Last night I arrived to San Pedro Sula airport in the north of Honduras because the airport in the capital Tegucigalpa has been closed for the last 48 hours. Arriving to a country which has just undergone a fascist overthrow I was expecting more a dramatic welcome; questions from border control about why I was coming, a thorough review of my bag, heavy military presence in the airport and streets painted with messages for and against the coup. None of this manifested in San Pedro Sula nor were we stopped at any of the army checkpoints on the way to the capital.
Watching the TV here one could assume that "problem" of President Zelaya has all but been resolved. The government and private media are trying to create a sense of normality and calm about current events calling for, dialogue with President Zelaya, peace and democracy. The Honduran congress has been quick to put in place a number of reforms and measures aimed at appeasing public opinion. There is talk about a solidarity tax of 5% to help overcome the effects of decreased foreign aid and the extension of micro-credit and new health programs. With regards to tomorrows negotiations in Costa Rica the coup leaders are talking about an offer of amnesty for Zelaya with respect to "some of his crimes." The call for calm and dialogue has been accompanied with proclamations by congress and the private sector that Zelaya cannot under any circumstances come back to Honduras, or be restored to power because it will create a "blood bath". They don’t mention that it will be their orders which create the blood bath.
To understand that it’s not business as usual in Honduras you have to get on the streets. In Tegucigalpa a trail has been left where daily marches have been taking control of the streets and which took control of much of the area surrounding the airport on Sunday with the hope of clearing an entry for President Zelaya. In these areas the walls are covered with messages against the coup. In reply the illegitimate government of Micheletti has also been quick to put up billboards calling for peace and democracy and in thanking itself for providing these rights.
Amongst those leading the fight against the coup there are clear demands. The return of President Zelaya, the return of the guarantee for individual rights, a guarantee for the creation of a Constituent Assembly (one of the causes of the coup) and justice for the perpetrators of repression and death against protesters. It seems that they are very optimistic about international pressure bringing down the coup government in tomorrows dialogue in Costa Rica. The National Front Against the Coup in Honduras is also demanding a presence in these discussions.
Unfortunately don’t share their hope for international pressure to bring down the regime. I believe that US intelligence at the very least permitted the coup (or more likely helped in the planning it) and that the US governments ambiguity in the media and refusal to withdraw personnel from its embassy are signs that this hope may be misplaced. Listening to Hillary Clinton yesterday it seems that the US is going to support the Micheletti regime. There are a number of reasons why many believe that the US is opposing the coup and that it didn’t help in the planning but these arguments lean on the historical precedent of open attacks on democracy such as the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile.
Some think the apparent clumsiness of actions to remove President Zelaya are a sign that the coup wasn’t well planned. The actions taken to remove President Zelaya included a fraudulent resignation, a vote of no confidence from congress and the military kidnapping, events which occurred out of sequence. Also the US government’s suspension of joint military actions is seen as a sign of opposition however the level of involvement in preparation of Honduran troops by US forces is such that the Honduran Defense Force is effectively a wing of the US Defense Force.
Hope for a foreign blockade has created somewhat of a sense of calm amongst the left and contentment with marches rather than more direct action against the coup’s perpetrators. They have also attempted to avoid violence and are planning strategies around preventing conflict.
Tomorrow’s negotiations will most likely tell us whether this pacifist approach has been an effective one. Should the actions of those against the coup move towards more direct actions of closing businesses and blocking the borders the Honduran coup leaders will have little choice but to use more force. Should this escalating scene eventuate there is a choice to be made between martyrdom and self-defense.
The recent history of the struggle in Oaxaca where the capital city was taken over for 6 months by armed and unarmed social movements but which ultimately failed to achieve their objectives is a reminder that popular regime change through local struggle is very difficult to create. They closed banks, created their own media outlets and police forces, they closed roads and took over government offices but still the governor remains. Another example is the huge protests against the electoral fraud in Mexico in 2006 which closed the centre of Mexico City and other strategic locations down for weeks and created a parallel government. This action also ultimately failed. Peru’s massively unpopular president Alan Garcia also remains in power despite the amount of blood on his hands and wide condemnation throughout Latin America.
It seems the oligarchy have learnt a lot of lessons from its continent wide struggle against socialist and progressive movements and governments over the last decade. A new strategy has been developed with the same objectives as those employed from the 50’s to the 80’s against anti-capitalist movements in Latin America. If this new "coup light" proves a winner in Honduras it will surely be marketed in one form or another against those who dare attempt to restore sovereignty and break away from capitalisms strict neo-liberal norms.
For the sake of the continent and the world let’s join the Honduran struggle using the lessons from the lefts recent success and failures in Latin America and remove this coup government. Waiting on US diplomacy will almost certainly result in our failure.
Peace without justice is a crime.
By Keegan Smith