Posted 19 days ago
Although Anderson's reporting was really well done here, I have a broader concern with this style of writing. Focusing on a single concept, narco-trafficking in this context, and conflating the history of a nation and region down to only this dangerous. I'm not saying that Anderson believes the history of Honduras is a history of narco-trafficking, but I do think that this style of investigative reporting will cause people to create a story of a nation without knowing its other parts (good and bad).
To make my point clearer, Anderson essentially asks what was the initial cause of instability in Honduras:
The impetus was Daniel Ortega’s socialist regime in Nicaragua, which President Ronald Reagan described as a “mounting danger in Central America that threatens the security of the United States.” The U.S. opened a sprawling military base, called Palmerola, in Honduras, and poured money into the country’s Army. The C.I.A. also launched a covert program to destabilize Ortega, by organizing a group of rebels known as the Contras. Secret camps were set up along the border, and the Contras launched forays into Nicaragua, while their leaders took meetings with C.I.A. handlers in Tegucigalpa. When Congress uncovered the program and ordered it shut down, the White House circumvented the ban with a gimcrack scheme: American operatives sold arms to Iran and funnelled the proceeds to the Contra fighters in the Central American jungle.
What Anderson is trying to do is build a narrative for why narco-trafficking may have become such an influential part of the country's economy. As a reader, I certainly felt a single narrative that could explain it, but what we are missing is a larger cultural and economic history of Honduras. He mentions the United Fruit Company briefly, informing us of its monopolistic or "king making" power in the region, but fails to pursue this further.
Of course, a single investigative piece has to focus on something, but we also must realize that for many American readers, this is one of the few touchpoints that they may have with Honduran politics. It seems somewhat unfair to the country, its people, and politics, that we should focus on such a negative aspect in a point of growing political anxiety around immigration.
This is not to bash on Jon Lee Anderson (I really, really like and appreciate his writing - which this article is another great addition to), but more so directed towards The New Yorker for not also publishing, or at least linking, to broader histories of Honduras that may not focus so heavily on "narco-determinism." Something akin to Chile's Democratic Revolution should be published about Honduras to make sure we have a fair perspective on a country so tightly knit in our geopolitical region.