The Fire Next Time
‘This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish.’ —James Baldwin, ‘My Dungeon Shook—Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation’
‘A favela um inferno, Oh Jerusalém.’ —Asian Dub Foundation, ’19 Rebellions,’ a track about the Carandiru massacre
In 2009 Honduras was the site of the first military coup in Latin America since 1993. In 2012 it has become locus of the worst penal fire ever registered in the Americas. A blaze that started in the prison in Comayagua on 14 February killed upwards of 360 people at last count, including one woman, the fire department chief, and the brother of a police officer. In a prison overcrowded with 800 inmates it is extraordinary that almost half of them perished in a single night (it is not clear how many of the 465 survivors are suffering from suffocation and severe burn injuries). The last time a fire broke out in a Honduran prison was in 2004 when at least 107 inmates were killed.