Saturday, May 2, 2015

Trading Commodities for Chicken Progress

The United States Department of Agriculture, under its "Food for Progress" program, is donating agricultural products worth $17 million to the Honduran Ministry of Cattle and Agriculture (Secretaria de Agricultura y Ganadería, SAG in Spanish).

According to a USDA press release, SAG is supposed to sell these products (yellow corn and soybean meal) in commodities markets, then use the proceeds
to implement projects aimed at improving agricultural productivity, enhancing farmers' access to information and market skills, building government capacity, and strengthening local, regional and international trade in agricultural products. 

The USDA press release later adds:
The projects supported by this new agreement will focus on the creation of jobs and income opportunities for some of Honduras' most vulnerable citizens. The beneficiaries will include small farmers, as well as small businesses and producer organizations, particularly those that support rural women and youth. 

John Donaghy's blog post triggered our interest in this story. He wondered who in Honduras would be buying these agricultural products, which are not used in local cooking practices, and asked
Why doesn’t the US just sell the food and give the money to Honduras? will this yellow corn sale really help hungry Hondurans? 

Donaghy relayed remarks made in response to his question by a skeptic who doubted these commodity donations would be particularly beneficial for the Honduran poor, but more likely would benefit agribusiness interests. Donaghy responded:
I think you are probably right. Yellow corn and soybean meal are cattle feed. But who owns most of the cattle here in Honduras and may buy the feed? A few rich large land owners who use their land for cattle grazing - which not only takes away some of the best flat land but also is environmentally poor in its misuse of hills. Again, the poor suffer.

We had a similar reaction when we read the story; "improving agricultural productivity, enhancing farmers' access to information and market skills, building government capacity, and strengthening local, regional and international trade in agricultural products" all seems to us to be about Honduran agribusiness interests; how do we get from there to helping the "most vulnerable citizens... rural women and youth"?

Part of the problem in addressing this question is that we have very little real information about what programs will be supported by this new agreement.

There is no real reporting from Honduras; news media simply seem to be reprinting the press release in Spanish. El Tiempo provides a hint of what the substance of the Honduran proposal might be:
the USDA will use the earnings produced through the sales of yellow maize and soy meal in the nation of North America over 42 months for the execution of projects in 8 departments of the national [Honduran] territory.  
 An article in El Economista instead says that the agreement
intends for Honduras to obtain income through the resale of these products in order to finance a project of improvements in agricultural productivity and access by agriculturalists to the market.

Who's right? And how exactly could this new agreement help "vulnerable" (poor) Hondurans?

Under the "Food For Progress" program, the USDA maintains a list of "priority" countries and solicits proposals from governments and NGOs.  Honduras has not received support under this program since 2012. We only have the USDA press release and program website to judge what the Honduran Government might have proposed to do this time.

The "Food For Progress"  website says
Food for Progress has two principal objectives: to improve agricultural productivity and to expand trade of agricultural products

and describes having supported projects around the world that
have trained farmers in animal and plant health, improved farming methods, developed road and utility systems, established producer cooperatives, provided microcredit, and developed agricultural value chains.

The website also provides a link to the legal regulations that govern the program. These make it clear that the US donates commodities (so Tiempo got it wrong when it said the USDA will be selling commodities for the benefit of Honduras).

The foreign party to an agreement in the program can either directly use the US commodities offered, or resell them and use the proceeds for specific projects. That seems to be what the Honduran agreement is about: to sell commodities donated by the US.

While we still have no idea where the detail came from, the coverage by Tiempo could be right in saying that eight departments of Honduras will see specific projects implemented using the proceeds from sales of commodities. The program regulations provide an outline of what is needed in a proposal, so we know Honduras had to provide specific information including:
the targeted geographic area, anticipated beneficiaries, and methods that the applicant would use to choose such beneficiaries, including obtaining and considering statistics on poverty levels, food deficits, and any other required items...

Previous projects supported in Honduras are listed in the "Food for Progress" website. They might help us understand USDA's specific goals in its donations for Honduras.

In addition to the Honduran government (about whose past projects we have found only generalities), previous participants have included CARE, Finca, and TechnoServe. That gives us an opportunity to see what kinds of projects Food for Progress has supported under other agreements.

Finca's Honduras projects are in microfinance, including agricultural loans. A study of Finca's loans to Honduran rural women reported mixed results: women were able to improve food security, but not to significantly change their economic condition due to what the author identified as an "entrenched socioeconomic hierarchy".

CARE also is involved in microfinance in Honduras. Its website links to a report on Honduras and Guatemala that describes efforts to encourage small holder farmers to produce high value cash crops for export (in this case, papayas). Decades-long research on the effects of conversion to high value export crops in Honduras, from anthropologists such as Susan Stonich, stresses the environmental and social costs that follow.

It is with TechnoServe, the third NGO with past projects in Honduras funded through Food for Progress, that it becomes clearest that the goal of the USDA in Honduras, overall, is to integrate people who would have been subsistence farmers into production for international commodity markets.

TechnoServe describes its goals as supporting agribusiness development and entrepreneurial enterprises. Its website highlight efforts to increase Honduran producers' participation in coffee and cacao production, and features positive coverage of palm oil production in Honduras. All three of these agricultural commodities are the focus of critical academic studies that raise question about integration in international markets.

The route from the Food for Progress program's objectives to the stated outcome of improving life for the "most vulnerable" in Honduras requires a belief in the transformative potential for the rural poor of becoming part of international markets. As anthropologists, we think past history suggests skepticism is in order.

That leaves us with one last question, the one we started with: who benefits from the sale of the commodities donated by USDA?

The "Food for Progress" website says commodities donated by the USDA are to be "sold on the local market".

And indeed, the USDA website describes Honduras as a growing market for agricultural exports purchased from the US:
Honduras is among the fastest-growing markets in the Central American region, accounting for $613.4 million in U.S. agricultural exports in FY 2014. Top U.S. exports include corn, wheat, and soybean meal.

Corn and soy meal, the commodities donated by the USDA under the Food for Progress program, are important primarily for agribusiness, as John Donaghy's blog post inferred. But the beneficiaries are not so much cattle as chickens.

A 2003 FAO study noted growing imports of yellow maize in Honduras to be used for burgeoning chicken feedlots that took chicken from an expensive luxury to a staple for those residents of Honduran cities with sufficient cash income. A 2005 report on food security from the UN World Food Programme stated that yellow maize was imported primarily for feed concentrates for chicken and pigs. Soy cake was mentioned as poultry feed in the 2003 report. A US soy industry website reported on advising about use of soy meal in poultry and livestock feed in Honduras in 2014.

So we can probably assume the commodities provided by the USDA will be sold in Honduras to animal feedlots. Chickens, the main focus, are consumed in Honduras, but chicken is also exported, with a sharp rise starting around 2005. In 2014, it was reported that Honduran chicken was nearing approval for export to the US.

And that concludes the great circle of using US agricultural surplus to encourage Hondurans to produce agricultural products to be sold to external markets-- including the US.

Honduran farmers benefit, in theory, by being more firmly embedded in a world agricultural economy. Whether you think this will be effective in alleviating poverty probably depends on how you understand the complicated web of environmental, social, and economic forces involved.

Our skepticism comes from the history of Honduras' "entrenched socioeconomic hierarchy" maintaining and deepening inequality, leaving producers with the risks that come with environmental degradation, vulnerability of monocrops to plagues, and shifts in world prices, while letting those who control the means of export minimize their risk by setting prices to purchase from producers based on world markets, leaving people who could fulfill at least some of their subsistence needs by farming dependent on internal markets subject to shortages and price manipulation.

But if all goes well with the commodities sales, at least Honduras might have more chicken. The poultry producers argue this will improve nutrition and food security. At least for those who can afford to buy it...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Re-Election a Done Deal

Former Presidents may now seek re-election in Honduras.

That is the effect of the Constitutional Branch decision having been published at 5 pm on Friday in La Gaceta, the official publication of the Honduran government.

How the publication of this decision happened is informative: someone fast-tracked the process.

As we previously noted, last Wednesday afternoon the Constitutional Branch debated and passed a resolution unanimously declaring that the portions of the Honduran constitution and penal code that prohibit re-election of Presidents were unconstitutional. All 5 justices signed that decision, which was then leaked to the press by someone employed by the court, an "official" leak. 

Overnight between Wednesday and Thursday the political clamor on both sides of the issue was intense.

Officially, only the National Party is in support of the decision, and it was a National Party ex-president and National Party Congressmen that had challenged the constitutional provision.

This fact becomes important when you realize that the Supreme Court, as constituted, was also selected while the National Party controlled the government, and that the Constitutional Branch contains current president Juan Orlando Hernández's hand picked candidates.  While president of Congress and campaigning for President, Hernández carried out a political purge of dubious legality, removing four of the five justices in the Constitutional Branch, replacing them with his own choices.  He has since replaced that fifth justice, promoting him to the position of Public Prosecutor.

The three other major parties-- the Liberal Party, Libre, and PAC-- have all come out against re-election.  After all, the post-hoc justification offered for the 2009 coup was that somehow through the opinion survey of the Cuarta Urna, Manuel Zelaya Rosales would be able to be re-elected.

Since joining Congress as a Libre Party member, Zelaya Rosales himself has come out against presidential re-election, as has the leader of PAC, Salvador Nasralla.

Thursday morning at 8 am, Justice Lizardo of the Constitutional Branch tried to rescind his signature on the decision.  Such an act, if upheld, would have made the decision not unanimous and would have forced the entire 15 justices of the court to hear the case and issue an opinion.  Lizardo based his recanting on the precarious legal theory that because the Constitutional Branch had not notified the legal representatives of the parties of a decision, he had room to act. This was where matters stood when we last blogged about this.

However, the Secretary of the Constitutional Branch chose to ignore Lizardo's letter notifying him of the change, and went ahead to disseminate the decision to the legal parties.

He also forwarded the decision to the Secretary of Congress, who then quickly forwarded it to ENAG, the government division that prints La Gaceta. Publishing congressional and executive decrees in La Gaceta is what puts them into effect.

The Honduran Congress and Supreme Court have a long-standing dispute about when judicial decisions are effective, with those opposed to some Supreme Court decisions refusing to publish them, to try to ignore them. The Honduran Congress has historically tried to assert control over the constitutional effects of Supreme Court decisions, normally reviews and can even publicly discuss decisions before deciding to forward them to ENAG for publication. No such review was allowed to happen this time, a decision taken by the National Party leaders of Congress.

Everyone agrees that once a judicial decision is published in La Gaceta it is in effect. Normally the publication process takes weeks. ENAG normally publishes things in the order they are received, and it usually has a large backlog of things to publish, so that bills can take a month or more to be published.

Yesterday at 5 pm this decision was officially published in La Gaceta. Someone clearly rushed this one into print.

The upshot: on Thursday Rafael Callejas, who brought the case, convened his campaign to regain the Presidency which he held as a National Party member from 1990 to 1994.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Being An Environmentalist Can Kill You

Global Witness, an NGO that exposes corruption and environmental abuse, released a report this week that called Honduras the most dangerous country to be an environmentalist. 

The numbers are heartbreaking.

Global Witness looked at the period 2002 - 2014 to accumulate statistics on the death of environmental activists around the world.  Brazil had the highest number of deaths, at 477, while Honduras had 111. Almost all of those deaths happened since 2010.  If you look at the rate of death of environmentalists over the last 5 years, it turns out Honduras leads, with 101 deaths.

Here's how the numbers work. 

From 2002 to 2009, Honduras had 0, 1, 2, or 3 deaths per year of environmentalists.  Starting with 2010, those numbers skyrocketed:  21 deaths in 2010, 33 deaths in 2011, 25 deaths in 2012, 10 deaths in 2013, and 12 deaths in 2014.  90% of the Honduran environmentalist deaths occurred in the last 5 years!

Global Witness found that mining and other extractive industries caused the largest number of deaths in 2014, with a tie for the second spot between Water and Dams, and Agribusiness.  These three accounted for 84% of the environmentalist deaths in 2014.

This violence has come down particularly hard on indigenous environmentalists.  Three Tolupan leaders were shot and killed during an anti-mining protest in 2014. 

The Global Witness report came out the same day that another Honduran indigenous environmentalist, Berta Cáceres, won the Goldman Prize:
The Goldman Environmental Prize honors grassroots environmental heroes from the world’s six inhabited continental regions....The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.
Cáceres was honored for her grassroots organizing of opposition to the Agua Zarca dam project.  Agua Zarca was a joint project of the Honduran company Desarrollos Energeticos S. A. (DESA) and SinoHydro, the Chinese government owned company recognized as the largest dam builder in the world.  DESA received a $24 million loan from the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Economico for the project. 

As the Goldman page for Cáceres notes, the project was promoted and approved in a corrupt and fraudulent fashion, failing to do the required consultation with the local Lenca communities that lived within the region slated for the reservoir, a violation of ILO 169 and other treaties to which Honduras is a signatory.

DESA was founded in 2008 and claims to be a Honduran pro-environment company:
DESA has always been concerned for the protection of the environment and because of this all its business practices and maintenance follow strict guidelines to be in harmony with nature.
Nature maybe, but not in harmony with the Honduran people, who they seems to despise. 
 DESA guards killed Tomas Garcia while he was protesting against the dam.  They attacked protesters with guns, clubs, and machetes over and over again during the protest, with impunity for all the wounds and the death inflicted.

DESA doesn't list its ownership or any company officers. DESA was able to employ and command Honduran military troops in the protection of of the dam site and equipment. DESA also arranged for trumped up arms charges to be filed against Berta Caceres, to try and jail her to stop the protests.

Ultimately they've failed.  SinoHydro has left Honduras and the dam project is halted.

And Berta Caceres has been honored with the Goldman Prize, which we can hope will help protect her from the fate of too many other Honduran environmental activists.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Presidential Re-Election?!

Yesterday afternoon, the Honduran Supreme Court's Constitutional branch, consisting of 5 justices, reported that they had reached a unanimous decision invalidating part of Article 239 of the Honduran constitution.  Such a decision would effectively permit Presidential re-election.  This morning at 8:34 am, Justice Lizardo of that branch rescinded his signature and vote of approval for the decision.  That should make the ruling invalid, and because the decision is no longer unanimous, throw the case to the full 15 Justices for a decision.

The decision, announced yesterday and scheduled to be released today, was in a court case brought by former president Rafael Callejas and several National Party Congressmen, who sought to invalidate part of Article 239 of the Honduran constitution.  Longtime readers will remember that Article 239 was used, after the fact, to justify the coup against President Manuel Zelaya Rosales in 2009.  Roberto Micheletti Bain claimed that the Cuarta Urna vote was to enable Zelaya Rosales to run again for President.

This morning, in a letter addressed to the Secretary of the Constitutional branch of the Supreme Court, Carlos Almedaren, Justice José Elmer Lizardo Carranza rescinded his vote of approval:
"By this letter I make known to you that I rescind my signature on the accumulated case 1343-2014 and 243-2015....Because there's been no official notification of the plaintiff's lawyers by the secretary at this hour, 8:40 AM, this makes the decision not final"

So, while it was announced that Presidential re-election was about to be come legal through a Supreme Court decision, the future is a bit more murky now.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rolling Up the Valle Valle Narco-network in Guatemala

Agents of the Guatemalan Government and the US Drug Enforcement Agency arrested Rubén Arita Rivera, alleged to be part of a narco-network in Guatemala that articulated with the Valle Valle family network in Honduras.

Arita Rivera was arrested in the small community of Chamagua, near San Jose Zacapa, in Guatemala.  This is a prime location for transshipment of drugs from Honduras, through Guatemala, to El Salvador, one of the known routes of the Cartel del Pacifico (formerly the Sinaloa Cartel), allegedly managed by the Lorenzano family in Guatemala. 

It's an ideal location to intercept drug shipments going through the Honduras - Guatemala border from blind crossings at La Florida (where the Valle Valle family ranch was located) and El Paraiso, as well as shipments going through the border crossings of Copan Ruinas and Ocotepeque.  From there the drugs could be shipped northward to Mexico, or southwesterly into El Salvador.

But Arita Rivera isn't accused of running drugs, just being a money courier. Guatemala began investigating Arita Rivera in 2014 when they captured one of his couriers, Flavio Dimas Rojas, transporting a large sum of currency supposedly belonging to Arita Rivera. Guatemala alleges that Arita Rivera regularly ran drug money from Chiquimula in eastern Guatemala to Huehuetenango, along the border near Comitan, Mexico.

Arita Rivera has a US drug running conviction.  In March, 2008, he accepted delivery of a package in Spring Valley, NY that contained more than 500 grams (slightly over a pound) of cocaine.  He was charged with conspiracy with unnamed others to violate the US narcotics laws, and with possession with intent to distribute the cocaine.  On January 12, 2009 he was sentenced to be imprisoned for 37 months and fined $100.00 (US 7:08-cr-00571-SCR).  He was to serve 3 years probation after he served his sentence, and if he left the country or was deported, was not to re-enter the US without permission of the US Attorney.  If he had remained in the US he would just be completing his probation this coming June.

Instead, today he was arrested in Guatemala with the participation of the US DEA.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Why Claims that Lost Cities exist in Abandoned Land are Dangerous for Indigenous Hondurans

The hype about the supposed "discovery" of Ciudad Blanca in eastern Honduras is dying down in English-language media.

A little good came out of this incident: a number of Honduran academics registered their skepticism about the claims. Honduran university students in the young Anthropology major held a public event to educate Hondurans about the reality of archaeology of Eastern Honduras. And a letter taking the National Geographic to task for publishing a sensationalized account, signed by an international group of archaeologists, got enough attention to warrant corrective reporting in some mainstream media.

Predictably there has been push back: don't be such kill-joys, isn't Indiana Jones the spirit of archaeology? and isn't this just another example of politically correctness?

The PC criticism suggests that scholars questioning the promotional stories' claims that the area was uninhabited because this ignores the indigenous people whose own oral histories are our best historical indication that eastern Honduras was once densely settled with larger towns cannot possibly actually be motivated by real people's real situations. It is just an attitude scholars adopted to look good.

Now, a new blog post by Chris Begley, an archaeologist who has one of the most extensive records of archaeological investigation in this area, addresses this question directly, and personally. We would love to reproduce his whole blog post, which you can find here; but short of that, pay attention to what he says:

The language used evokes a time where foreign explorers emphasized their superiority at the expense of local knowledge...there is a much more human and immediate cost, borne primarily by the most marginalized, least powerful folks in the region: indigenous people like the Pech who are descendants of those who built these sites.

I know this is not a ‘lost civilization’ because I am an archaeologist, and I’ve worked in this ‘unknown’ area for almost 25 years. I lived and worked with the Pech almost exclusively, because I thought it was the right thing to do, and because they know the region better than anyone. They have at least a thousand years of history there.

For the Pech, the past is absolutely essential to their future. Their history is not merely an interesting pastime; it creates and supports the present. They are curious about the archaeology. I’ve talked to impromptu community meetings, looked at artifacts they collected, and listened to their interpretations. I saw them make modern pottery look like the ancient pieces we find at archaeological sites, in a deliberate attempt to connect the past and the present.

I lived with the Pech at various times over the last two decades. We lived in small villages with no electricity or water. We spent all day, every day, together. We sat and talked every night. We played cards. We took trips through the forest for two or three weeks at a time, mapping archaeological sites along the way. All told, the Pech and I documented around 150 archaeological sites.

The Pech already knew where every large site was located. Every single one. They knew where fruit trees grew, or where the good fishing holes were. They could find the little trails that I could hardly see. Sometimes we followed an old trail by looking for grown over machete cuts on branches. They knew the forest like I know my hometown.

The Pech lived in these now remote places as recently as 150 years ago, and they return to hunt and fish, or to harvest sweetgum. They’ve lost traditional lands to encroaching farmers and cattle ranchers. They’ve been moved around, and now live mainly on the edge of the rain forest, in a handful of communities....

They showed me archaeological sites. They showed me features such as which hillsides had been reshaped by people, because they could tell and I couldn’t. They explained what they thought it meant. They critiqued my interpretations.

The Pech did all this while facing serious threats to their continued existence. They fought to keep what traditional land they still had, and to keep their language alive. They buried people killed by outsiders who wanted to bully them off their land. I hated those funerals, where those animated faces I knew were rigid. I hated seeing that. Sometimes I didn’t go.

So, what is the harm in this hype and sensationalism? What difference does it make if, in their ignorance, these ‘explorers’ proclaim that they discovered something nobody has seen in 600 years?  What is the cost of these newcomers, with no real experience in this forest, claiming, disingenuously, to have discovered a ‘lost civilization?’ Why am I moved to spend a few hours writing something like this?

I write this because these false claims, hype and sensationalism invade one of the few remaining spaces in which the Pech, and folks like them, are powerful. These claims strip the Pech of their own history, and deny them the respect they deserve and the acknowledgement for their contribution to our understanding of the past. These sensational narratives, powerful because they are made by powerful people, further marginalize and disenfranchise people. In ignorance and bravado, and in pursuit of the unworthy goal of celebrity and attention, these faux discoverers make it hard to hear a crucial voice from some real experts.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Honduran Archaeologists Criticize US Claim of Archaeological "Discovery"

The US team that has been promoting the idea that eastern Honduras is an impenetrable jungle where no archaeologist has gone before has released a new report, based on arriving at one of the sites LiDAR imagery showed.

Unfortunately, they continue to promote the idea that there was no previous research in the area; they use outdated and long-rejected ideas of "discovery" (ignoring indigenous people who contemporary archaeologists would acknowledge have their own knowledge of the landscape and what lies there), "lost cities", and new "civilizations" supposedly previously unknown.

The continued insistence on the narrative of discovery is especially egregious since the group has been told, repeatedly, about the modern work in the area, and has neglected to even contact the very much available expert in the region. It is almost the 100 year anniversary of the work of the first modern archaeologist who identified archaeological traditions typical of eastern Honduras, Samuel Lothrop.

This may be a newly identified site, but with over 200 sites, including large sites with stone architecture and ballcourts documented in the existing archaeological literature, that cannot be verified without engagement with the broader, knowledgeable archaeological community.

And that is precisely what Honduran archaeologists also had to say about the report in an article just published in La Prensa. These are all people fluent in English and Spanish, so a less lazy US news organization might talk to them directly; meanwhile, let's make sure their voices are heard, shall we?

Ciudad Blanca is a myth for Honduran archaeologists

The publication by National Geographic that Ciudad Blanca has been discovered in the Honduran rainforest wakened unease and incredulity in experts in the country.
Since decades ago, scientific expeditions have explored the legend of the lost city in the Mosquitia, discovering that it is a region rich in archaeological building remains, and according to archaeologists that is what the new reporting by the magazine is showing....
It isn't a discovery...
Ricardo Agurcia, noted Honduran archaeologist, questions the possible discovery that would rise to a world-wide level because the investigation team that was formed, he says, is not well known, and nor does he know the institutions that participated and if there are Honduran experts involved. "What I have been able to see has very little scientific merit. What I find strange as well is that news of this type comes out first published outside Honduras".
He notes that what the magazine shows doesn't have the features of the legend mentioned, and it is not unknown that there are many archaeological settlements in the Mosquitia. "What they encountered is a city? A city is archaeologically defined as a site of human occupation with a population larger than 10,000 inhabitants."
"This is verified with field archaeology and registering of houses. Is it white? I don't see it that way in any of the photos."
 "In the legend of the White City (Ciudad Blanca) that I know there should be a monkey statue made of gold. If this is Ciudad Blanca, where is that monkey? I see a lot of tinges of adventure, of Hollywood fils, as it it were from an Indiana Jones movie. That is not science" pointed out Agurcia.
 The Honduran archaeologist Eva Martinez agrees with Agurcia that this does not constitute a discovery and that Ciudad Blanca continues to be a myth.
"The Honduran Mosquitia has been studied by archaeologists for decades. The place that the National Geographic mentions could be one of the sites already recorded in the National Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH)."
The faculty member in the Anthropology major of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras says that the international publication lacks credibility.
"Any archaeological site in the Mosquitia could be given that name. Ciudad Blanca is a myth, a legend. The publication is not an academic investigation and it gives us a mistaken idea of the work of archaeology" she affirmed.
Martinez recommended that the Government should follow the legal and normal process of the IHAH and solicit a proposal for archaeological investigation, since the goal of the fieldwork that [the US institution involved] has, or if this is a preliminary step, is unknown. Before spreading news of a supposed discovery she thinks that the government ought to shield the Mosquitia from the looting of archaeological objects, which has already been happening and could grow.

 Who are these Honduran skeptics? Eva Martinez was the former head of the division of the Institute of Anthropology that is supposed to be responsible for vetting new projects in order to ensure that Honduras' cultural patrimony is properly managed. Ricardo Agurcia is a former Director of the Institute.

Theirs are not the only Honduran archaeologist's voices being raised in protest of the misrepresentation both of the level of knowledge that already exists of their country's archaeological resources, and of the way that Honduran anthropological archaeology-- a discipline that only recently became a university-level major at the National University-- is being ignored. What they have to say is echoed by many others, nationally and internationally.

We have long known there were large cities in the eastern Honduran rainforest. We have long known that there were traditions of sculpture, closely related to those of Nicaragua and Costa Rica and therefore NOT "Mesoamerican" (contrary to what one US archaeologist quoted by La Prensa said). We have even known for decades that many of the larger sites in the Mosquitia include ballcourts-- which was a real discovery, when it was made in the 1990s by Chris Begley as part of his University of Chicago doctoral research, undertaken with the proper approval and support from Honduran archaeologists.

I was challenged for calling the current project "pseudoscience". It may not be pseudoscience as we normally think of it (aliens built the site! it represents the lost civilization of Atlantis! Lucifer fell to earth here!).

But it isn't science either. Science rests on the assumption that each new investigator acknowledges what previous researchers have done, engages with it, and contributes to a growing body of knowledge. In contemporary anthropological archaeology, that process has led us to reject notions of "lost civilizations" and mysterious cities as hype-- what I called the way this team promoted itself in 2012, and still a valid label today. And that process has made it indispensable to leave behind the colonial legacy of archaeology, to acknowledge the contributions of archaeologists from other countries and the knowledge of local people, including but not just limited to those who might be descendants of the indigenous people whose histories we are tracing.

This ain't science, so give me a better work than pseudoscience: adventurism?

see the complete article in Spanish here