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Honduras’ new left-wing President Xiomara Castro delivered a fiery speech at the United Nations General Assembly denouncing colonialism, “neoliberal injustice,” and the foreign corporations that have exploited her country.
Calling for a multipolar world, the Honduran leader declared, “Never again will we carry the stereotype of a banana republic. We will put an end to monopolies and oligopolies that only impoverish our economy.”
“Honduras will only have a future if it takes firm steps to dismantle the neoliberal economic dictatorship,” she asserted.
Castro (of no relation to Cuba’s Fidel Castro) also condemned the violent right-wing military coup that the United States sponsored in Honduras in 2009, which overthrew democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya – Castro’s husband.
“We poor nations of the world will no longer tolerate coups d’etat; we will no longer tolerate the use of lawfare, or color revolutions, which are usually organized to plunder our extensive natural resources,” she proclaimed.
Honduran leader calls for multipolar world
The September 20 speech was the first time the Honduran president addressed the United Nations since coming to power this January.
Wearing a bright-red suit – the color of her socialist political party, the Liberty and Refoundation Party, or Libre (“Free”) Party for short – Castro stressed, “It is time to seriously discuss multipolarity in the world.”
She demanded an end to the US government’s “despicable and brutal blockade” on Cuba, and added that “the aggression against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela must stop.”
Castro also decried the US-dominated international financial institutions that have trapped her country in unpayable odious debt and imposed devastating neoliberal austerity policies.
“It is clear that today, for our country to survive, we must reject this so-called austerity, which awards those who concentrate wealth in a few hands, and favors those who exponentially increase inequality,” she said.
Xiomara Castro denounces 13 years of US-backed right-wing coup regimes
Following the US-backed 2009 coup, Honduras became one of the most violent countries on Earth. This created a crisis that turned hundreds of thousands of Hondurans into refugees and migrants.
Castro used her UN speech to explain the importance of her landslide victory in the November 2021 elections and her efforts to reverse this social catastrophe:
I stand on this international platform in what for my country is an historic event, not only because I am the first woman to have the honor of leading our Central American nation, but also because I represent the first democratically elected government after our country went through 13 years of dictatorship.
The 2009 coup, which saw us mired in cruel murders and death squads, two fraudulent elections, a pandemic, and two hurricanes – it is impossible to understand the Hondurans and the huge caravans of migrants without recognizing this context of cruel suffering which we have been forced to endure.
However, electoral democracy is not enough to guarantee the material and spiritual well-being of our people. 13 years of dictatorship, overseen by the international community, led to the country multiplying its public debt by six times, and saw the country reach a 74% poverty rate, the highest ever seen in the history of Honduras.
Five of every 10 of my compatriots live in extreme poverty. However it is my firm belief that none of these figures will astound anyone in a world which today lives under a monetary dictatorship, which imposes on the poorest of people draconian measures of fiscal discipline, which increases the suffering of the left-behind majority, in which speculative capital has no limits.
The Honduran leader was especially critical of international institutions that did nothing as the US-backed coup regime stole numerous elections over 13 years.
“None of the observers of of the fraudulent elections of 2013 and 2017 were unaware of what they were dooming our people to. Instead, they showed themselves to be indifferent to the worst plague which has ever ravaged our country,” she said.
“The arrogance of capital and petty self-interest led many to choose deceit, while organized crime brought the country to the abyss,” she added.
Honduras is trapped in unpayable odious debt
At the UN, Castro emphasized how the US-backed coup regime had trapped her impoverished nation in debt.
Multipolarista previously reported on Castro’s inauguration speech on January 27, in which she blasted the coup regime that had “submerged” the state in debt, leaving it in “bankruptcy” and “economic catastrophe.”
At the time of the coup in 2009, Honduras had $2.48 billion in external debt. By the end of 2021, its external debt skyrocketed to $9.25 billion – a 373% increase.
Honduras’ internal debt also grew drastically, from roughly $810 million in 2009 to around $7.3 billion by the time Castro took power in January 2022.
With a GDP of just $23.8 billion, and more than $16.5 billion in debt, this means Honduras’ debt is 70% of its entire economy.
Castro denounced this odious debt as illegitimate and unpayable, noting it already consumes 50% of the government’s budget.
At the UN, Castro said wealthy countries in the Global North trap nations in the South in debt, extract wealth from them, and use it to live “lifestyles of excess.”
“The world’s industrialized nations are those responsible for the grave degradation of our environment, but they make us pay for their lifestyles of excess. And to do that, they spare no effort to embroil us in their plans, and in an endless crisis, to ensure that our hands and feet are tied,” she declared.
“Public policies endorsed by the rent-seeking model on the part of the international financial community over the last 13 years have pulled us into a world full of violence and poverty, with failed and abandoned projects, corruption, looting, and drug trafficking,” she added.
Castro emphasized that this extreme economic exploitation fueled rampant poverty and violence, which pushed many Hondurans to leave the country.
“Every caravan of migrants that fled the dictatorship that imposed itself for more than a decade is a painful loss for our country and for their families. The numbers show us that this exodus, caused by neoliberal injustice, creates more unemployment and traps us in an undesirable dependency,” she lamented.
Ambitious plans for the progressive ‘refoundation’ of Honduras
The Honduran president outlined her government’s ambitious goals to transform the country.
She said her administration is cracking down on tax evasion, strengthening the internal market, and using import substitution industrialization to develop the local economy.
Emphasizing the need for food sovereignty, Castro said Honduras is renegotiating free-trade agreements, while expanded social services and subsidizing energy bills for poor people.
She outlined her party’s revolutionary program:
In Honduras, my government has begun a process of refoundation and deep change, which is based on four fundamental pillars:
One, the revolutionary transformation of education, to elevate the human spirit and end with colonialism.
[Two], to build an alternative economic model which is deeply sovereign.
Three, to build a system whose very core is the exaltation of humanism, solidarity, integration with brotherly peoples, peace, and respect for human rights.
Four, the gradual de-privatization of public services, such as healthcare, drinking water, electrical energy, and the internet.
Castro warns of more coup plots
Although the 2009 Honduran coup was finally reversed in November 2021, Castro warned that capitalist oligarchs are once again plotting against her elected government.
“Conspiracies are being planned by the same sectors which looted the country and their pro-coup allies, emboldened by a shameless anti-democratic attitude, which sometimes disguises itself as diplomacy,” she cautioned.
Castro called on foreign powers to stop meddling in her country’s sovereign affairs.
“I’m using this platform to demand that you respect us. We want to live in peace. Stop trying to destabilize Honduras, and imposing your measures upon us, and choosing who we can have relations with. The people are sovereign,” she said.
These comments in particular seemed to be a reference to Washington’s new cold war on China.
Honduras is one of just 13 countries in the world that recognize Taiwan as an independent country. But before the November 2021 elections, Castro had pledged that, if she won, should would break off ties and instead recognize the People’s Republic of China.
Taiwan and its US sponsors have put heavy pressure on Honduras to maintain its formal diplomatic relations.
Castro condemned the arrogance of powerful imperialist countries in the Global North, that treat nations like Honduras as “third and fourth class.”
“What is unacceptable to us is this arbitrary world order in which there are third- and fourth-class countries, while at the same time those that think of themselves as civilized never tire of launching invasions, waging wars, engaging in financial speculation and crucifying us with their inflation, time and time again,” she said.
The Honduran leader added, “Every millimeter of the homeland that they pillaged in the name of the sacrosanct freedom of the market and other systems of privilege was tainted with the blood of Indigenous peoples.”