A brief look at the Honduran political crisis
To all those interested in political movements in Latin America, Honduras is an incredibly important country to watch now. It is a hotspot of political activity. I attended a meeting of The Resistance (against the coup) and have been preparing for the one-year anniversary on June 28th of last year’s coup. For those who know little about the situation in Honduras, I will give a brief summary (from my perspective, of course) of the events leading up to the current tension. I should quickly say that I consider myself a Chomsky-style Anarchist, and my analysis should be understood from that lens.
2006 saw the election of Manuel Zelaya to the presidency. Zelaya was a center-right politician that came from a wealthy family. However, as his time in office progressed, he began to move to the left, developing close ties to Hugo Chavez, raising the minimum wage by 60% (from $6.00 a day to $9.50), and joining ALBA (the international economic arrangement spear-headed by Chavez but including Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, and Nicaragua, among others). Things reached a tipping point when Zelaya, in a Chavez-style move, announced his intention to change the constitution to reduce or eliminate term limits.
Many on the left in Honduras believe that Zelaya was always intending to make populist reforms and is a true progressive at heart. Others, like myself, believe that he was simply an opportunist seeking to gain popular support in order to maintain power. However, unlike those on the right that agree with me on this point, I see this as a positive brand of opportunism. We are, I believe, all too familiar with the negative brand of opportunism in the U.S. A politician comes before the population, tells them that he/she will change and reform things for the better, and then retracts their position once in office. Zelaya did the opposite. He wanted to stay in power longer, and his method was to make himself more popular by pushing progressive legislation, at least in my opinion.
At this point, Zelaya was engaged in constant legal battles with the Legislature and the Judiciary on the legality of his actions. His first step towards changing the Constitution was to push for “cuatro una,” or fourth ballot-box, during the next election that would ask Hondurans if they favored a Constitutional Assembly to change the current Constitution. His opponents pointed out that the Constitution made it illegal to change certain parts. However, reporter Michael Fox from Counter-Punch pointed out, “it seems clear that while any “reform” to the 1982 Honduran Constitution would have to abide by such articles, a new Constitution—drafted by a Constituent Assembly and voted on by the majority of the Honduran people—would not. There are no articles in the 1982 Honduran Constitution that refer to proposed Constituent Assemblies and what they can or cannot do.” Opponents claimed that Zelaya was solely interested in having more power, but this too seems odd since the Constitutional Assembly would only occur after Zelaya was to leave office (Zelaya himself insisted that he would leave office when his time expired).
Zelaya began to work on producing a ballot where Hondurans would vote on whether or not they would like to have the fourth ballot on the proposed Constitutional Assembly in the next election. Essentially, a vote on whether or not to vote on this issue. It would be a non-binding vote, solely for discerning public opinion. His opponents, presumably because they were convinced the vote would have passed, instigated the coup before Zelaya could collect the vote. He was expelled from the country and repeatedly barred entry. His multiple attempts to return were thwarted by the military.
Since that time, there has been much protest and activism. Honduras has had a much more politically tame history compared with its neighbors. It escaped most of the carnage of the Reagan-sponsored wars of Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador in the 1980′s. It has typically been an important base for the U.S. for which to launch military operations against these countries, and also geographically important in relation to Cuba. But the winds of Latin America’s leftward shift combined with the progressive policies of Zelaya have ignited the previously dormant communities.
The Resistance (against the coup) is one of the most popular political groups in Honduras today. Having recently attended a forum of theirs, I was energized by the dynamic atmosphere. As my Spanish is still beginners Spanish, I didn’t understand everything. However, I only heard Zelaya’s name mentioned a few times towards the end. My friend, Luis, told me that they were debating if Zelaya should be considered a leader of The Resistance or not. So, contrary to what one might assume, though this group is officially a response to the coup against a political figure, it is not merely tied to a single political party or figure. Rather, it is an old-fashioned, grassroots effort at changing the country.
The Resistance, however, is only one official group that has arisen out of a large, unofficial network of anti-coup activists. These include labor unions, feminist, and agriculturist-based groups. Like many countries in a “revolution atmosphere,” they contain many elements, some contradictory, such as the typical divide between participatory-democracy advocates and Trotskyists. It remains to be seen where the future of these movements will go. But for now, the possibilities are exciting…
For more information about the Resistance, you can visit their website at:
If you have questions for me, my email is [email protected]