Battered by two hurricanes, Honduran villagers say relief aid has been politicized

  • June 1, 2021
Battered by two hurricanes, Honduran villagers say relief aid has been politicized

BY Sheyla Torres
JRN 217

children with Liberal Honduran flag
Children running with the Liberal flag while waiting for votes to be counted for the primary elections, on March 14, 2021, in Campo Bejuco, Honduras. (Photo by Sheyla Torres)

CAMPO BEJUCO, HONDURAS — People in Campo Bejuco, Honduras, have been lining up in front of container trucks, hoping that their names are on a piece of paper. If not, they are going home empty-handed. 

Honduras was hit by two hurricanes last November. Hurricanes Eta and Iota ripped through Central America, devastating Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Receiving aid has been especially hard because political parties are controlling who gets what and how much of it. 

 According to the Assessment Capacities Project,, a nonprofit organization that tracks humanitarian analysis around the world, the hurricanes affected 4.1 million people in Honduras. Honduras’s current population is about 10 million people. The organization also monitors the human costs of natural disasters and conflict. 

The storms wiped out homes, caused mudslides and flooded homes and businesses. An estimated 216,000 acres of Honduran crops were damaged. This could mean an irreversible loss to farmers and businesses in need of those crops. 

In Campo Bejuco, a village belonging to the department of Cortes, homes were flooded and crops were destroyed, yet aid has been hard to obtain. The country is far from recovering, and politicized aid is delaying the access to aid for Honduran citizens.  

Honduran citizens all across the country are counting on aid to survive and replace items they have lost during the storms.  

It has been months since the hurricanes, but some homes still have water damage outside and inside their homes. Some people have not been able to even paint over the water stains in their homes or replace the furniture they have lost. Piles of trash behind the public school are made up of the destroyed things from people’s homes,  everything that couldn’t be saved after the storms. The seasons have helped fix the effects of the floods.The extreme heat of the dry season helped dry the soil and lower the water level of the surrounding lake. 

The country’s political parties are treating aid relief as a way to secure votes. Many local political candidates ran on promises to help their communities recover from the damage of the hurricanes.

Honduras had its primary elections on March 14, but the groundwork to convince voters to vote for them started immediately after the hurricanes. 

Relief aid like beds, stoves, fans and food were donated to those who belonged to the Nationalist Party. At least that was the plan of the Nationalist Party. 

Although most of the distributions were handed out, some rations that have yet to be accounted for, and the Nationalist Party redistributed some to other areas. 

Local councilwoman Suyapa Muñoz blames the politicians for using aid to help themselves politically in a time of crisis. 

“The national party has been handing out aid left and right, but you got to vote for them,” Muñoz said. “And even if you do, you might not get anything.” 

People who are registered as Nationalists were supposed to be on a list of people who would receive aid to secure their votes in the upcoming elections. Only about one-third of the people in need in the village have received the aid, including those registered for certain political parties. 

Councilwoman Muñoz, who belongs to the Liberal Party, said that about $200 (5,000 Honduran lempiras) for each person should have been distributed to different groups of people. 

The groups include crop farmers, single mothers and the elderly. 

“Get rid of all the politics of it,”  Muñoz said. “Who cares who gives what when people lost everything?”

Whether the aid is private or public, people are displeased with the distribution and the organization of the aid. Back on March 14, primary election day, arguments broke out between political parties, with people asking where the money had gone. 

Accusations of theft among the distributors have fueled this discontent. Approximately 50 kits that were supposed to go to the people registered with the National Party never arrived. 

Genaro Torres, a long-life Nationalist, was among those who received no aid. One of his sons even helped organize campaigns for the party a few decades ago. 

Torres, who has been registered with the Nationalist Party for decades, said he didn’t receive a single provision kit. Some provision kits could be worth up to $82. (Disclosure: Genaro Torres is this reporter’s grandfather.)

The people on the party’s list have not received other public aid. Torres, who is a crop farmer and a member of the elders community (people in the community over 60 years old), said he has not received  the approximate $200 that the government is distributing. 

National Party officials say the aid system is fair. 

“Everything is done with the community’s best interest,” said Faustino Molina, coordinator of the National Party in Potrerillos, the city Campo Bejuco is a part of. 

 He said he wishes that all community leaders could work together to provide the best help possible. 

Almost all the candidates in March promised to help the community overcome the damage by the hurricanes, but with local elections over, incoming aid has stopped as well.

It is hard to tell when and if Campo Bejuco will be receiving more aid and whether politics will continue to  hinder who will receive it. 

“All they are doing is losing votes,” Torres said. “This village is not getting better anytime soon.”