Saturday, October 23, 2010

Halloween banned in Honduras

I wish I could laugh. It would be one thing if this just involved some lone, nutty public official with silly ideas about holidays, but in context it’s sad and terrifying. The coup in Honduras, in standard fashion, has been enthusiastically abetted by the domestic and international right-wing religious organizations. Adrienne Pine and David Vivar’s article “Saving Honduras” provides not only a concise discussion of the neoliberal coup but a specific analysis of the current activities of Marco Cáceres, his publication “Honduras Weekly,” and his Project Honduras conference. I recommend the piece as a whole (note the link to this article about Goldcorp), but what it really brought into relief was the central place religious power and ideology have in these antidemocratic efforts.

The discussion of the Project Honduras conference is illuminating. As they describe,
The theme this year is "Responding to Domestic Abuse in Honduras." One wonders if the increase in femicides since the coup documented by feminists in resistance, the dozens of documented targeted police and military rapes of female resistance members, the sexualized torture methods used, or the vast drop in reports of domestic abuse linked to fear of the police for these very reasons will be discussed. Probably not. Also unlikely to be discussed by the speakers, who include ardent coup-supporter Lizeth Godoy of the National Institute of Women (INAM), is the fact that the current INAM administration is in power thanks to the violent ouster by police and military of the women who had previously worked there last July, when they resisted the takeover of the institute by anti-feminist members of the reactionary Opus Dei coup leadership under Micheletti.
It seems that the purpose of the event is to use a secular issue to push what is a clear religious program:
While…individuals representing the U.S. State will be presenting, the vast majority of individuals attending come from reactionary evangelical groups, promoting charity work based on a premise of "apolitical" salvation that stand in direct opposition to the vibrant Honduran resistant movement's goals of justice and self-determination.

And it goes beyond that. In an article published in Honduras Weekly on September 28th titled "The Holy City of Copán," Cáceres argues that his conference is a "pilgrimage" leading to the goal of people "eventually truly becom[ing] One." Throughout the article, he returns to the concept of "One," capitalized.
Indeed he does! It is presented as a religious event through and through. I can’t see how anyone could read “The Holy City of Copán” and see it any other way. The authors ask:
So why-despite Cáceres' journalistic deceit, his increasingly public messianic delusions, his pro-coup proselytization and polarizing unfounded attacks on the resistance movement-does the U.S. embassy continue to so openly support his conference? Why is USAID ("From the American People") officially sponsoring the Conference on Honduras this year? It's not because the NGOs involved are doing any good; they aren't. In their acceptance of a Social Darwinist model that identifies poverty as the result of a lack of "empowerment" and human capital, they can't.
Yes, I agree (though I have no expectation of USAID genuinely supporting democracy in any context). But is this even constitutional? It’s a plainly religious event, and not only are US military personnel participating, but the US government is a sponsor?!

It’s in this unsettling context of organized religious political action – and the longer history of violence against dissidents justified by accusations of occult activities* - that Áfrico Madrid, Honduran Minister of the Interior and Population, issued a statement the other day essentially banning Halloween – using a law concerning fraud to prohibit “any type of event related to satanic cults or holidays.” It is theocratic rhetoric and policy, and deserves mockery and condemnation.

*This lends an ominous note to the plans described by Carlos Portillo later in the article.

1 comment:

  1. when I saw the title of this post, I was wondering WTF they had against Halloween specifically. But I guess, with the evangelicals involved, it makes sense: it's what they'd like to do here, but instead are reduced to spamming people's mailboxes with "Harvest Festival" invitations.

    Anyway, reading this made me think of a shadowy, many-tentacled octopus reaching out from the US into other countries where their money and political clout inflict the damage that they are not (yet) powerful enough to inflict on their own countries.

    but that would be an insult to the octopus.