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Columns, Opinions

Fernández ’21: America’s role in Honduras’ democratic crisis

Opinions Columnist
Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The recent crisis in Honduras has found its way to the public sphere in the United States, but it has not gotten nearly as much attention as a situation of this magnitude deserves. Honduras was just in the midst of a presidential election between conservative incumbent Juan Orlando Hernández and left-leaning Salvador Nasralla. Initial results showed Nasralla leading the vote by what many considered to be an irreversible margin. However, the next day it was announced that Hernández had taken the lead as the Supreme Electoral Tribunal stopped publicizing tallies, closed the electoral process to the public eye and postponed any official recounts. The people of Honduras rallied in massive protests on the streets of the country as allegations of mass fraud began to surface. Hernández, who has been re-instated as president, has deployed several elite police forces that have violently confronted peaceful protesters on several occasions, prompting a humanitarian crisis on top of the political turmoil. Activists and observers alike have recently called out the United States, which has a history of involvement in Honduras, for their support of Hernández over the past several years. Additionally, they point to the United States’ role in  training these military forces, calling into question their potential involvement in the recent situation.

The current crisis in Honduras has served to highlight the devastating consequences of U.S interventionism in Latin America, which has threatened and continue to threaten the very institutions of democracy in countries that still  struggle for the right to self-determination in a supposedly post-colonial world. 

There is a long history of U.S. interventionism and involvement in Honduras. Honduras was the original “banana republic” in the late 19th and early 20th century, during which time its people were placed second to American corporate interest. More recently, Honduras has become one of the United States’ strongest allies in Central America, especially in the face of left-wing successes in neighboring countries like Guatemala and El Salvador. The United States gives millions of dollars in aid each year to the Honduran government and provides training to the elite police units previously mentioned. Hernández, currently at the center of the crisis, has several times been called an important ally of the United States by various conservative leaders in the U.S. government. All of these policies are created under the umbrella of the war on drugs and crime that has been used as a justification for American interventionism for decades. However, this rationalization has, in many cases, been a pretext for more deeply entrenched motives — namely, maintaining U.S. control over Latin America.

The United States continues to contribute to fraudulent, anti-democratic regimes in Latin American countries where the motions of democracy take place but have no real consequence. These actions reflect a disrespect for what are supposed to be some of the core values of American society on the part of many of the most powerful and influential figures in our government. It is important to talk about the implications of this crisis for the American people and the responsibilities of the educational sphere and the media in informing the public of the consequences of this kind of foreign policy.

While there has been some mainstream coverage of the situation in Honduras, comprehensive accounts have been scarce, and the ones that are available tend to be muted in their depictions of violence and injustice. This, of course, reflects the reluctance of the American media in portraying what many leftist leaders in Honduras and the United States have characterized as U.S.-funded violence and injustice. These issues point to a larger problem regarding the way information about the impacts of U.S policy on the rest of the world is shared to the American people. This problem can be traced back to gaps in the education system, where American interventionism in Latin America is barely touched on. When it is discussed, it is often talked about in a positive light. Students are even more rarely exposed to the continuing prevalence of these policies by recent U.S. presidential administrations. The crisis in Honduras, along with other crises of democracy in places such as Puerto Rico and Venezuela, has served to expose the fact that American involvement in Latin American society and government is long from over.

The University shares in this responsibility as a top-level educational institution and a hub for progressive thinking. Brown has shown a commitment to addressing these issues. The University offers a wide variety of courses regarding Latin American cultural, social and political experiences. We have many organizations dedicated to fostering awareness. And crucially, we have a rich culture of action, teach-ins and discussion groups. However, as an elite institution in the United States, we continue to maintain a problematic, patronizing approach to confronting issues regarding people and places that are so far away from us. Even higher learning institutions need to adjust how they look at American interventionism to combat a deeply ingrained culture of support for these policies. In relation to the issues in Honduras, it is not the United States’ responsibility to step into this country to run elections, ensuring that they are safe and just for all Hondurans. Rather, it was our responsibility from the very beginning to allow for the democratic process to take place in what was supposed to be a sovereign state, untouched by the insidious arm of American interest.

Marysol Fernández ’21 can be reached at Please send responses to this opinion to and other op-eds to

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  1. Thank you for this piece, Marysol. As a Honduran living in the U.S., I’ve also decried the lack of complete coverage of this crisis, long time in the making partly due to misguided U.S. foreign policy which put U.S. geopolitical and corporate interests above Hondurans’ self-rule.

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