How the US plantation system got a hold of Honduras & why the caravan should be allowed in and treated like family

How the US plantation system got a hold of Honduras & why the caravan should be allowed in and treated like family

Why is a caravan of 8,000 people coming from Honduras to the United States? Because they are as American as the enslaved Africans forced to pick cotton before the Civil War. 

North Carolina born writer O. Henry coined the term “banana republic” in 1904 to describe Honduras. He used it as a basis for the fictional country, Anchuria, in one of his silly short racist stories that Southerners like to write to disparage people and justify oppressing them. It was inspired by his experiences in Honduras, where he had lived for six months while hiding from US law enforcement to avoid embezzlement charges. O’Henry died in 1910 of cirrhosis of the liver, a diseases many heavy drinkers were stricken by.

The exploitation of Honduras begins where it often starts when the United States is involved, the South. The white supremacist oligarch confederate planter class that reside below the Mason Dixon line realized in the mid 1800s that their days of owning Black people would soon be curtailed, so they decided to look to the West then south. 

One of the places they landed was in Honduras. 

They landed in the northern Honduran town of La Ceiba, which is still one of Honduras’ most important towns. English is taught in its local high schools because of the US’ long relationship with the area and Americanists’ inability to learn a second language.  

While slavery in the US and Honduras was illegal during that time, the “never say die” confederacy arrived around 1890. I am certain some forced labor during that time happened as it continues presently to occur in US companies in Honduras. They even “imported” Jamaicans and formerly enslaved Black Americans to help in the development of agriculture.

The United States is the chief trading partner for Honduras. Bilateral trade between the two nations totaled an estimated $12.3 billion in 2018. The value of US goods exported to Honduras was $6.9 billion in 2018, with Honduras exporting $5.4 billion in goods to the United States.

Among its chief exports to the US are coffee and bananas. The US-owned companies of Chiquita Brands International now United Fruit Company (Louisana) and the Dole Food Company (Hawaii), are the biggest exporters out of Honduras into the US. 

The United Fruit Company is used in leftist literature in Central America as an example of capitalism’s imperialist horrors. 

The Fruit Company, Inc.
reserved for itself the most succulent,
the central coast of my own land,
the delicate waist of America.
It rechristened its territories
as the ‘Banana Republics’
and over the sleeping dead,
over the restless heroes who brought about the greatness,
the liberty and the flags, it established the comic opera
it abolished free will,
gave out imperial crowns…

Excert of the poem United Fruit Company by Pablo Neruda

The U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) began in 2006. It eliminated most tariffs and other US goods barriers destined for the Central American market, provided protection for US investments and intellectual property, and created more transparent rules and procedures for conducting business.

In the eyes of the United States, Honduras is a continuation of the plantation system they had during antebellum.

“[Honduras] became a foreign-controlled enclave that systematically swung the whole of Honduras into a one-crop economy whose wealth was carried off to New Orleans, New York, and later Boston.” 

Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America,” (NY, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 1993) by Walter LaFeber 

If you are of African or Indigenous descent, Trump, while horrible, was not the worst thing that has ever happened to you at the hands of an Americanists.

From the early 20th Century past World War II, Honduras continued to be essentially a colony for planter oligarchs of the United States and an extension of the US agricultural business. 

Reagan became president in 1980, fresh from being governor of California and laying the groundwork for Los Angeles to be the homeless capital of the world.

In the 1980s Reagan used right-wing forces to push a proxy war in Central America.

What does that mean?

The United States funded the right-wing para-military forces in El Salvadorians, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (Contras) to stop communism.

The US South makes money off of agriculture and military operations. Of the five biggest military bases in the world, four of them are in the US South. 

In 1979 Daniel Ortega became the Coordinator (President) of Nicaragua. He was a communist and communism is bad, and the US felt that removing him from Central America was of utmost priority.

So, the US practically blew up a whole region owing to the stated goal of killing the scary spider of leftism.

The US built an airstrip and modern port in Honduras. The US funded the Honduran army not so quietly to wage a campaign against Marxist–Leninist militias such as the Cinchoneros Popular Liberation Movement, notorious for kidnappings and bombings, and against many non-militants as well. The operation included a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-backed campaign of extrajudicial killings by government-backed units, including Battalion 316. Battalion members are assassins. They receive training and support from the CIA, both in Honduras and at US military bases.

US intervention in Honduras was substantial. The US military appropriated large areas of the country to construct bases, military exercises, and the Contras’ operations. The Honduran government officially denied the presence of the Contras. It did not matter — in the 80s, the President Reagan administration channeled millions of dollars worth of arms to Honduran security forces. The US paid for over 800 Honduran soldiers to attend classes on counterinsurgency warfare at the US School of the Americas during the 1980s. The net effect was to bolster repression in Honduras and created more compliant workers for the US agricultural industry. 

Kind of like the reign of terror of Jim Crow, but a bit farther South and sometimes in Spanish.

The military assistance strengthened right-wing elements, who, like their patrons in Washington, favored a military solution to the Central America conflicts and assumed the task of repressing domestic opposition. Even though Honduras did not possess a major guerrilla insurgency, military hard-liners targeted students, unionists, and peasants, as well as anyone who belonged to political parties or groups considered leftist. They also forcibly detained, tortured, and disappeared supporters of, or those believe to support, the Sandinista government or the Salvadoran guerrillas.

The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas “(Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004) by Lesley Gill

Reagan was obsessed with funding violent right-wing para-military groups, such as the Contras, providing those right-wing factions with millions of dollars in economic and military aid for the sole purpose of pushing the area right and making a lot of money.

The money came from us selling Hawk Anti-Aircraft Missiles to Iran, you know Oliver North.

When Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero stood up for the economically oppressed in El Salvador and made the request to “Stop killing people,” he was assassinated. The assassination was admitted to by Roberto D’Aubuisson, an extreme-right soldier, politician, and death-squad leader.

The US essentially responded with, “Wow, Bob, you’re a bad assed, because that goody, goody needed killing.”

That happened.

The Cold War between USSR and the United States played out in Central America. The war alone killed over 100,000 people.

Amnesty International said the most human rights violations were done by the right-wing military.

During the 80s, millions fled from the violence that the United States funded, encouraged, and cheered on. They fled to Mexico, to the US border, and the US.

The only saving grace that many of these people had was that President Carter before he left office, embraced the international human rights standard established at the 1951 UN Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees and passed the Refugee Act.

But Reagan said they weren’t refugees fleeing violence, they were immigrants just coming because they want better economic opportunities, so they should get in line as his grandparents did. 

 This means that even though the US had a law, even though the US had caused all this death, they refused to admit it, so they could essentially continue to kill people and push the communists out.

During the 1980s, at the height of the US-sponsored murder when 32 percent of people from Poland were able to get refugee status from the US. If you were from Cuba and got on US soil, you were automatically granted political refugee status. But only THREE percent of El Salvadorian and Guatemalans were allowed entry into the US, and as of 2019, Honduras has a similarly low number, and the people are not viewed as refugees, despite being in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, thanks in large part because of the United States.

In 2009 there was the removal of popular leftist President President Manuel Zelaya. This action was accomplished by a US backed coup. Zelaya removal brought in a new round of oppressions on the people of the Honduras.

Under Zelaya’s brief presidency the government introduced free education for all children, subsidies to small farmers, school meals were guaranteed for more than 1.6 million children from poor families, increased the minimum wage by 80 percent, domestic employees were integrated into the social security system, and poverty was reduced by almost 10 percent. That kind of thing doesn’t work for imperialism.

In 2014 Juan Orlando Hernández was “elected” president of Honduras, and though he allegedly helped export cocaine into the United States and said in court records,”he wanted to shove drugs ‘right up the noses of the gringos’ by flooding the US with cocaine” the US quickly recognized him as the winner in a controversial election. 

Hernández is a brutal right-wing leader. Critical journalist David Romero died last year in prison of COVID-19. Romero was sentenced to jail by Hernández for allegedly defaming him and given the sentence “to not take him out of prison until he had caught COVID-19.”

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, more than 4.3 million Central Americans, including 3 million Hondurans, were affected by Hurricane Eta alone that impacted the region in October of 2020. Those numbers only rose when Iota, another Category 4 storm, tragically hit the region the following month. 

The United States is Honduras’ largest trading partner and accounts for over 60 percent of its exports and nearly 50 percent of imports. The country’s economy has been essentially owned by the US for over 100 years.  The US decides who runs that country. It decides the rules. It decides the policies.

President Hernández has made journalism and human rights activism high-risk activities that can lead to imprisonment and death. He unsuccessfully attempted to privatize education and health care.

Then there is a huge drug problem that causes an astonishing amount of violence. The US government pinkie swears it has zero idea how it is happening even though the drugs appears to come into the US and Europe via coffee and bananas shipments by companies often based in the US. Personally, I don’t eat that many bananas and don’t find bananas that popular amongst my friends, but banana exports seems to make lots of money.

“In 1997, more than a ton of cocaine was seized from seven Chiquita ships. Chiquita was not blamed for the presence of the drugs; lax security was faulted. ”


The US essentially lets the right-wing of social significant standing in Honduras do whatever it wants to its citizens, including letting them starve to death, violating their rights, and turning their head as their fellow citizens are terrorized by drug-dealing gangs, as long as the US can continue to make money on its exports of “bananas” and can use Honduras for strategic military purposes. Apparently as long as the rich are making money it’s all perfectly fine!

So why are people on their way here from Honduras, because the US created the problem. The US should treat them as refugees,  allow them entry,  assistance, and a simple accessible path to residency. 

Teka Lo, Public Intellectuals

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