The rebuilding of the country in the era of Central American authoritarianism

After a coup d’état and twelve years of autocracy that ended in a “narco-state”, the country has a new government. President Xiomara Castro has focused her speech on the “re-foundation of the State”, led by former President Manuel Zelaya.

But in the streets and in the most forgotten territories, people continue to demand land and rights, women demand an end to machista violence, the most vulnerable population calls for attention to the effects of climate change and extractivism, and social leaders demand justice without judicial harassment.

Hope in the new government is not enough and people are fleeing this remittance-dependent country.

While the region’s authoritarian rulers harmonize in a populist chorus, citizens demand democracy. This exhibition shows Honduras from the inside out.

Photographs – Jorge Cabrerand Fernando Destephen
Text – Jennifer Ávila
Curator- Catherine Calderón and Jennifer Ávila
Editing – Adriana Malespin and Kimberly Carrillo
Web editing: Sandre Ruiz
Translation: Jorge Paz Reyes

The Military Police of Public Order (Policia Militar del Orden Publico- PMOP) carries out saturation actions in neighborhoods with a high incidence of violence in Tegucigalpa. One of the promises of Xiomara Castro’s new government was to demilitarize public security in order to overcome the militaristic legacy of her predecessor, Juan Orlando Hernández. However, Castro and Defense Minister Jose Manuel Zelaya – nephew of her husband and former president – determined to “re-profile” the PMOP to address the country’s violent situation. While reducing homicides has become a fundamental task of the new government, the security and defense forces continue to be singled out for human rights violations and links to criminal networks. Photo: June 15, 2022, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Jorge Cabrera/Contracorriente

The youth celebrate that former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was extradited to the United States to stand trial for his links to drug trafficking. The celebration merged with Xiomara Castro's victory in the November 2021 elections. Hernandez spent more than a month in the Special Forces "Cobra" facility. Now, held in a U.S. prison, he awaits the start of his trial. Photo: April 21, 2022 Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Jorge Cabrera/Contracorriente
Funeral of Wilson Ariel Pérez in the municipality of Villanueva, Cortés. On May 29, 2022, Wilson (21 years old) assaulted a sub-inspector of the National Police in a brawl at the Metropolitan Olympic Stadium in San Pedro Sula. The incident sparked an intense search by the authorities that ended, two days later, with Wilson's murder at the hands of police officers. It took five months for four members of the police to turn themselves in and declare themselves responsible for this extrajudicial execution. Wilson's murder calls into question the reform process of an institution that has not only been an accomplice and perpetrator of human rights violations but also a fundamental part of the functioning of organized crime in the country. Photo: June 2, 2022, Villanueva, Cortés, Honduras. Jorge Cabrera/Contracorriente.

A young man carries a tool to harvest African palm at Finca El Tumbador II in Trujillo, Colón. Honduras is a country of conflicts, but perhaps the longest and most persistent of all is the agrarian conflict. In Bajo Aguán, located in one of the most fertile and productive valleys in the country, a group of young people do not want to migrate, they want to take root in this place as their parents once tried to do. With the new government, which has promised “the re-foundation” of the State, the young people see an opportunity, and after taking land owned by large corporations, they have made a truce with the government to avoid repression. However, they face the large African palm industry that, for them, is a Goliath, a struggle that for decades has filled the land in Bajo Aguán with blood. Photo: July 28, 2022, Colón, Honduras. Jorge Cabrera/Contracorriente.

Ana Rosa Núñez, 35 years old, lost four blocks cultivated with corn, in addition to her house which was flooded. The community Finca 8 in the banana fields was one of the most affected by storm Julia in Honduras. "Again we have to take care of our things on the edge of this riverbank," said Ana Rosa. Many people advised her to sell her land and move elsewhere. "Imagine, starting over from scratch? It hurts to leave this, it hurts!" she said. According to the Permanent Contingency Commission (COPECO), the rains that began on September 21 left 67, 421 people affected; 15, 846 evacuated; 8,595 sheltered and 497 communities with damages for which 151 shelters were installed nationwide. Photo: October 11, 2022, El Progreso, Yoro, Honduras. Photo: Jorge Cabrera / Contracorriente
Mountain destroyed by open-pit mining in Tocoa, Colón. Environmental activists in Guapinol, northern Honduras, continue to fight against extractivism. In November 2021 they cast a vote of hope for Xiomara Castro but, so far, the changes they perceive are few despite the fact that on February 28 the government promised to stop mining exploitation. Now they are taking to the streets, claiming that businessmen like Lenir Pérez - a state contractor since the government of Juan Orlando Hernández - still have their power intact in Bajo Aguán. Photo: August 12, 2022, Tocoa, Honduras. Fernando Destephen/ Contracorriente.

Employees protest in front of Hondutel’s facilities on Central America Boulevard demanding their owed payments and the resignation of the current manager. Xiomara Castro became president of Honduras with the promise of guaranteeing the protection and full enjoyment of citizens’ rights, including the right to employment. However, after nine months in office, hundreds of complaints of labor abuses and irregular dismissals have accumulated in various state secretariats – including from activists of her own party, Libertad y Refundación (Libre) – in addition to deception and labor harassment for political and ideological biases. Photo: August 22, 2022, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Jorge Cabrera / Contracorriente

Former purged police officers block the entrances and exits of Tegucigalpa demanding to be reinstated in their positions within the police institution. In 2016, the Special Commission for the Purification and Transformation of the National Police was created in Honduras, which purged approximately 6,500 police elements, of which 33% were referred to the Public Prosecutor's Office for investigation. With the arrival of the new government, approximately 1,000 of the purged police officers sued the State for having been removed from their posts through irregular procedures. Meanwhile, the police is facing crime in the country trying to fulfill the electoral promises of transformation and demilitarization of public security during the new government. Photo: May 19, 2022, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Jorge Cabrera/ Contracorriente.
Last August 9, on the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (Ofraneh) protested to the Honduran State, through a protest inside the Public Prosecutor's Office in Tegucigalpa, the lack of investigation into the forced disappearance of four Garifuna in northern Honduras. There is no progress in the investigations despite the exhortations of the Inter-American Human Rights System. In addition, they denounced racist and denigrating treatment by current officials. A few days later, the protesters were informed that the Public Prosecutor's Office is acting against them for having usurped a public space. In view of the actions of the Public Prosecutor's Office for the protests, OFRANEH filed an injunction against the Attorney General, Óscar Chinchilla and the Deputy Prosecutor, Daniel Sibrián. Photo: August 9, 2022, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Jorge Cabrera/ Contracorriente

Inma López, an actress of Teatro Memorias, performs a scene from the play Monólogos de la Vagina in Tegucigalpa. Eleven years after its first presentation in Tegucigalpa, a city that is recognized as “conservative”, the play fills the seats of this theater house and its audience experiences the “morbidity” of attending a play that has the word vagina in its name. The woman, the man, all the attendees learn to love her, to understand the woman’s pleasure and to respect her decision. They also learn to remain silent and to reflect on the atrocities that have been committed against them. After the nervous laughter or the spontaneous guffaw, there is the silence that reminds us that there is still a long way to go. Photo: September 8, 2022. Tegucigalpa, Honduras Fernando Destephen/Contra Cultura.

On September 15, 2022, the usual civic parades for the independence of Central America took place; but in Honduras, a group of trans women paraded for the first time. This fact was repudiated by religious groups and hate speech surrounding this participation. Despite the attacks, that day remained in the country's history as the first time that part of the LGTBI population participated in official state events. The new government promised more inclusion, to adopt a protocol for investigation and administration of justice during criminal proceedings for cases of LGBTI+ people victims of violence and to carry their identity card with photo and name according to their gender identity. Photo: September 15, 2022, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Jorge Cabrera/Contracorriente
On February 3, 2022, Rosaura survived an attack by a man who had been stalking and harassing her for some time. With a machete, the man severed her hands while she was on the bank of a river near her home in Choluteca, southern Honduras. After three months, Rosaura still has no justice and her assailant is on the run. Despite the new government's promises to curb femicides and violence against women, survivors like her continue to face state negligence. According to the Violence Observatory of the Autonomous University of Honduras, every 27 hours and 33 minutes a woman dies a homicidal death in Honduras. Until October 16, 2022, 228 women have been murdered, according to data from the Ministry of Security, Julissa Villanueva, who said that there is a decrease of 16.6% in relation to the same period in 2021. Photo: March 11, 2022, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Fernando Destephen.

Clothes, water and food are all that Venezuelan migrants carry in their backpacks as they irregularly enter the Trojes border in eastern Honduras every day to continue their journey to the United States. On their way through Central America, these migrants suffer excessive charges for immigration paperwork, transportation and food. According to the National Migration Institute, from January to September 2022, 109,505 irregular migrants passed through Honduras. Thousands of them have remained in the national territory working or asking for money to continue their journey. Photo: July 14, 2022, Trojes, Honduras. Fernando Destephen/Contracorriente.

Tired of being extorted by criminal gangs, Franklin Chacon, a cab driver by trade, packed his suitcase and left Zicatcare -- located in the municipality of Santa Ana, in the department of Francisco Morazan -- for the United States. The ruletero, as cab drivers who do not have a fixed route are called, left the country on May 15, 2021, but in the Arizona desert, after an intense struggle to survive, he died. President Xiomara Castro ordered the use of the presidential plane to repatriate the remains of Hondurans who have died on the migratory route between January and March 2022 already total 65, according to Wilson Paz, general director of Protection of the Honduran Migrant. Photo: April 22nd 2022, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Jorge Cabrera/Contracorriente
According to official figures from the National Migration Institute of Honduras, from the beginning of January to the end of April 2022, a total of 109 irregular migrants entered Honduran territory, of which 51,863 are Cubans, 34,950 come from Venezuela, 6,991 from Ecuador, 4,190 from Haiti and the rest are distributed among people coming from Angola, Senegal, Nicaragua, Brazil and Ghana. So far this year, August has been the month with the highest numbers of irregular migration through the eastern border of Honduras with a total of 22,661 migrants. The National Congress approved an amnesty after migrants from Venezuela, Cuba and Haiti asked President Xiomara Castro for it to continue on their way exonerated from paying fines for infractions to the Migration and Foreigners Law. Photo: April 28, 2022, Danlí, Honduras. Jorge Cabrera/Contracorriente

Following the extradition of former President Juan Orlando Hernández to the United States, the Southern District Court of New York published the indictment <<United States of America vs. Juan Orlando Hernández a.k.a. “JOH”>>, which details that, in addition to participating in drug trafficking activities and possessing firearms, the former president also received bribes from Mexican drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Gúzman, committed fraud in the 2013 and 2017 elections, and obtained the support of other former presidents to carry out drug trafficking activities in Honduras. Photo: April 21, 2022, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Jorge Cabrera/Contracorriente

Supporters of Ana García - wife of former president Juan Orlando Hernández and accused of being part of the networks of companies and NGOs used to embezzle from the state - are holding a vigil in support of the former president outside the facilities of the National Police Special Force "Cobras" where he was being held. Juan Orlando Hernández was captured in an operation by the Special Forces of the Honduran National Police commanded by the Minister of Security, General Ramón Sabillón. Police and military agents had cordoned off the former president's house after the U.S. requested to the Supreme Court of Justice the provisional arrest of the ex-president accused of three drug trafficking charges by that country. Photo: February 17, 2022, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Jorge Cabrera/Contracorriente
Honduras commemorated this Thursday, September 15, its 201 years of Independence from the Spanish empire in a celebration called "Fiestas Cívicas Refundacionales" and which, for the first time since the 2009 coup d'état, united in the same streets high school students and members of the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP), led by former president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009). Xiomara Castro became the first female president in the history of Honduras and promised a new future for the country after 12 years of National Party autocracy. Photo: September 15, 2022, Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Jorge Cabrera/ Contracorriente

Contracorriente celebrates five years of telling the story of Honduras and betting on in-depth journalism that breaks down borders and becomes a tool for citizenship and the construction of democracy.

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This exhibition is possible through the support of