The restless morning of the Nobel
40 years ago, on October 21, 1982, Gabriel García Márquez woke up being the Nobel Prize for Literature. Leaving his house that day, he had to face a crowd of journalists eager to record, write and reproduce the first words of the new paladin of letters. One can only imagine the surprise that more than one reporter must have felt when García Márquez —instead of talking about himself, Colombia, or the Nobel Prize— spoke about Nicaragua and Honduras: «On October 21, when the journalists took me out of the bed at six in the morning in my house in Mexico, I had a subject on the tip of my tongue: the imminent invasion of Nicaragua from the territory of Honduras». The quote is from the note “Central America, now yes?”, published on April 20, 1983, a year after the Nobel.
Instantly he was accused of talking nonsense, taking advantage, they said, of the Nobel barrage, which would be giving dimension to his well-known defense of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua. What those who contradicted him forgot was that, before that morning, García Márquez was already considered the uncrowned king of world literature; and very left-wing, yes, but endowed with a supernatural charm that made him have contacts in any country, whether it was right-wing, left-wing, small or giant. And it is that the information that had reached him was not from Nicaragua, but from the United States; precisely, from the US Secretary of State, George Shultz, whom García Márquez describes as “a person more concerned than I am about the imminence of that aggression.”
According to the Colombian, Shultz had come across the plan for this invasion when he assumed his post; a plan that had been designed down to the smallest detail by his predecessor, General Alexander Haig, and that he had already left in the hands of the CIA, and for which little or nothing could be done by Shultz other than to leak the information to one of the most famous reporters on the continent so that he, with that power or fucking words, managed to stop a possible invasion of Honduras to Nicaragua in the context of the Sandinista Revolution.
Just hours after the complaint, the eldest son of Aracataca would discover that being a Nobel Prize winner was not just for avoiding lines, as he himself told his friends when they asked him what the hell changed his life after that October 1982. No. Also being a Nobel Prize winner, it seems, served to prevent an invasion between two brother countries, since, as a result of his complaint with the journalists crowded in front of his house, that same day Newsweek and the New York Times published the happy plan “Even in its most insignificant details, and even with full-color photographs of the preparations that were being made in the territory of Honduras.”
Honduras, after being portrayed, had to calm its fire.
Victims or victimizers?
Many years later, three pilots from the Honduran Air Force recalled that early morning when they were taken to a room, without being seen or able to speak to anyone, and where they were instructed (the famous briefing) on the details of that mission.
Memory betrays, it makes the stories always more turbulent —perhaps better—; but what they remembered, more than thirty-five years after it happened, was that the plan existed and that it was within hours of being carried out. They were kept for more than eight hours in that room, without being able to leave, without being able to call anyone, without being able to do anything against themselves. It is not going to be that they were going to tell something. Or, worse, regret it. And so they lived those eternal hours, suffering in their heads, over and over again, that bloody volley of bombs rehearsed on a white board in that non-place in which they were locked up. “It was a town we used to go to,” one said, “it wasn’t the capital. A town where many of the Sandinistas were hiding. If it had been done, nothing would be safe from that town. “We were carrying too many bombs, and at that time Honduras had the best Air Force between Mexico and Colombia,” said another. The one who thought about it the most confessed, saying: “I didn’t want to. But orders are orders. It bothered me that we had been trained to defend the country, not to attack others.”
What they said reflects much of what happens to us: the problem in Honduras is that we are victims of victims. It was also Gabriel García Márquez who lamented that Honduras was used by the United States as a base for its covert interventions throughout Central America: “It should be remembered that this sad role of mainland aircraft carrier has been imposed on Honduras on other occasions of unpleasant recollection». In another book, Honduras is called “USS Honduras”, alluding to how Yankee aircraft carriers and warships are usually called. However, the most accurate and unfortunate of all is the way in which –it is said– high-ranking US generals call us in the corridors of the Pentagon: «Our central american whore» (our Central American whore).
On December 22, 2018, three days before Christmas, Roberto Suazo Córdoba, former president of Honduras from 1982 to 1986, passed away at the age of 91. “Rosuco”, as he was called by his acronym, will be remembered above all for being the first president in that “return to democracy”. But this is only because the “journalism” of the eighties did not know how to capture the essence of that corpulent character in our story. Neither could the “journalism” of this century, which during the week in which the former president was veiled successfully reached high levels of disinformation: not a single critical note of what the Rosuco government really was: a “puppet” government. of the military and that granted the concession for the United States to install a military base in Honduras (Palmerola) from which it intends to control the region militarily. In some countries, especially ours, death does not do justice either. Will our newspapers fear that Rosuco, who was believed to be a sorcerer, will reach them beyond his lifetime? Or is it just that –anemic of all critical thought– they are satisfied with reporting what we all know, that is, nothing new or true. If you want to understand who Rosuco was, it would be better for us to read the short and brilliant report by José Comas, a journalist from El País, special envoy to Tegucigalpa to cover the last days of Suazo Córdoba’s mandate: “Rosuco, the patriarch of Honduras.” If only because of the eccentric anecdotes that he tells about our former president, faithful reflections, as he points out, of the underdevelopment in which we lived –and live, if we have to be fair–. Comas gracefully recounts how “Rosuco” and his supporters boasted that he had paved all the streets of La Paz, where he was from, and how all the peasants complained to him then, who argued that what was the point of paving all the streets? streets if the peasants go barefoot and the pavement did nothing but burn their feet.
No shoes, yes, but rightly so.
The president without a presidency
Suazo Córdoba was the new president of Honduras and Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize winner. So after the concerns of the most illustrious Colombian of all were made and broadcast, and after Honduras had to suffocate the US plan, “Rosuco” sent him a “very respectful” letter, according to García Márquez, where he invited him to travel to Honduras and verify himself, and on the ground, the falsity of his statements. The letter ended with a phrase that, says García Márquez, later acquired a special meaning: “Honduras will never raise a weapon against her neighbors.” Not “a gun,” but three planes loaded with bombs.
García Márquez rejected the invitation. According to him, he consulted several journalists more versed than him in “the mysteries of the region and, above all, some foreign journalists who know it by heart”, who convinced him that he was going to get into the trap of not finding anything in a long and difficult border (La Mosquitia), and to return to Mexico –García Márquez continues– with the ethical commitment to disclose it to the four winds. But more than that, what ended up convincing him was the “rare unanimity” regarding the real powers of President Suazo Córdoba: “Nobody believed, least of all now,” said García Márquez, “that he actually had some power of decision , since it had been imposed in fantasy elections only to improvise a democratic appearance in Honduras (…)».
The Nobel Prize winner concludes his long reflection on Suazo Córdoba saying that he well knew that the true power in Honduras was held by the Chief of the General Staff, Gustavo Álvarez Martínez (who was assassinated a few years later while going to buy a bible), and that Suazo Córdoba “the president without a presidency” entertained his leisure by sending him telegrams to mislead those favored by the Nobel Foundation.
Our answer is life
Years later, it is pertinent to appreciate what Gabriel García Márquez did for Central America, that five-room house where everyone lives locked up without worrying or even without knowing what happens so close, on the other side of the wall; making us increasingly unknown, less free and more lonely. Where today we have four abysmal, tall countries, where the dictators – from the left and from the right – continue to assassinate, rape and make fun of people without the crowd raising not at least the finger, but not even the face.
But as García Márquez said in his Nobel speech: “In the face of oppression, looting and abandonment, our response is life.” Or as that retired Honduran pilot told me: «It’s good that they later took us out of that room. And that, in the end, who knows why, if it was because of that news about García Márquez, the mission was not carried out. Sometimes I feel like visiting that town we were going to attack – he says, and he thinks. There was a white and very beautiful church that was seen from the sky. I would like to go and walk around, see its people, talk with them, and enter that church knowing and trying to forget, perhaps, that I could put an end to all that».