Dana Frank on Honduras–and the rising crisis in America
Posted by Charles II on May 24, 2012
Adrienne posted an important article by Dana Frank which appeared in The Nation. This tells us the very most important thing to understand not just about Honduras, but much more broadly. The conflict is not between left and right. It is at root a conflict between the forces that make human societies stable and decent places to live and criminals whose only goal is to loot those societies for their personal gain:
Drug trafficking is now embedded in the state itself—from the cop in the neighborhood all the way up to the very top of the government, according to high-level sources. Prominent critics and even government officials, including Marlon Pascua, the defense minister, talk of “narco-judges” who block prosecutions and “narco-congressmen” who run cartels. Alfredo Landaverde, a former congressman and police commissioner in charge of drug investigations, declared that one out of every ten members of Congress is a drug trafficker and that he had evidence proving “major national and political figures” were involved in drug trafficking. He was assassinated on December 7.
Far more than criminal gangs in the streets and drug traffickers acting independently, it is the Honduran state itself that has made Honduras, according to the Associated Press, “among the most dangerous places on earth.”
And the Honduran state operates only by the grace of the US government.
I do not believe that the US government–from the Pentagon to DoJ to the State Department to the White House–has failed to understand that its policies are enabling the rise of criminal empires. Not when Wikileaked documents show the US embassy knew that Miguel Facusse was engaged in narcotrafficking.
Understanding why our government would do such things is the hardest thing of all. But it’s actually at the heart of our country’s history. Once the original Articles of Confederation were known to be inadequate two ideas were put forward in writing our Constitution: the idea of a centralized national government in which the state, when it acts, acts at the local level, and a federal government, in which the central government enforces the basic compact, but power is distributed as widely as possible. The national model is essential during times of war, but it’s dangerous at all times. Too little national government leads to drift and decline. So, as Madison said in Federalist 10, a compromise between the two must be found.
From the viewpoint of strict federalists, state and local power is a good thing except when it results in people’s rights being infringed, while for strict nationalists, state and local power is a good thing only when it doesn’t interfere with the activities the central government has decided to engage in. But notice–there’s no clear line between a national government and a tyranny. And so there has been a tendency especially on the right to centralize power in its most dangerous form, the military state, while the left has used centralized power primarily for the enforcement of rights, both civil rights such as the right to vote and the un-enumerated right to exist, which means food, shelter, work, and so on. There’s some danger to the hastily-considered expansion of rights, particularly the danger that less benevolent objectives will be cloaked in the language of rights, it’s far less imminent a danger than that of a militarized state.
The point is that national governments get things done by weakening the power of individuals as expressed by civic organizations, local governments, and state governments. The Urban Renewal of the 1960s is an example of for-profit real estate redevelopment cloaked in the pious language of the right to shelter. In the name of rights, they destroyed neighborhoods and sentenced many people to poverty. More recently the reactionary Supreme Court has taken the power of eminent domain, stripped off even the undergarments of decency that Urban Renewal had, and said that a city government can tear down your house just because. The local government would never have been able to do this without help from on high.
In Honduras, the Honduran state with the active assistance of the US governments is destroying communities under the guise of the drug war and using national power to grab resources such as land and water.
This is the real reason why Occupy is so threatening. They are rebuilding the ties of community solidarity that eroded after the Great Depression and World War II. But they have a lot to learn, especially from the Honduran Resistance.
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