Distinguished President of this General Assembly, distinguished Secretary General of the United Nations, distinguished heads of state, representatives and delegates present here, and citizens of the world:
I stand before this global rostrum in what for my country is a 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 moved through 13 years of dictatorship, the 2009 coup that saw us mired in cruel killings and death squadrons, two fraudulent elections, a pandemic, and two hurricanes. It is impossible to understand the Honduran people – men, women 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 wellbeing of our people. Thirteen years of dictatorship, overseen by the international community, led to a sixfold increase in public debt, and saw the country reach a 74% poverty rate, the highest ever in the history of Honduras. Five out of ten of my compatriots live in abject poverty. However, it is my firm belief that none of these figures will astound anyone in a world that lives under monetary dictatorship — a monetary dictatorship which imposes draconian measures of fiscal discipline on the poorest among us, a monetary dictatorship which increases the suffering of the majority left behind, and a monetary dictatorship in which speculative capital knows no limits.
It is patently clear that today, for our country to survive, we must reject this so-called austerity, which favors the concentration of wealth in a few hands and favors those who increase inequality exponentially. Since we entered office at the end of January, we have demonstrated an iron will to find consensus. We have always expressed a resolute desire to achieve agreements, which means that we can act on our commitments. We have remained clear that we will not go back on any of our agreements.
However, efforts to undermine the people's will are coming at us from all sides. At the same time, we see conspiracies being fostered in the same sectors which looted the country alongside their pro-coup allies. These sectors are emboldened by a flagrant antidemocracy attitude, which sometimes comes disguised as diplomacy. 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; a world where projects fail and are abandoned; a world of corruption, looting and drug trafficking. No one among the international witnesses of the fraudulent elections of 2013 and 2017 were ignorant of the fate to which they were dooming our peoples.
And, yet, they proved themselves to be indifferent to the worst plague which has ever beset our country. Capitalist hubris and petty self-interest led many to opt for deceit. At the same time, organized crime brought the country to the brink of an abyss. The poor nations of the world will no longer tolerate coups. They will no longer tolerate the use of lawfare, nor color revolutions that are regularly organized to plunder our extensive natural resources. The world’s industrialized nations are responsible for the grave degradation of our environment. However, they make us pay for their lifestyles of excess. And to do that, they spare no effort to ensnare us in their plans and in endless crises, doing what they can to ensure that our hands and feet are tied.
The Honduras that I lead is being rebuilt on the premise of a humanist foundation, imbued with dignity and sovereignty, which will do what is legally necessary to recover our environment and achieve the common good for our entire population. As such, we cannot accept 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 staging invasions, waging wars, engaging in financial speculation, and crucifying us with their inflation, time and time again.
I am taking this rostrum to demand that we be respected. We wish to live in peace. Stop trying to destabilize Honduras. Stop trying to impose your policies upon us or choosing with whom we can have relations. The people are sovereign and they demonstrated this on the 28 November when they supported my victory — a victory that was the biggest in my country's history. On September 15, our Independence Day, the resistance that fought against the dictatorship imposed during these 13 years accompanied me en masse in the streets, warding off public threats and the harmful practice of continuing to hand over our national assets to the highest bidder, as if we were unclaimed land.
Never again will we bear the stereotype of a Banana Republic. We will put an end to monopolies and oligopolies which do nothing more than impoverish our economies. The generous people, who have paid with blood to defend forests and rivers, will not forget the hundreds of young people who were murdered during the dictatorship, including our comrade Berta Cáceres. They will not forget the forced disappearance of Hondurans — disappeared simply for their way of thinking. And they will not forget any of the five Garifuna comrades who were forcefully disappeared two years ago.
Every millimeter of the homeland that they pillaged on behalf of the sacrosanct freedom of the market, ZEDEs (Zone for Employment and Economic Development), and other systems of the privileged, was drenched in the blood of Indigenous peoples. My social and democratic government will return to a state of justice and rule of law so that this never happens again.
We are working hard to prioritize economic stimuli and to eliminate the abuse of fiscal systems. We have already begun by promoting a law which declares energy a public good. We have returned rights to workers, and we have supported our internal market by investing in agriculture to ensure food security. We have provided subsidies to our poorest citizens who will no longer pay for electricity.
We have set about renegotiating free trade treaties. We have taken the sovereign decision to invest in our development through import substitution, but at the same time we are competing in international markets without subsidizing the excesses of developed nations.
For women, who for centuries have been denied the right to be included in development, we will recognize the important role they play as the very backbone of society. We will provide healthcare, quality education, security, and food sovereignty to our children and our young people.
For Honduras, every caravan of migrants that flees the dictatorship, as we saw for more than a decade, is a severe loss for our country and for their families. Figures suggest that this exodus provoked by neoliberal injustice generates more unemployment and ties us to an undesirable dependency.
Paradoxically, in our country, migrants create more foreign currency income than many of our traditional exports. We express our solidarity and support with the diaspora (tepecianos, or migrants registered with Temporary Protected Status in the US).
In Honduras, we cannot continue to support the hypocrisy of a system which tries people for crimes linked to drug trafficking, and yet for more than a decade, supported the commitment of those very crimes, supported electoral fraud, and supported crimes against the homeland affecting millions of Hondurans. To lay waste to it once and for all, we are going to establish an international commission to fight corruption and impunity with the support of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Honduras will only have a future if it takes firm steps to dismantle the neoliberal economic dictatorship. That is why we have already begun our national refoundation and the establishment of an education system based on the ideals and values of our national hero, Francisco Morazán Quezada.
In Honduras, my government has begun a process of profound change based on four fundamental pillars:
Today, war is once again punishing the poorest of our world. Today, those of us that are invaded countries, call for the return to the respect for the principle of the self-determination of peoples.
We reject the cruel, heinous blockade erected against the sister Republic of Cuba and its people. It is time to seriously discuss the multipolar nature of our world. President Barack Obama took the first steps towards putting an end to this outrageous blockade. The President of the Republic of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, stated that the aggression against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela must now end once and for all.
Peoples of the world, as our comrade Berta Cáceres said: "Wake up, world, we still have time." Thank you.
Xiomara Castro, the President of Honduras, delivered this speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2022. The transcript was translated and lightly edited for readability.
Photo: United Nations