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Toni Solo: The Battle for Honduras

The Battle for Honduras

by Toni Solo

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What happens in Honduras will be decisive for the future of all Latin America. At stake is the chance of defeating the extreme right-wing continental project to deny the impoverished majority in Latin America meaningful political participation and a decent life. Whether in government - as in the United States, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Panama – or in recalcitrant, entrenched opposition as elsewhere in the Americas, the continent's extreme right-wing elites are determined to use Honduras as a laboratory for their continental project.

Under cover of the economic crisis they themselves created, the ruling plutocrat elite in the United States has already engineered a massive transfer of wealth in their favour. In addition they have consolidated the country's financial sector in such a way as to guarantee taxpayer bailouts for the feckless speculating rich for the foreseeable future. So the US government views the threat of genuine democracy in Honduras with horror. That is why Hillary Clinton continually treats the criminal Honduran coup regime as if it were an entity deserving equal treatment as the legitimate government of Honduras led by Manuel Zelaya.

Here is Clinton talking at a press conference after her meeting on Monday September 21st with US State Department catspaw Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. Asked if she was warning the coup regime not to attempt to harm President Zelaya, Clinton replied, “Well, we have certainly communicated very directly our expectation that there will be order and no provocation on either side. This is not just a one-sided request. It goes to both sides. Both sides have supporters who need to be restrained and careful in their actions in the days ahead.” (1)

Clinton's cruel hypocrisy is irrelevant. Her and President Obama's studied now-you-see-it-now-you-don't cynicism in support of the coup regime is not going to prevent the overwhelming popular rejection of the illegitimate coup regime in Honduras from expressing itself. Just before Clinton spoke, the coup regime had savagely attacked around 4000 peaceful demonstrators outside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, where Manuel Zelaya has taken refuge. That savagery and the resistance to it effectively mean that both the spurious elections scheduled for November 29th and the settlement proposed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias – the so called San José Agreement – are now almost completely irrelevant.

Despite the vicious assault against the non-violent protest at the Brazilian embassy and despite the continuing massive deployment of security forces, on Wednesday September 23rd, the resistance in Honduras mobilized 150,000 people against the coup regime in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa. Across the country hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against the coup regime in favour of their elected President Manuel Zelaya. Attempts by people to converge on the capital were only thwarted by heavy militarization of all the main highways leading to the capital.

The ruthless brutality of the violence used against protesters has injured hundreds. Human rights organizations are unable to report the full extent of casualties because most of those organizations are based in Tegucigalpa. Very probably, well over a thousand people have been detained throughout the country. The Committee for Defence of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH) reckons that far more people have been killed in the latest round of repression than the four or five reported so far. Overall, since the coup took place on June 28th , unofficially, CODEH's director, Andres Pavon, reckons over 150 deaths can be attributed to the security forces.

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Bertha Caceres, a leader of the COPINH popular organizations and indigenous peoples' council, describes the coup regime as “A dictatorship for the 21st Century which maintains some characteristics of the dictatorships of the '70s and '80s and offers new strategies so as to appear to be democratic. But no one can doubt that one is dealing with a dictatorship with an economic, political and military structure that controls all the powers of State and whose objective is to strike against the emancipatory processes in our continent.” (1)

In an interview for Tortilla con Sal two days before Manuel Zelaya's return to Honduras, Salvador Zuniga, also of COPINH, and, like Bertha Caceres, a leader of the National Resistance Front said:

“We think that a restitution (of Manuel Zelaya) under the terms of the San José Agreement is a possibility that is closing down more and more and is becoming minimal. This is because the coup leaders are so intransigent. And also because these coup leaders are involved with the ultra-right in the United States, the ultra-right in Venezuela, the US-Cuban ultra-right. Oligarchies in Latin America and the rest of the world agree with those authoritarian projects and with this coup d'etat.

The coup leaders are determined to deny the restitution of President Zelaya. Their strength is in the weapons they use against the people, the military weapons, military force, so as to impose themselves despite a few measures taken by the international community. In the case of the United States these are measures that are not even lukewarm. They are extremely soft measures.”

Asked what role President Zelaya should play once back in Honduras, Zuniga argued that Zelaya should “directly, no longer support the proposal for his reinstatement but a proposal that would mean change in Honduras, a national Constituent Assembly that can deliver a new constitution, an emancipatory project with the idea that he ought to support that and to which he could bring a great deal.”

Both Caceres and Zuniga argue that Honduras is a litmus test for the chances of continuing progressive change in Latin America. Caceres said of the coup regime, “What should worry us is that one is dealing with a new trend that could be repeated at any time in any part of the continent, and that is why it is fundamentally important to stop it.”

Zuniga elaborates a bit more, “All progressive governments and all peoples should be in solidarity with the Honduran people directly. I say this because the repression is going to increase. A war is approaching of the ultra right-wing coup supporters against the Honduran people. They are already recruiting mercenaries in Colombia, El Salvador, Venezuela, US-Cubans and others....and they are part of a strategy of invasion and domination in such a way that progressive governments ought to be aware that after this coup d'etat will come other coups and that this is the moment to form a single bloc so as to stop here in Honduras this escalation by the ultra right. And that can be done by helping serious efforts towards emancipation which obviously have to include defeating the coup regime.”

The corporate media deliberately under-report what is happening in Honduras. And never report what leaders of resistance to the coup regime, like Salvador Zuniga and Bertha Caceres or Juan Barahona and Carlos H. Reyes, are saying. Even a leading intellectual like Noam Chomsky said recently, after nearly three months of unprecedented popular resistance in Honduras, “Central America is traumatized by the Reagan terror. Not much is going on there.” (3)

In general, most reporting of the coup on Honduras has focused on the figure of Manuel Zelaya rather than on the epic resistance struggle by hundreds of thousands of Hondurans. Most analysis tends to focus on shallow discussion of available options, like the completely irrelevant elections, the dead-agreement-walking of San José, or possible further sanctions against the coup regime. But since President Zelaya's return on Monday September 21st, what happens outside Honduras is being shoved to the margins by events in the streets.

Resistance to the coup regime is now more intense and widespread than ever. The organizers of the National Resistance Front against the coup have difficulty as they struggle to keep up with the popular response to the implacable repression deployed by the fascist coup regime leaders. A large part of the resistance stems from a determination to reinstate the constitutionally elected President, Manuel Zelaya.

But the greater part of the resistance is by now deeply committed to holding a national Constituent Assembly come what may. Another leader of the National Resistance Front, Margarita Murillo, confirmed the views of Caceres and Zuñiga, remarking on the day Manuel Zelaya returned to Honduras “the coup leaders obliged us to unite with one single objective. And that objective is to oppose the coup d'etat and then go for a national Constituent Assembly.” (4)

Likewise, Honduran garifuna leader Miriam Miranda said in a recent interview, "now more than ever the Honduran people is preparing to install a national Constituent Assembly. That is the cry. That is the objective. And that is the step we must take. And I think we have earned that as Hondurans. The Honduran people has earned the right to build a new process, a process of change, to generate a different process of change in this country."(5)

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Miriam Miranda

The intransigent coup regime, backed up by the most reactionary political forces in the Americas, will go to any lengths to prevent a Constituent Assembly in Honduras. The precedents in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador have demonstrated that any Constituent Assembly will mean far-reaching change threatening the power and privilege of the region's corrupt oligarchies. But the popular resistance is unlikely to accept anything less than the Constituent Assembly they have been calling for since before the coup of June 28th.

As the country moves ever closer to general insurrection against the illegitimate coup regime and the nightmare of outright civil war, the issue of external intervention figures more openly and frequently in discussions about likely outcomes. The example of Haiti haunts the leaders of the popular resistance. There, five years after the coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Brazilian and other troops continue to occupy Haiti, acting effectively as imperialist enforcers on behalf of local, regional and international corporate elites.

Plenty of people in the Honduran resistance fear that the strategy of the US government is to deliberately hold back from applying meaningful sanctions against the coup regime so as to create the conditions for a multilateral intervention. That intervention – possibly in the framework of the controversial principle of Responsibility to Protect - would very likely impose the terms of the San José Agreement which explicitly discards the option of a national Constituent Assembly. That aside, it may be no exaggeration to argue that the future of genuine participatory democracy in Latin America now depends on the resilience of the popular resistance movement in Honduras.

Images to follow

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toni writes for Tortilla con Sal

3. Chomsky : “Centroamérica está traumatizada por el terror reaganiano. No es mucho lo que sucede allí.” in “América Latina es el lugar más estimulante del mundo”, David Brooks, Hermann Bellinghausen y Luis Hernández, Diario La Jornada, México. | 22 septiembre del 2009

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