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Tegucigalpa June 28th 2009 : Emotions, Reflections

Tegucigalpa June 28th 2009 : Emotions, Memories, Reflections


by toni solo, June 29th 2009

Incredulity, outrage, impotence – admiration for Manuel Zelaya, Patricia Rodas, Carlos Enrique Reina, Luther Harry every single one of the Ministers and functionaries of the legitimate government. As Hugo Chavez put it so well, the emotions boil and surge through one's blood and nerves. Total rejection of the usurper regime. Chavez called them “gorilettis”, Rafael Correa calls them “pinochettis” after the usurping dictator in Honduras, Micheletti, and the defunct Chilean tyrant Augusto Pinochet.

They are fascists, odious and mediocre, full of hatred and rancour. Their coup d'état is a sign of desperation. They dreaded the enormous “Yes!”vote that was the most probable result of the consultative vote scheduled for Sunday June 28th. They fear the people's voice – the voice of the majority. So they had to make the consultative vote impossible.

But the majority voice is less easily silenced than in the past, even with the classic caveman coup plotters' tools – the troops, the armoured cars, the helicopters, the snipers on the roof of the Hotel Marriott, their bursts of automatic weapons fire and their tear gas. An idea can be gauged of the response of people in Honduras from these recordings taken outside the main gate of the Casa Presidencial in Tegucigalpa


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The scene outside the main entrance to the presidential residence

A group of international observers were invited by the Honduran Foreign Ministry to be present during the Cuarta Urna (Fourth Ballot-box) consultative poll. It is called the Cuarta Urna because, to the three ballots for President, for parliamentary representatives and for municipal authorities, a fourth ballot would be added. That fourth ballot would permit the people of Honduras to vote in principle on whether or not they would like to hold a Constituent Assembly. The pinochettis in the National Congress had accused President Manuel Zelaya of the “crime” of consulting the people. In fact the troglodyte legislators in Honduras had themselves approved the Citizens' Participation Law, which says in its Article 5:

“The citizens' initiative is a participatory mechanism by means of which citizens will be able to present the following petitions or initiatives:

1. Ask for the functionaries of public bodies or dependencies in any of the State Powers to convoke the citizenry in general, the residents of a neighbourhood or a district or a municipality, or organized social groups, organized labour or sectors, to issue opinions and formulate proposals to resolve collective problems that affect them. The results will not be binding but will indeed serve as opinions to be taken into account in the practice of the convoking body; and

2. Offer to cooperate with the public authorities in carrying out some public work or the provision of some service, contributing for that purpose financial, resources, materials or personal labor for the benefit of the community or the State. The competent public body, in accordance with its available finances, will be able to contribute resources to assist in the carrying out of works or, in their stead, to make a public appeal so that other citizens, companies or social groups might collaborate in carrying out of the relevant task.

These citizen's initiatives will be able to be presented not just by citizens individually, but also by civil associations, employers groups, businesses, labour groupings or any other organized social group.”

The absurd self-exculpating arguments of the coup plotters collapse, once one considers this law that they themselves approved.

In a Press conference on the evening of June 27th, President Zelaya gave the reasons for the consultative process. He explained that in order to develop a participatory democratic process it is necessary to consult the Honduran people. He persistently emphasized the absolute priority of consultation and dialogue. He explained that the current Constitution of the Honduran Republic contains clauses that obstruct consultations with the people of the country in important matters relating to the country's economy and politics and for the development of Honduran society.

As President Zelaya stopped speaking at the press conference, the US ambassador got up, made a quick gesture of acknowledgment to the President and left, walking quickly out of the auditorium there in the President's residence. Maybe he was off in such a hurry to read his children some bedtime stories. Or perhaps he was off to finish preparations for the following days events with his colleagues and the pinochettis.

Something one has to consider with the declarations of Barack Obama – so expert at talking from both sides of his mouth at once – is that only five months remain until the national elections of November 29th in Honduras. Obama will talk about the need for dialogue and negotiation – anything to delay and waste time until his administration can recognize a newly elected government. The most likely outcome will be a government all too ready to ratify the illegal acts of the current usurper pinochetti regime. The closest US allies, world champion hypocrites, the Europeans, will probably do the same.

This coup d'etat is aimed not just at making democratic change impossible in Honduras. It is aimed against the whole integration process and against the decisive progressive political processes under way now in Latin America. Specifically, it is a coup aimed at the Bolivarian Alliance of the peoples of America – ALBA.

The oligarchies and their imperialist patrons were unable to get their way with Hugo Chávez. Nor could they with Evo Morales in Bolivia. They could not get their way against Rafael Correa in Ecuador. Nor could they outwit Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. They never even came close with Fidel Castro and Cuba. Now the test is whether they can get their way against the people of Honduras and their legitimate President Manuel Zelaya.

The world will see now whether the North American and European governments suspend their aid to the pinochetti regime as they did to the most humanitarian and democratic government in Central America, Nicaragua's. That will be the acid test of the sincerity of all the declarations those rich countries make about their supposedly unbreakable commitment to democracy.

Also, in the June 27th press conference, President Zelaya debunked the false accusations of a desire for re-election on his part. Even so, that self-same accusation appeared in a report – based on output from the Reuters disinformation agency – by the supposedly prestigious British newspaper, The Guardian. The same day of the coup d'etat, The Guardian report alleged that the objective of the consultative process was to re-elect Manuel Zelaya as President. That report on the Guardian's web site has been corrected now, after a fashion.

But the lie has been spread internationally. And The Guardian will not have been alone in that. The usual suspects will also have done their little bit of dirty work, The New York Times, Le Monde, El Pais and all their even more reactionary fellows– all the subtle and not so subtle misinformation machinery of the mainstream corporate press and media. Manuel Zelaya has always made it very clear that any Constituent Assembly that might eventually result from the consultative process for what he calls the Fourth Ballot- box would only happen during the period of government of whoever may be elected in November this year. He cannot be a candidate in that election.

After the press conference, President Zelaya met that same evening with the group of invited observers – among them Senators from Chile, trades unionists from California, politicians like Eden Pastora of Nicaragua and Nidia Diaz from El Salvador, as well as journalists and representatives of civil society groups. President Zelaya explained the importance of the consultative process so as to be able to initiate a process towards the possibility of asking the Honduran people whether or not they might want to hold a Constituent Assembly so as to change the country's Constitution written in 1982.


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The inky finger of someone who voted in the consultative process

The Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas went further and pointed out to the group of observers the specific importance of theconsultative process for some of the immutable clauses of the Constitution of 1982. The Honduran oligarchy, traitors to their own country – interpret the mere suggestion of changing those clauses as high treason. For that reason, Patricia Rodas told us, on June 22nd she received in her office court injunctions threatening her with legal proceedings if she carried on organizing the consultative process for a Fourth Ballot-box.


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Manuel Zelaya and Patricia Rodas at the Saturday evening press conference the night before the coup

While President Zelaya was talking to the group of observers, it was possible to ask Patricia Rodas why the Honduran opposition hated Zelaya so much when he was so obviously a sincere and deeply serious person. Rodas argued it was because a tiny elite used to power for so long deeply fear the thought of having to take into account the voice of the majority. That majority has resulted in almost 500,000 petitions asking for a consultative process. President Zelaya opened up the way to make that consultative process happen.

The oligarchy do not accept it. They have seen what happens when the majority of a people get the chance to make their voice heard. They have seen constituent assemblies in Venezuela, in Bolivia and in Ecuador. They want to head off any possible similar outcome in Honduras. Right now almost every government in Latin America and the Caribbean have shown the firmest possible solidarity with President Manuel Zelaya, with Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas, with all their government team and with the Honduran people.

On June 28th the members of the group of observers awoke to news of the coup d'etat. From around 7.00am all communications were cut. A little later the electricity was cut. Only mobile phones worked. By the afternoon, all the government friendly media were shut down. We got reports of the detention of various government Ministers, among them Patricia Rodas. Other functionaries - like President Zelaya's presidential secretary Carlos Enrique Reina or leaders like Andres Pavón of the Committe for the Defence of Human Rights in Honduras or Rafael Alegría, a deputy for the Unidad Democrática political party –were visible organizing the protest.

When the electricity came on for a while in the afternoon, the media channels allied with the coup plotters – the majority of the Honduran media – transmitted cartoons or old films. When any news programme appeared it was invariably to urge people to stay at home, to lull viewers and listeners into thinking that all was calm. All information about the developing protests in the streets of Tegucigalpa, of the police in the northern town of Tocoa resisting military efforts to confiscate voting papers and ballot boxes used in the consultative process, of many other incidents – all that information was suppressed and censored. Outside the Presidential residence several of us observers witnessed the bravery and the determined pacific nature of the thousands of people protesting against the coup d'etat.

The military watched everyone from their helicopters, from the roof of the Hotel Marriott and other strategic points. One could see that the military strategy was to build up their forces prior to unleashing an assault against the demonstrators. When a truck full of heavily armed soldiers tried to drive up to the presidential residence, demonstrators blocked its path with cars and taxis and mobbed the vehicle chanting slogans against the coup. The truck duly turned around and drove off. They brought the troops in by helicopter instead.

It may be worth reminding the pinochetti coup leaders of Article Three of the Honduran Constitution, “No one owes obedience to a usurper government nor to those who assume public office or functions by armed force or using way and procedures that violate or ignore what this Constitution and the laws establish. The actions validated by such authorities are null. The people has the right to take recourse to insurrection in defence of the constitutional order.” It turned out that this clause also figured in the declaration of the ALBA presidents.

At the moment, reports are coming in of army battalions rebelling against the coup in the northern town of San Pedro Sula, theindustrial centre of Honduras and also in Choluteca in the south of the country. In Tegucigalpa and elsewhere hundreds of people have been arrested including rural workers leader Rafael Alegría, many journalists and also a couple of the invited observers from El Salvador. Tegucigalpa's main hospital – the Hospital Escuela is full of people wounded by the soldiers. Leading left wing politician Cesar Han is rumoured to have been wounded when attacked by soldiers trying to detain him. But he seems to have escaped, belying earlier reports that he was shot dead.

Neighbouring Nicaragua has been the scene of three major meetings to discuss the crisis. Manuel Zelaya participated in all of them as the legitimate President of Honduras that he is. In the morning the ALBA countries (Antigua & Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela) met and uniformly condemned the coup in Honduras. The ALBA countries agreed to arrest, for the gross breaches of international law committed by the military under their control, any member of the usurper government in Honduras entering their territory.

At lunchtime the System for Central American Integration countries (Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama) met and agreed for countries with land borders adjoining Honduras to close all commercial transit in and out of Honduras for an initial period of 48 hours. Then in the afternoon the Rio Group which includes virtually all of Latin America and the Caribbean, also met. The coup in Honduras was condemned by every government present.

It remains to be seen what concrete measures, if any, might be taken by the Rio Group countries against the usurper government in Honduras. One dramatic announcement made was that President Zelaya will go to Washington for meetings tomorrow June 30th and on Thursday July 2nd will travel to Honduras together with the General Secretary of the Organization of American States and a delegation picked from the region's Presidents. Functionaries of the legitimate Honduran government are working in clandestinity preparing for President Zelaya's arrival.

Meanwhile the coup leaders continue their repulsive work, suppressing free flows of information, detaining people without trial, assaulting individuals trying to protest against the coup. So far at least two people have been killed by the military in Tegucigalpa with confused reports of casualties out in the country's departments. Around the country many hundreds seem to have been injured. As events develop, it seems more and more people realize that this coup is going to fail.

Manuel Zelaya will never give in nor will the majority of people in Honduras who support him. Against a tough, genuine leader like Manuel Zelaya, Barack Obama is going to have to rise to the occasion and acknowledge the coup d'état instigated by his governments friends in Honduras. Otherwise, he will be shown up more categorically than ever as the insincere hypocrite so many people have long suspected that he is.

*************

toni writes for www.tortillaconsal.com

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