A March 8th in Honduras: a Breath of Justice

It was March 7 and we were standing in the National Congress. I, in particular, had had a hard time entering, since they had erased my name from the entry list. That was because in recent days I dared to ask if the President of the National Congress would pay the child support debt he owes to his two year old daughter who lives in the United States. He refuses to give her the maintenance that corresponds to her and her mother insists on claiming it, while feminists accompany him in this claim. Thanks to the efforts of Congresswomen Fatima Mena and Shirley Arriaga, I managed to get in. To tell the truth, we were not expecting anything. For years they had been waiting on the back burner or perhaps in some drawer, the Shelter House Law, the Comprehensive Law on Violence against Women, the Comprehensive Sex Education Law, among others. Last year, the Minister of Education gave us a lesson by tearing up the educational guides on sex education on national television, accusing them of containing “gender ideology”. Nothing new for a fundamentalist official. In this context, the invitation socialized for this March 8, did not promise much, but it did. In a single debate, the Shelter Law for women victims and survivors of gender violence was presented and approved unanimously. Those of us who were in the hemicycle were jumping with happiness, because at last a dream of more than six years became a reality.

Now, to fight for the budget and its application, but those, as we say in this country “are another hundred pesos”. A consensus among the Honduran political class in favor of women was the least we expected, but it was achieved. 

The following day, the 8th, was not only the International Women’s Day, but, for Hondurans, another important day: the trial of Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH), former Honduran president, accused and extradited by the United States, on charges of drug introduction and trafficking in that country. One of the most nefarious actors of our history was going to be judged by one of the greatest powers in the world, obtaining perhaps, the justice that could not be accessed in the national courts. It is true that JOH, as he is popularly known, was not one of the protagonists of the 2009 coup d’état, but he did take advantage of its consequences, after the mediating government of Pepe Lobo, to consolidate what was called a “narco-state” where repression of defenders and the population in general was the order of the day. The transit routes quickly became drug trafficking routes, where organized crime ruled and imposed its rules. In this context, disappearances and femicides were an important part of this “state of terror”, since women were a bargaining chip, as revenge to third parties or simply as a failure of the last link in a crime chain that uses and violates them. The figures rose in a scandalous way, becoming the country with more femicides in Latin America, a place that remains today.  JOH had imposed in turn, leaders and operators of justice that not only allowed him to act without blemish in the narco activity, but also allowed him to “legalize” the re-election. 

“Legalize” is in quotation marks because our Constitution does not allow such re-election and I believe this situation is the same in all Central American countries. But if Juan Orlando is guilty of something, it is to install cynicism in the isthmus, with a ruling of the Constitutional Court endorsing the re-election (yes, Bukele and Ortega style) after having appeared publicly and on national television, saying that he was not going to do it and that whoever mentioned the subject, would be the object of denunciation. At the end of his eight years in office he left a country in ruins, with most of his government’s acolytes fleeing to other countries such as Nicaragua and himself, handcuffed and surrendering to the US justice system. 

That March 8, when we heard the word “guilty”, many of us did not celebrate, because more was needed in this country so lacking in everything, even, at times, tenderness. However, it was a good day, because although he was not tried in the Honduran courts, most of the people felt something like justice. Something akin to saying, here we are sisters disappeared and murdered, we went as far as we could. Berta Cáceres and Gladys Lanza, a little bit of justice was done.

We hope that this will be an example for other Central American leaders, dictators who aspire to be eternal in their lands: all regimes fall, sooner or later, even those that seem stronger. While we, feminists, celebrate, because however, we took another step, we advanced and with us, generations, hundreds of women and men, who will have ways out of the violence and will know that it is possible the trial, that so far away for us. We are because we are standing between hope and joy, survivors of terror and sometimes, only sometimes, we can feel something like justice. 

Jessica Isla: Honduran, she is a journalist, writer, researcher, and activist with Feminists in Resistance in Tegucigalpa.



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