The Honduran Intifada
by Bruce Harris and Esteban Castro*
June 7, 2004
From the Gaza Strip, the television news shows a 15-year old Palestinian boy defiantly throwing a stone at a group of Israeli soldiers armed to the teeth. The boy wears a checkered tunic over his head and, in the distance, the viewer sees a soda billboard in unintelligible letters for the average westerner.
In Honduras, at the same time, a local newspaper illustrates another child – this time lying on the ground, mouth open, dressed in jeans and tennis shoes, with a bullet in his head.
In the Middle East, the first Intifada (religious uprising) began in 1987 as a movement of the Palestinians against what they considered to be an Israeli occupation.
The second Intifada began at the end of 2000 for the same reason.
But in Honduras, the violence does not have an exact beginning date.
Nor does it have a name or religious motivation, yet it has cost more children’s lives than in all the Gaza Strip conflicts between September 29th, 2000 and April 30th, 2004. There is nothing Holy about the war against poor Honduran children.
In the Holy Land where Jesus Christ walked, there were 654 children under 18 murdered in this 43 month period; 548 of them Palestinian and 106 Israeli. On the other side of the world, in Honduras, its history is written with the blood of 716 murdered children in the same time period.
All of the world’s TV channels and other news outlets feature daily reports on the tragedy of the war between Arabs and Jews. But almost nobody covers the continuing Honduran urban war, where often uniformed cowards with hidden faces launch bloody attacks against boys and girls, leaving them lying in the street, abandoned by one of the first States in the world to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
During the first four months of 2004, 48 children were killed in the midst of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
In the exact same period, the exact same number of murdered children also ended up in Honduran cemeteries. Thousands of miles away, violence plays with a painful coincidence: Our children are dying.
On the other side of the world, the United Nations is permanently worried about the victims of the holy war, but in Honduras the same violence goes unnoticed for many - except for the families of the young victims, who nurse their pain in the uncertainty of knowing when the massacres will end.
Editor's note: This writer is in for a rude awakening as the United Nations does not begin to care about the welfare of the world's children. It the organization did, they would do something to end the carnage.
In Gaza, there are tanks, armed helicopters and soldiers on the Israeli side, confronting boys with rocks who are considered by some as terrorists and by others as heroes.
Their families carry the victims’ pictures through the streets and call them martyrs. In Honduras, the dead rarely appear on the TV screen and their families do not even find out who shot their child.
Those in uniform cover themselves well.
Casa Alianza Honduras, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the defense of children’s Human Rights, has documented the murder of more than 2,200 children and youth under the age of 23 between January 1998 and April 2004. In May 2004, a further 37 young victims were recorded as killed.
Like the majority of the cases hidden under the blanket of impunity due to the reticence of government to conduct investigations, it is logical to think that these are extrajudicial executions. In fact these executions count on the State’s consent when they are neither investigated nor punished and, therefore, tolerated. The children have a right to a dignified life and the State has the obligation to comply with this Right. But our children are killed and the Presidents merely focus on balancing the budget and inaugurating bridges.
In Israel and Gaza, most of the murderers are not placed on trial under the justification, apparently logical, that they were “collateral damage” in an armed conflict, although most are careful to not call it a war. In Honduras, there is no pretext for any justification. The extrajudicial killings remain with impunity because the State is not interested in identifying those responsible. They only can justify their war by blaming their actions on juvenile gangs.
In January 2004, nine Palestinian and 19 Honduran children were killed.
In February 2004, six Palestinian and six Honduran children were murder victims. The following month of March 2004, 17 Palestinian and seven Honduran children were killed. In April of this year, 16 Palestinians and 16 Honduran children were murdered. Not a single Israeli child died in these four months.
In 2003, the violence in Honduras took the lives of 229 boys and girls, 85 more than the sum of child victims in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Israel during the same period.
The size of the population provides no justification for the dimension of the slaughter. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the population of Honduras is estimated to be 6.6 million persons. In the conflict zone of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel, according to the same source, there are 9.6 million people.
Nor is the argument of underdevelopment and poverty warranted, when Honduras has a greater annual per-capita income than the Palestinians: US$2,500 compared to US$600. In Israel, the average annual income rises to US$19,500.
Editor's note: This US$19,500 does not include the US$20,000 that is provided by the congress to every Israeli citizen.
So no matter from which perspective we look, in terms of child victims, the conflict in Honduras is more serious than that of the Palestinians and Israelis. Perhaps the Holy Land is more dramatic. But whilst the sound of the Israeli helicopter launched missiles resound in home theaters around the world, in Honduras the silent echo only covers a higher level of murder of the innocents.
The cultures are surely different, but each time a child falls lifeless to the ground, here or there, the same thing happens. Every child’s death is an injustice that leaves each and everyone of us, wherever we may be, a little less human.
* Bruce Harris is the Regional Director for Covenant House – Latin America, a non-governmental organization that defends the Rights of Latin American children.
Esteban Castro is the Coordinator of Communications for Casa Alianza Costa Rica.