Originally published in Newsweek:

November 23, 2021

Every day more than 200 Honduran families cross the southern border of the United States seeking asylum—more than any other nationality. Fleeing oppression, violence and climate-related disasters, even young, university-educated Hondurans do not see a future for themselves in their home country.

We live under the guise of democracy, but there is no separation of powers. Widespread corruption permeates the governing elite, as evidenced most recently by the sentencing of President Juan Orlando Hernández’s brother earlier this year. President Hernández himself has been identified in U.S. courts as a co-conspirator in a drug conspiracy case. Democratic institutions intended to investigate public officials linked to organized crime have been largely disabled.

Scores of human rights violations have occurred, including assassinations of political candidates, journalists, lawyers and judges. Honduras has been called “the deadliest place to be an environmentalist,” exemplified by the high-profile murder of Goldman Environmental Prize winner, Berta Cáceres in 2015 for organizing Indigenous communities to fight against displacement.

The impacts of the pandemic and two back-to-back hurricanes in 2020 have devastated an already dire economic situation. According to the World Bank, almost half of Honduras’ population lives on less than $5.50 per day, making Honduras the second poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean.

All of this can change soon, however, in the country’s upcoming election. With a new president and many other officials on the ballot, Nov. 28 is our greatest hope to escape the current authoritarian regime and restore democracy.

Yet, there is concern about recent fear tactics intended to intimidate voters. More than 30 people were murdered this year alone for political reasons, including four political leaders.

Thousands of Hondurans and dozens of international observers are gearing up to monitor this election. But we can’t do it alone. We need the U.S. Department of State to join us in making sure that human rights are not violated, and in speaking out forcefully against any acts of censorship or repression.

Recently, 29 members of Congress sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging “robust State Department monitoring and public criticism of authoritarian practices to maximize the chance of an inclusive and transparent electoral process” in Honduras. Clearly, the outcome of this election is in the interest of the United States.

After the 2017 election in Honduras, the U.S. State Department looked away when Hernández was declared the winner, despite fraud and a call for a re-do by the Organization of American States. For months, the Honduran military and police shot at protesters, killing dozens of people and detaining more than 1,300 to stop dissent. We urge the U.S. government not to make this mistake again.

Our country has been in crisis ever since the 2009 coup, which overthrew the democratically-elected government of Manuel Zelaya Rosales. The co-mingling of oligarchs and drug traffickers with state actors has deepened. Human security has deteriorated, and critical problems like drought, gang violence and extreme poverty have gone unaddressed. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has reported that journalists face targeted killings, arbitrary detentions, the destruction of equipment and other obstacles that have impeded their ability to operate independently.

Despite the difficult situation in Honduras, I am optimistic. For the first time there is broad opposition to the current regime. We even have the support of some in the private sector who are fed up and want to create more opportunities for economic growth. This unprecedented level of organizing and unity in Honduras echoes the momentum that eventually led to the downfall of the brutal Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.

Honduras is a country that is largely marginalized and forgotten. This upcoming election is a chance to change that, and start a new chapter. It could solve many of the essential problems we face. A free, fair and peaceful electoral process represents an important opportunity for Honduran citizens to reestablish the rule of law.

It is important that the United States serve as a neutral, credible and impartial observer, while supporting an outcome in Honduras that is genuinely democratic. We need the international community to support a transparent, authentic, clear and peaceful election and an end to 12 years of crisis.

Hondurans want to stay in the country that they love. Right now, migration is not a choice for many, but a means of survival. This election could improve our quality of life, allow everyone to feel safer, have our voices be heard and stop the mass exodus.

We are ready to usher in a new era.

Gustavo Irías is executive director of the Center for Democracy Studies (CESPAD) in Honduras.

 This past weekend Global Exchange Director of Organizing Kirsten Moller attended the SOA Watch Vigil at Fort Benning in Georgia. SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots movement that works to stand in solidarity with the people of Latin America and the Caribbean, to close the SOA/WHINSEC and to change oppressive U.S. foreign policy that the SOA represents. Here Kirsten shares her weekend experience with us:

Thousands Occupy Ft Benning

As we all continue to grope our way forward, defining the role of the Occupy movement in relation to our future, it is useful to remember that we are not alone. All over the Americas people are joined in a struggle for dignity and justice and an end to the militaristic approach to foreign policy in the Americas.  Building people to people ties across national boundaries, ages, occupations and regions happens organically at the annual event organized by the School of the Americas Watch.

Study War No MoreGlobal Exchange joined thousands of solidarity activists, people of faith, students, union workers, immigrants, and veterans this weekend to take a stand for justice, resist US militarization and call for the closure of the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC).  Torture victims and Latin American human rights activists joined in the vigil to share their personal stories and national strategies to weave together a stronger commitment from all of us to close the school.

The School of the Americas (SOA) known as the School of Assassins in Latin America is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 2001 it was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), prompting the chant  — “Different name, same shame!

The SOA Watch Vigil has a 21 year history and works with the local police and officials to hold a respectful and somber memorial to the people who have lost their lives to the brutal and repressive policies of Latin American militaries under the tutelage of US military advisors.

The arc of the gathering promotes deep connections, respect and exchange among the participants.  Two days are spent learning about the issues through workshops and panels on everything from what’s going on in Haiti and Honduras, to strategies for research on drone manufacturing and seed saving in Colombia.

Ft. Benning McDonalds

Banner saying “Welcome Home” sits underneath the golden arches of McDonalds

Hundreds of students from all over the Midwest and the rest of the country come to learn for the first time about what is being done in their name. The shock and realization of their previous ignorance overwhelms many of them and tears often well up as the speakers and musicians call us to action.  Older people of faith and veterans of earlier wars gratefully acknowledge the new energy in the crowd.

When you approach the gate at Fort Benning the first thing you see is a huge banner saying “Welcome Home” underneath the golden arches of McDonalds, reminding us again how close the interests of the US government and corporations have become.

On Sunday the most emotional day, the crowd gathered, some in mourning garb and carrying crosses or stars of David with the names of victims on them. We followed giant puppets to the fence of Fort Benning while musicians chanted the names and ages of  victims and we sang out the word:  “Presente!”, bringing the memory of these never-to-be forgotten souls into our hearts as we made a commitment to continue the struggle.

An activist scales a fence, ready to become a 'prisoner of conscience'

We placed symbols on the fence and when the fence was completely full, a woman who said she was ready to become a “prisoner of conscience” climbed over the fence to face arrest. The rest of us pledged to honor the memory of the victims and work to close the School of the Americas and change the priorities of this country from militarization to compassion.


You can make your voice heard by supporting HR 3368 legislation introduced this month by Congressman James McGovern (MA). Ask your representative to become a co-sponsor. Here’s how.

Here’s some footage from the SOA Watch Vigil at Fort Benning:

In 2009, director Oliver Stone traveled to five South American countries to explore the social transformations that have been taking place in those countries. On that trip, Stone had conversations with Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Lula da Silva of Brazil, Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, her husband and former president Nėstor Kirchner, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Raúl Castro of Cuba.

In his latest film, South of the Border, Oliver Stone explores those conversations and reveals a revolution in South America that most of the world does not know about.

In casual conversations with seven sitting presidents, Stone gains unprecedented access to and sheds new light upon the exciting transformations in the region.  Mr. Stone was most struck by the extent to which the presidents are committed to determining the future of their own nations without undue outside influence and control.

I saw a screening of this film last week and highly recommend it. It highlights the often skewed representations of these countries by mainstream US media and attempts to shed light on the political and social movements taking place in South America that often go unnoticed amongst the general American public.

A big focus of the film is that of Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez and the changes taking place in the country. Global Exchange has had a strong Reality Tours program in Venezuela for many years and has brought people together to learn more about the progressive model of socioeconomic development that has been shaping Latin America’s future. This is done by meeting with the grassroots that is really helping to shape and build the foundation for these changes. Find out more about our Venezuela delegations.

See the story of Venezuela and Latin America unfold on the big screen. The film is showing in several cities nationwide and is opening in more cities in the coming weeks. To our Bay Area friends, be sure to head to the theatres this weekend for its opening and see the provocative film that everyone is talking about.

South of the Border Channel on YouTube.