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Sun Nov 16, 2014, 10:54 PM

Starving Central America

Weekend Edition Oct 31-Nov 02, 2014

The Roots of the Food Crisis

Starving Central America

by NICK ALEXANDROV


“The drought has killed us,” a young Honduran, Olman Funez, explained last summer. He was referring to what the World Bank called “one of the longest droughts in nearly half a century.” A 60-year-old Guatemalan peasant emphasized he had never “seen a crisis like this.” Carlos Román, a Nicaraguan farmer, told a reporter that “there is nothing. We eat what we can find.”

These men are among the 2.8 million Central Americans “struggling to feed themselves” in the region’s “dry corridor”—“a drought-prone area shared by Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua,” according to the UN World Food Programme. The Nicaraguan government described its drought as the worst in 32 years. And last week the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies “said some 571,710 people were affected by the drought in Honduras,” and that “families are selling their belongings and livestock to secure food for survival, while others are migrating to escape the effects of the drought.” But food crises in Honduras and Nicaragua aren’t new phenomena. And in both countries, U.S. policy has helped starve Central Americans.

Consider Honduras, where the Choluteca Department is part of the “dry corridor.” The U.S. Consul in Tegucigalpa wrote in 1904 of Choluteca’s wide “variety of vegetation,” “ranging from the pines and oaks of the highlands to the palm and cocoanut trees along the coast.” These rich woodlands were devastated seventy years later, declining from 29% to 11% of the census area in the 1960s and ’70s. Pastures increased their territorial coverage from 47% to 64% during the same period. “The cattle are eating the forest,” Billie R. DeWalt explained in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists three decades ago. The anthropologist Jefferson Boyer concurred, noting that Choluteca’s ranchers “simply hired labor to slash and burn the trees and brush, opening the land to grass production.”

Honduras was “being converted into a vast pasture for cattle destined for export,” DeWalt elaborated—a development in line with Washington’s aims. Robert G. Williams noted that Kennedy’s “Alliance for Progress boosted Central America’s beef-export business,” for example, and that “the World Bank, AID, and the IADB” all viewed beef “as a pragmatic, quick way to achieve export-led growth.” This beef, DeWalt continued, was “not bound for the estimated 58 percent of Honduran children under five years of age who suffer from identifiable malnutrition,” but rather for the U.S.—the source of “insatiable demand for livestock products” and “the largest importer,” by a long shot, “of Central American beef export.” As U.S. citizens gorge themselves on steaks and hamburgers, “food supplies in poorer countries become scarcer, unemployment increases, and the land and other resources are increasingly degraded.” Poor Hondurans thus were forced “to compete with the animals for the locally available resources.”

But many peasants, for whatever reason, couldn’t accept that they mattered as little as beasts grown for slaughter. They responded to the systematic destruction of their way of life by forming self-defense organizations. Landowners reacted in the predictable manner. “Murders by ranchers were common in the 1960s and early 1970s, and several massacres became public,” David Nibert explains. “For instance, in 1975, on a large ranch called Los Horcones”—in the Olancho Department, another site of expanding cattle pastures—“five people were burned to death in a bread oven, two priests were castrated and mutilated, and two women were thrown into a well that was then dynamited. All the victims were connected to a movement organized by subsistence farmers.”

More:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/31/starving-central-america/

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Judi Lynn Nov 2014 OP
stuntcat Nov 2014 #1

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Nov 18, 2014, 05:38 PM

1. beef tho!

Comfy Americans need a whole lot of it

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