youth capable of making positive changes for themselves and their communities.

After writing this article I asked my dear friend Morgan to take a look at it. She usually provides me with my best insights-makes me question if they are my insights at all. She commented that the reality of what our Honduran friends and co-workers live through is crazy. We are living in the same country and under the same conditions, but we have an exit. When the going gets to tough we know that we can always return to the US or continue traveling. We have options. Many of our friends, co-workers, and the students here do not have those options. Their lives are here, there families are here, and their futures are here. Morgan remarked, "I will be forever grateful (yet deeply saddened) that I have witnessed these atrocities." There is always a silver lining and something good always comes out of a bad situation. I consider myself blessed to have met the strong and resilient people that form part of my community here in OYE and Honduras. I believe that the atrocities we live today are producing youth capable of incredible changes.
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4 comments:

Alex Clark-Youngblood said...

Excellent post, Sam. Very insightful. You're analysis is spot on.

OYE Honduras said...

Thanks Alex! Too see Al´s blog on Honduras follow this link
http://alexclarkyoungbloodhonduras.blogspot.com/

mau-mou said...

Brilliant explanation on the tough reality we live in. However strong leaders among youth are arising as the hope for a better future. Good job!

OYE Honduras said...

Thanks Mau-mou! And I couldn't agree more! In the latest post I share a video made by Jovenes Contra La Violencia, a powerful youth movement.