November 1, 1997 - University of Massachusetts: Alvarado says organizations, like the Peace Corp, are coordinated by the government and work only for the bourgeoisie

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Honduras: Peace Corps Honduras: The Peace Corps in Honduras: November 1, 1997 - University of Massachusetts: Alvarado says organizations, like the Peace Corp, are coordinated by the government and work only for the bourgeoisie

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Alvarado says organizations, like the Peace Corp, are coordinated by the government and work only for the bourgeoisie

Alvarado says organizations, like the Peace Corp, are coordinated by the government and work only for the bourgeoisie

Elvia Alvarado speaks about human rights for Hondurans

By Sarah J. Kimmel
Collegian Staff

Honduran human rights leader Elvia Alvarado spoke in the Campus Center on Monday evening as part of the Latin American Lecture Series sponsored by the Office of ALANA (Asian, Latino, African, and Native American) Affairs.

Alvarado is a peasant leader in Honduras who has struggled for 25 years to achieve equal treatment for the people in Honduras. Alvarado, who began her fight as a social activist through the Catholic Church, organized women in the countryside to distribute food to malnourished children. She went on to become a founder of the Federation of Campesina Women (FEHMUC). This union-like organization created women's cooperatives in rural Honduras.

Alvarado is also the author of the best selling book, Don't Be Afraid Gringo, and is the subject of the PBS documentary entitled, Elvia and the Fight for Land of Liberty.

Honduras, the poorest country in Central America, suffers from a great division of classes. Those who work on the vast farmland do not own land of their own. These peasant workers are employed by imperialist companies who pay them such low wages that they can barely afford food, work them long hours and abuse them with beatings and severe punishments. Money is so hard to come by that these workers migrate to where the work is so that they can afford to feed their families.

Alvarado described the conditions that the Campesinos endure.

"These are hospitals but no medical attention for us. We have the right to an education, but no support of any sort. The average Campesina only finishes the second grade. The women in the mountains are so malnourished that they are dying," Alvarado said.

It is the Campesina, the women, who are treated the poorest, according to Alvarado.

"The Campesina suffer the most because she is submissive and marginalized by the man. She is forced to work in the fields with her husband, as well as care for the house and travel to the market to buy and sell fruit," she said.

It is not only the rich city man who mistreats these working women, but also the Campesino men who try to oppress the Campesinas.

"Men in Honduras are completely machismo. They don't like for us [the women] to organize," Alvarado said. "They are only starting to see now that only through organization can we progress."

These peasant workers, or Campesinos, help to produce billions of dollars worth of sugar cane, rice, corn, beans and textiles from that land, yet they do not have enough food to feed their families. Alvarado said that "treatment of the work force is terrible? as long as this land is taken we suffer from hunger and poverty. All that we suffer in our small countries and the blame goes to the United States." It is not the people of the United States that she is blaming for the poverty of the Campesinos, rather the American government, whose treaties and businesses effect the Honduran people. Alvarado said that these companies "exploit the workers and are getting rich off the work of the Campesinos."

Alvarado described similar situations to that in Honduras., "Nicaragua and El Salvador were pushed into war because the United States wants them to be in war so that they are divided and this is in their [the U.S.] own interest," Alvarado said. "These are the policies of the powerful."

Though she got her start as a civil rights leader through the Catholic Church, that same church no longer assists the Campesinos in their fight.

"The church had already shown us the way to get our rights. That's when there were great massacres. Some church officials tried to help us but they were murdered. The church now is different, it has declined," Alvarado said. "When the pope comes to Honduras he talks to the president and the military prior to talking with the church or the people."

In response to this mistreatment by the companies and government in Honduras, Alvarado has been touring the United States to make the U.S. people aware of her plight. She discussed a boycott of the products that are being produced at the expense of the Honduran peasant worker.

In addition, the Campesinos have been asking those companies to withdraw from the land and to leave the Honduran people room to prosper.

"If these tactics do not work, we will take the land we need by force," Alvarado said.

The Peace Corp is another example of the split of the classes that is encouraged by the U.S. government, according to Alvarado.

"They [the U.S. government] say those organizations will help the Honduran people but that's not true," said Alvarado. "These organizations, like the Peace Corp, are coordinated by the government and work only for the bourgeoisie. The politicians manipulate them for their own political agendas. We poor receive nothing from these organizations. In my 25 years struggling for land not one Peace Corps worker has come to me."

For her constant fight for civil rights, Alvarado has been jailed, beaten and starved. She told a story of how she was kept in a Honduran jail for 25 days without food or water. Her cell was filled with water and she recalled having a pistol held to her head.

"I had nothing to eat or drink and I could not see the sun. I have holes in my back where I was beaten, when they found me I could not even stand up. They called me a communist and a guerilla, if that's what it means to stand up for what is right, then OK, I am a communist and a guerilla. I would give my life for my people," she said.

In her closing statement she pleaded with the North American people to join her struggle. "The people united will never be defeated," Alvarado said.

Copyright © 1997 The Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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Story Source: University of Massachusetts

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Honduras; Criticism of the Peace Corps



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