Between 1979 and 1985, U.S. military and economic aid to Honduras jumped from $31 to $282 million yearly. The largest increase was in military aid which jumped to 28 times the 1979 level. In exchange, Honduras agreed to become a base for some 15,000 Nicaraguan “contras,” to join the U.S. military in joint maneuvers, and to provide logistical and intelligence support to the Salvadoran military in its war against the guerrillas.
During the same time period, U.S. aid designated for development assistance dropped from 80 percent to six percent.
To make matters even worse, floods washed away 60 percent of the corn crop in southern Honduras in May 1986. A severe summer drought followed the flood, destroying all that remained of the corn and wiping out 60 percent of the area’s sorghum.
Bishop Raul Corriveau, the archbishop of Choluteca, said, “We’ve seen scenes of misery like never before. Children with swollen bellies, old people looking like corpses, women and children begging for food, men roaming the streets searching for work.”
Due to airstrips and bases built by the U.S. and the presence of contras and American troops (80,000 troops in 1987), Hondurans living in the southern region and along the eastern border have been displaced. The livelihoods of 2,000 Honduran coffee growers have been destroyed and 16,000 Hondurans have been forced to leave their homes. Orphanages and temporary shelters have been filled with “economic orphans” — children who have been abandoned by parents who can no longer afford to raise them … parents who have seen their coffee bean fields turned into battlefields.
It has been estimated that 70 percent of the children are malnourished. Among those brought to the capital’s hospital for treatment, 10 to 15 percent die due to a lack of vitamins.
Dr. Juan Almendares, a physician conducting research on malnutrition at the National University in Tegucigalpa, “When the government says there is no money available to help the hungry, we must remember that Honduras receives more than $200 million a year from the U.S. government. We Hondurans ask why isn’t any of this money going to help the poor?”
Ann M. Kelly, editor of FOOD FIRST NEWS, a quarterly published by the Institute for Food and Development Policy, wrote the following lead to Medea Benjamin’s article about the Honduran situation:
“While working on a new Food First book in Honduras, Medea Benjamin — Food First’s Central American analyst — uncovered a food crisis of frightening proportions in the southern part of the country. We alerted national media in the United States but the story went uncovered.”
FOOD FIRST NEWS, Vol. 9, No. 28, Spring 1987, “Hunger in Southern Honduras,” p 2, and FOOD FIRST ACTION ALERT, 1987, “Honduras: The Real Loser in U.S. War Games,” pp 1-4, both by Medea Benjamin; MOTHER JONES, January 1987, “The Pentagon Republic of Honduras, by Fred Setterberg, pp 21-24, 51-54,