Things That Matter

Two Weeks Ago He Lost His Home To Hurricane Eta And Now Hurricane Iota Threatens His Entire Community

Once again, the year 2020 is delivering a shocker but this time it‘s in the form of devastation caused by a record-breaking hurricane season. So far, the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season, which is set to end on Nov. 30, has had 30 named storms, 13 of them hurricanes. And six of those hurricanes were considered “major”— Eta and Iota among them — meaning they were Category 3 or higher.

Meteorologists have been forced to use the Greek alphabet to name the new systems after having exhausted the 21-name list that is prepared for each hurricane season. The last time the Greek alphabet was used was in 2005, when there were 28 storms strong enough to be named.

Now, as Hurricane Iota ravages Central America, it’s becoming clear that an imminent humanitarian catastrophe is setting up across the region.

Hurricane Iota is ravaging Central America just two weeks after communities there were hit by Hurricane Eta.

Late on Monday, Hurricane Iota made landfall as a powerful and “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane. Aside form the catastrophic winds and life-threatening storm surge, the hurricane is impacting already devastated communities recently hit by Hurricane Eta.

People across Central America will feel the impacts of this record breaking storm, which is expected to produce up to 30 inches of rain in some areas of Nicaragua and Honduras through Friday. The intense rainfall could lead to significant flash flooding and mudslides in higher elevations, the hurricane center said.

Dozens of Indigenous communities were evacuated throughout the weekend in Nicaragua and Honduras, where the military shared pictures on Twitter of soldiers helping people out of stilted wooden homes and carrying them to safety. One of the soldiers stood in knee deep water, holding a resident’s pink backpack in the same arm as his service weapon.

The forecast, at least, offers some hope for those in Iota’s path. The National Hurricane Center expects the storm to rapidly weaken over the next 36 hours as it moves toward El Salvador across the mountainous terrain of inland Nicaragua and Honduras.

Honduras was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Eta.

Central America is still reeling from Hurricane Eta, which struck less than two weeks ago and made landfall about 15 miles from where Iota did. Aid workers are still struggling to reach communities cut off by washed-out bridges, downed trees and flooded roads.

According to the Red Cross, more than 3.6 million people across the region have been affected by the storms.

Antonio Herrera told Mitú in an interview that his modest home had already been reduced to rubble by Eta. Herrera and his daughter were staying in an improvised shelter but it’s directly in the path of Hurricane Iota. A GoFundMe has been setup to help Herrera and his family recover from the devastation wrought by both hurricanes.

“This Hurricane Iota is a monster,” he said. “After Eta and the damaged it caused, I’m afraid for all of us.”

Herrera added that even without a disaster devastating the region, Honduras is a country where half the population doesn’t have enough food to eat. And now, because of Hurricane Eta, Herrera counts himself among that group of Hondurans.

He adds that, “Honduras is a challenging place just to make sure that the everyday needs are met. And of course, all of this happening during a global pandemic — no possibility of social distancing, obviously, in those sheltering situations.”

Many Central American leaders are blaming climate change for the disasters and are seeking international aid.

Credit: Josue Decavele/Getty Images

As the region is pummeled by storm after storm, the leaders of Honduras and Guatemala have called for in increase in international funding to help combat the effects of climate change – which are having an outsized impact on the region.

“Central America is not the producer of this climate change situation,” the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, said at a news conference. “Instead, we are the most affected.”

President Orlando has called on the United Nations to declare Central America as the region most affected by climate change worldwide.

“Hunger, poverty and destruction do not have years to wait,” said Alejandro Giammattei, the Guatemalan leader. “If we don’t want to see hordes of Central Americans looking to go to countries with a better quality of life, we have to create walls of prosperity in Central America.”

Disclaimer: The author of this story has a personal connection with Antonio Herrera, a victim of these storms in Honduras mentioned in this story. The GoFundMe for Herrera was created before this story was written but was included as many GoFundMe fundraisers are when relevant.

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Honduras Moves To Enshrine Bans On Abortion And Marriage Equality In The Constitution

Things That Matter

Honduras Moves To Enshrine Bans On Abortion And Marriage Equality In The Constitution

ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images

Honduras already has one of the world’s strictest bans on abortion. It’s completely banned in all circumstances, including even in cases of rape and incest, and when the person’s life and the health are in danger. The country also has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, including recognizing those that were performed abroad.

So, why is the country moving to further limit access to abortion and marriage equality?

The Honduran Congress has voted to make it impossible to legalize abortion and same-sex marriage.

In the first round of voting, the country’s congress had voted to move forward on complete and total constitutional bans against abortion and marriage equality. But lawmakers are taking it a step further, by increasing the votes needed to undo their constitutional amendments in the future.

One lawmaker referred to the legislation as a “constitutional lock” to prevent any future moderations of the abortion law.

However, the amendments require a second reading/vote and activists across the country (and world) are mobilizing to help stop these amendments from being voted in. But they face an uphill battle, as the legislation has overwhelming support within Congress and from the country’s staunchly conservative president.

Honduras already has among the world’s strictest bans on abortion.

Abortion in Honduras is already illegal in all circumstances. The country’s criminal code imposes prison sentences of up to six years on people who undergo abortions and medical professionals who provide them. The government also bans emergency contraception, or “the morning after pill,” which can prevent pregnancy after rape, unprotected sex, or contraceptive failure.

“Honduras’ draconian legislation already bans abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, when the person’s life and the health are in danger, and when the fetus will not survive outside the womb,” said Ximena Casas, Americas women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This decree will make it virtually impossible to carry out the recommendations from multiple international human rights bodies to end this violation of reproductive rights.”

Honduras also already has a strict ban on same-sex marriage.

The 2005 constitutional amendment prohibits recognizing marriage between people of the same sex, including same-sex marriages contracted in other countries. Honduras also bans adoption by same-sex couples.

“By seeking to permanently and comprehensively block any possibility of accessing marriage for same-sex couples, the Honduran Congress is entrenching state-sponsored homophobia,” said Cristian González Cabrera, Americas lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“In a country where LGBT people already experience high levels of violence and discrimination, this effort to amend the constitution is sending the message that these people may be further stigmatized.”

Congress is also making it harder for future lawmakers to undo their constitutional amendments.

Not only was it not enough to double down on these draconian bans on abortion and marriage equality, lawmakers are moving to increase the threshold of votes to undo their bans.

Constitutional changes have until now been permitted with a two-thirds majority, but the new legislation raises that bar to three-quarters within the 128-member body. The measure still needs to be ratified by a second vote. However, support was clear on Thursday: with 88 legislators voting in favor, 28 opposed and seven abstentions.

Mario Pérez, a lawmaker with the ruling party of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, formally proposed the change last week, calling it a “constitutional lock” to prevent any future moderations of the abortion law.

Many see the constitutional amendment as a response to Argentina’s move to legalize abortion last month.

It was just last month that Argentina voted in favor of legalizing access to abortion. The South American nation became the largest Latin American country to allow abortion after its senate approved the historic law change by 38 votes in favor to 29 against, with one abstention.

For years, abortion has also been illegal in Argentina. The procedure was illegal except in cases where the mother or baby’s lives were in danger. In 2019, the country passed a law that also included rape victims as exceptions. 

The push towards various kinds of gender rights–including abortion rights–has been central to President Alberto Fernández’s administration. The center-left politician campaigned on a platform that emphasized the rights of women, gay, and trans communities since he was elected in 2019. Even throughout the devastation of the pandemic, Fernández has insisted on keeping his promises towards marginalized communities.

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US Prosecutors Allege That Honduran President Hernández Said He Wanted to ‘Shove Drugs Up the Noses of Gringos’

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US Prosecutors Allege That Honduran President Hernández Said He Wanted to ‘Shove Drugs Up the Noses of Gringos’

Photo via Getty

They say the truth is stranger than fiction, and in this case, that saying happens to be true. New reports from federal prosecutors in New York have come out that implicate Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández in drug trafficking, embezzlement, and fraud.

For years, Honduras and the United States have publicly touted themselves as partners in global the war on drugs. But it seems that, privately, President Hernández felt differently.

Prosecutors allege that Hernández said that he wanted to “shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos”.

Federal prosecutors say that Hernández “said that he wanted to make the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration think that Honduras was fighting drug trafficking, but that instead he was going to eliminate extradition.”

The allegations against President Hernández are part of a larger drug trafficking case prosecutors have against, Geovanny Fuentes, a prolific Honduran trafficker whom authorities arrested in Miami.

Fuentes alleges that President Hernandez accepted bribes in exchange for protecting a cocaine laboratory and drug shipments headed towards the U.S. They say President Juan Orlando Hernández used his nation’s armed forces to protect huge shipments of cocaine in exchange for hefty bribes.

The case also alleges that Hernandez funneled aid money from the U.S. to non-governmental organizations.

The Honduran president isn’t explicitly named in the documents, but is instead referred to as “co-conspirator 4”. But the documents reference his political position as well as his relationship to his brother, Juan Antonio Hernández, who was also convicted of drug smuggling in 2019.

It’s worth mentioning that the 2019 case against Hernández’s brother also named President Hernández as a co-conspirator. That case alleged that President Hernández had accepted approximately $1 million in bribes from El Chapo.

President Hernández is denying the allegations and claiming that they are retaliations by cartel lords for his hardline stance against drug trafficking.

Recently, his office tweeted out: “The claim that Pres. Hernández supposedly accepted drug money from Geovanny Daniel Fuentes Ramirez, or gave protection or coordination to drug traffickers is 100% false, and appears to be based on lies of confessed criminals who seek revenge and to reduce their sentences.”

But at home, Hondurans seemed to have lost faith in their president. In fact, many are suspicious of his shady connections and seemingly never-ending scandals. Some Hondurans are reportedly worried that President Hernández may try to “illegally extend” his time in office in order to avoid prosecution by the United States”.

As of now, the prospects of him being prosecuted by the Trump administration are dubious at best.

Hernández and Trump have historically had a cozy relationship based on how fervently the Honduran president supported Trump’s strict immigration policies.

“[Indictment] will probably depend on the political will or political decision of the incoming Biden administration,” said InSight Crime senior investigator Hector Silva to Vice.

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