Tourists of the Honduran Counter-Revolution


A Time magazine article of 24 October entitled “Honduran Tourism: Selling Against a Coup” explains that the post-coup decrease in foreign visitors to Honduras has led the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti to promote internal tourism:

“Working with resorts and hotels on Roatán Island, a popular Caribbean dive spot off Honduras’ northern coast, the de facto tourism board is promoting special two-for-one vacation deals. Many Hondurans have taken the bait, flocking to the white sands of Roatán and filling hotel rooms that were once occupied by U.S. and European travelers. Hondurans who support the de facto regime, such as tour operator Vilma Sauceda of Rema Tours, says the fact that Hondurans are ‘traveling like crazy’ is a sign of support for the Micheletti government.”

Sauceda’s interpretation of Honduran migratory patterns was somewhat contradicted by an informal survey I conducted in the Guanacaste neighborhood of Tegucigalpa yesterday afternoon, the results of which suggest that Honduran trips to Roatán are still less frequent than Honduran trips to the Mexico-Texas border – with return trips often courtesy of the United States government. A recent deportee currently selling cheese on the street while planning his next journey north stated that he harbored no resentment toward the US for jailing him for 3 months and that he recognized the importance of defending national borders; as for resentment and border permeability elsewhere, Micheletti continues to waver between accusing the international community of interfering in internal Honduran affairs and insisting that said community come to Honduras to understand what is really going on.

Although Micheletti’s invitation has already been heeded by a number of US Congress and State Department members, tour operator Sauceda is quoted in the Time article as blaming the otherwise low influx of tourists on a “media conspiracy” and “disinformation campaign” waged by followers of legitimate Honduran President Mel Zelaya. Not explained is how the latter practice has been deemed Zelaya’s domain when he is not the one hiring US lobbying firms; as for more credible applications of the term “media conspiracy,” these might include the tendency of pro-coup Honduran newspapers to publish headlines such as that Bolivia has declared Evo Morales president for the next 50 years and to then concede in the text of the article that this is not the case – or the tendency of The Wall Street Journal to publish articles on Honduras by Mary Anastasia O’Grady.

In a  November 1 article entitled “Hillary’s Honduran Exit Strategy,” O’Grady not only alerts readers to US meddling in Honduras and Barack Obama’s desire to join the Chávez-Castro club but also manages to outdo the golpistas by claiming that recent incidents such as the murder of an army colonel were the work of supporters of Zelaya, something that not even the Honduran armed forces have claimed. The Wall Street Journal has, however, demonstrated a superior talent for coming up with headlines, and has refrained from titling O’Grady’s article “Hugo Llorens transferred to diplomatic post in Cuba” – one of the writer’s suggestions as to appropriate destinations for the US ambassador to Honduras despite the fact that Llorens has seconded Obama’s contention that the US cannot simply push a button to restore Zelaya to power. It apparently does not occur to O’Grady that Llorens should instead be encouraged to travel like crazy within Honduras so as to contribute to economic regeneration; insistence on perceiving allies as enemies meanwhile provides ample excuses to avoid resolving political crises.

Honduran lawyer and human rights defender Dr. Juan Almendares addressed different forms of resolution avoidance over breakfast the other morning, when he declared that reducing the Honduran crisis to the question of Zelaya’s fate was an intelligent way of skirting less superficial issues such as torture of civilians by the coup regime. Honduras-based journalist Jeremy Kryt has additionally pointed out the dangers of passing off superficial solutions as genuine, one example being the upcoming inauguration of a Carnival Cruise Lines tourism dock in Roatán, the bulk of the revenue from which Kryt reports will go not to the community but to golpista congressman Jerry Hynds, who owns the property on which the port is being constructed.

The new port is invoked by Zelaya’s ousted Tourism Minister Ricardo Martínez in the October Time article, in which he is described as believing that “tourism will help pull [Honduras] out of the hole.” The infeasibility of removal from the hole without a prior restitution of Zelaya is however suggested by Martínez’ appearance last month at a tourism convention in El Salvador, where his publicity for Honduras consisted of a video of encounters between Honduran riot police and anti-coup protesters in Tegucigalpa and an apology that it was not realistic for him to “tell everyone to come to Honduras and that it’s a tranquil place and everything is beautiful.” Real video footage may thus be one of the components of the “media conspiracy” and “disinformation campaign” allegedly conducted by followers of Zelaya.

According to Martínez’ October calculation, tourism had dropped 70 percent since the June 28 coup – a drop the pro-coup press had briefly attempted to combat by announcing that Salvadoran tourists were flocking to Honduras in the thousands. The brevity of the Salvadoran campaign was perhaps due to the fact that said nationality was also one of those regularly accused of posing as Honduran at anti-coup rallies; as for unimagined attempts at foreign dictation of Honduran aspirations, these included a September interview given to Fox News by American Mitch Cummins, owner of a computer store on Roatán and self-proclaimed spokesman for the ex-pat community.

After reviewing the obligatory Zelaya-Chávez-Morales-Ortega-Castro-and-now-Obama axis, Cummins confesses to Fox that prior to June 28 he had been worried about a potential nationalization of his properties and that the coup was thus the best thing that could have happened to Honduras. Cummins had attempted to ensure continued good things for Honduras by visiting Ambassador Llorens two weeks after the coup with five other ex-pats who “just totally disagreed” with the alleged US position that Zelaya required reinstatement; he reports additional disagreement with the notion that the president had been “doing a lot of things for the poor,” an argument he claims does not make sense to him although he does not endeavor to make his own argument make any more sense.

Cummins further interprets the needs of the Honduran poor by bemoaning the US travel advisory to Honduras, which he deems unjust based on the fact that there are no wars on Roatán, and adds the statistic that the lower classes are also hurt by the fact that “our companies are losing money.” His proposed solution to the injustice is for Fox viewers to “buy a ticket and come down” to Honduras; he meanwhile fails to grasp that Zelaya is not the cause of his current financial predicament and that more valid interpretations of national economic success might involve a 60-percent increase in the minimum wage, one achievement of the ousted administration.

Honduran Tourism Minister Martínez is quoted in Time as predicting that the “recuperation of our international image… can happen overnight — just the same way we moved from positive to negative, we can jump from negative to positive.” An even swifter transition is predicted by the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which has guaranteed that the world will know the name of the next president of Honduras a few hours after the polls close on 29 November but has not explained why international image recuperation is more important than domestic.

Belén Fernández can be reached at belengarciabernal@gmail.com


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Belén Fernández is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso, and Martyrs Never Die: Travels through South Lebanon.

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