Nov 9, 2020
Hurricane Eta hammered Central America and southern Mexico last week, dropping as much as 40 inches of rain on some regions. In Mexico, ten people were drowned in a rain-swollen stream. In Guatemala, a landslide killed about 100 people when it swept their village from its mountainside.
It seems like Honduras will be the country most badly hurt of all. While no one can tell the number yet, many hundreds surely died. The government estimates that 1.6 million people were affected, and according to a non-profit, about 400,000 were left homeless. One economist estimated that the loss caused by this hurricane could surpass more than 20% of the value of all goods and services produced in the country in a year. This disaster will fall primarily on those who can least afford it, poor people whose homes and possessions were swept away in the floods.
This natural disaster is one more aspect of a social disaster that has been hitting the population of this country with increasing force since the 2008 economic crisis hit. In 2009, military leaders took power in a U.S.-backed coup. The post-coup government has squeezed the already-impoverished population in order to recover the profits of the tiny ruling class and its U.S. backers. It cut the already meager health system, attempted to privatize the schools, carried out a reign of terror against farmers who tried to resist when big plantations seized their land. Union leaders are murdered with impunity.
This government is linked to violent drug gangs from top to bottom—even the president and his brother were named in indictments in U.S. courts. But because this government protects the interests of U.S. corporations in the region, it was supported equally by the Obama and Trump administrations.
No one expects this government to help with the aftermath of the hurricane. The president of Honduras only issued an evacuation warning the day after the storm hit. And despite supposedly receiving billions in aid, Honduras has yet to recover from Hurricane Mitch, which hit the country in 1998. Much of this aid money was undoubtedly stolen by corrupt officials.
Honduras produces plenty of wealth. Workers make big profits for U.S. textile, auto parts, and garment factories. Huge plantations grow bananas, coffee, and other products for export to the U.S. and Europe. Yet this imperialist system with the U.S. at its head condemns the bulk of the population to poverty, leaving millions vulnerable to drug gangs, and to hurricanes like Eta.