August 12, 2011

Federico Alvarez: I'm proud to be Honduran

Federico Alvarez, Honduras
Federico Álvarez
Photo: La Prensa, Honduras

Yesterday the Supreme Court of Honduras granted admission of Federico Álvarez's petition for recurso de amparo (appeal for legal protection?). Meanwhile Minister of Interior Áfrico (the Witch-Hunter*) Madrid's decree revoking Álvarez's naturalized citizenship is suspended. The case will be heard by the Constitutional Court.

To refresh your memory, in 2009 Sr. Álvarez was granted honorary citizenship for his services to the country of Honduras. He later applied for and was granted official naturalized citizenship by Madrid's predecessor in January 2010. He has lived in Honduras for more than 30 years. Álvarez is married to a Honduran and has raised his Honduran children and grandchildren here in Honduras. Over the years he has been decorated by two different presidents with two of Honduras' highest honors.

But Álvarez fell out of favor with the current Lobo government because of his critical opinion pieces in La Tribuna newspaper, and in fact was warned by mutual friends to "cool it" because he was making Pepe very angry. In a purely political motivated move of intimidation, his citizenship was quietly revoked in October 2010 and he only learned about it after Madrid gleefully announced the action on a Resistance radio program, not even giving Álvarez or his attorney the courtesy of an official notice or the opportunity to correct any alleged paperwork deficiencies before making the embarrassing public announcement and the not-so-veiled public threat that "Álvarez might be invited to leave the country in the next few days".

One of the supposed deficiencies was a missing police report from the "home" country. Given the fact that Sr. Álvarez originally came to Honduras as Costa Rican Ambassador in 1977 and has lived and worked in Honduras as a legal resident for more than three decades, common sense might tell you that a clean Honduran criminal report covering the past 34 years should suffice.

This whole embarrassing situation should be, but doesn't seem to be, a huge concern for this administration at a time when they are desperately trying to attract new business to Honduras through the 'Honduras is open for business' and Charter City campaigns. The best thing they could do is to admit their mistake and drop the issue with a public apology to Sr. Álvarez.

Unfortunately, this government seems to naively believe that savvy international businessmen are as uninformed and easily fooled by empty promises as the voters are. How would potential investors feel about the possibility of having their citizenship or residency revoked or being threatened with ousting from the country if they dare to express critical opinions? That's not a risk that most would be willing to take, I'm sure. Potential investors also need to know that, despite what is currently being said to the contrary, the wind blows in a different direction with each administration, and that laws are mere suggestions in Honduras.

Although freedom of speech and thought is a universal human right according to the United Nations, most of the foreign residents in Honduras that I know are already intimidated from speaking their opinions publicly (many have told me so) for fear of government interference in or retaliation to their businesses, NGO's, or charity groups. Most Honduran bloggers outside of the Resistance do not write about political matters. How many more citizens have thought twice before expressing an opposing opinion? Honduras needs more citizen participation, not less. And it could just be that those who haven't been blinded by a lifetime of being beaten down by corruption and government incompetence might have some views worth listening to.


"I wish that freedom of expression be limitless and for my administration to be censored whenever they disagree so that I can know my mistakes"
— José Trinidad Cabañas (1805-1871, twice president,
considered to be one of Honduras' greatest heroes)


* Africo Madrid is still at his witch hunting. That's not to say that these groups don't deserve to be shut down. Many of the them are merely con artists who defraud the poor and ignorant. But when I think about all the "legitimate" businesses who cheat their customers on a daily basis with untruthful statements, shoddy goods, and rotten food while strictly maintaining their no refund, no return policy, I can't help but wonder why he doesn't focus on issues that would protect and benefit more of the population.


Honduras attacks freedom of speech

Freedom of expression is a human right, not a Honduran right

Five more naturalized citizens to lose their status

I feel so much safer now

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