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Hondurans fear starvation under lockdown

International 22 Apr, 2020 Follow News

Laid off Honduran workers feel ignored by the government

Hondurans under lockdown is one area of the country fear they are going to starve if supplies promised by the government don’t arrive soon.

On April 10 residents of Choloma, an industrial town in northern Honduras, blocked the main highway connecting the city of San Pedro Sula to the Port of Cortes. Choloma and nearby towns are the centre of sweatshop production for US brands in factories called maquilas. They are also the epicentre of COVID-19 in Honduras.

The workers blocking the road that morning burned tires, put up barricades, and demanded the government give them the food they had been promised. A worker demonstrating in Choluteca in southern Honduras told the Honduran media outlet UNE-TV: “They told us they’d be here at seven this morning with food, but no one came. We’re hungry. There are 70 villages waiting for food.”

Since mid-March hundreds of thousands of workers in these towns have been laid off as clothing manufacturers Hanes, Gildan, and Fruit of the Loom and auto parts maker Empire Electronics, among others, announced shutdowns of up to four months. A few maquilas are calling some workers back to make medical equipment.

In some unionized factories, workers got two weeks' pay as severance. Other workers got their accumulated vacation pay and nothing more.

Maria Luisa Regalado is the director of CODEMUH, the Honduran Women’s Collective, an organisation that focuses on the occupational diseases of women maquila workers. She summed up what she’d heard from workers: “We’re scared to lose our jobs but we feel impotent. Those of us who are renters don’t know how we’ll pay the rent. There’s a lot that’s unknown. We don’t know what’s going to happen with our lives.”

Meanwhile, Hondurans in the US are having trouble sending remittances back, since many have lost their jobs. Remittances normally make up 20 percent of the Honduran GDP.

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