Monday, September 5, 2011

Repression, tourism, and social struggles

The International Institute of Social History has a collection of materials on a dozen contested tourist destinations from the past several decades.
The tourist paradise and the police state may very well go hand and hand. A flourishing tourist sector adds to the economy and the international prestige of a country, political prisoners, concentration camps, ethnic cleansing, murder, and disappearances, notwithstanding. The tourist usually remains unaware of the signs of violence and repression. In many cases this ignorance is a matter of choice. The adversaries of the police state are well aware of the impact of tourism and try to mobilize public opinion on this very point. They advocate international sanctions and boycotts, morally appeal to the individual traveler or organize bomb attacks to frighten tourists.
I’ve selected the sticker calling for a tourism boycott in Guatemala in 1980 since, as they note, this was a transnational union-organized campaign.

This brings to mind current touristic and retirement development in Honduras, as repression continues and disappearances begin. Life Visions, whose CEO was treated with a special award by Honduran “president” Porfirio Lobo shortly after the Honduras is Open for Business event, was featured in June in Canadian Business magazine:
As retirees colonize the shorelines of Central American and Caribbean countries at breakneck speed, the best deals are reserved for those who buy in early. Which helps explain why poverty-plagued Honduras, still recovering from the 2009 coup that deposed its former president, is at the cutting edge. Taking its cue from development on the nearby island of Roatan, Mississauga, Ont. Based Life Vision Properties is luring retirees to the mainland city of Trujillo with bargain prices and picturesque vistas. The firm has already sold some 500 properties.
(By the way, the IISG now has a Latin America desk, and will step up its efforts to gather materials from truth commissions and leftwing movements in the region.)

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