When rallying in the streets of Tegucigalpa for the ousted President Manuel Zelaya, Alejandra Fernandez, a 23-year-old university student told a journalist why she supported Zelaya: "He raised the minimum wage, gave out free school lunches, provided milk for the babies and pensions for the elderly, distributed energy-saving light bulbs, decreased the price of public transportation, made more scholarships available for students." Others gathered around to mention the roads and schools in rural areas the president had created.
"That’s why the elite classes can’t stand him and why we want him back," Alejandra explained. "This is really a class struggle."
But it’s not just because of these relatively progressive reforms that Zelaya enacted that he deserves our support. Nor is it simply because this democratically-elected leader was ousted in a repressive coup led by right-wing oligarchs and military officials trained at the infamous torture and counterinsurgency school, the School of the Americas, now known as Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, based in
He also deserves our support because he was ultimately overthrown in response to his plans to organize a popular assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution.
According to Central American political analyst Alberto Valiente Thoresen, Honduras‘s current constitution, written in 1982, "was the product of a context characterized by counter-insurgency policies supported by the
Many commentators have said that Zelaya sought to re-write the constitution to extend his time in office. Yet nothing indicates that that was the case. Leading up to the coup, Zelaya was pushing for a referendum on 28 June in which the ballot question was to be: "Do you agree that, during the general elections of November 2009 there should be a fourth ballot to decide whether to hold a Constituent National Assembly that will approve a new political constitution?" This non-binding referendum – not plans from Zelaya to expand his power – was enough to push right wing and military leaders to organize a coup.
If the Honduran people approved the formation of a constitutional assembly in November, it would likely take years – as it did recently in
Given that it was the call for the constituent assembly that led to the coup, it appears that the coup leaders are more worried about an assembly in which the people could re-write their own constitution, than Zelaya himself. Clearly it’s the Honduran oligarchs, rather than Zelaya, who are more interested in concentrating and conserving their own power.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Zelaya in
Although the Obama administration has been critical of the coup and relatively supportive of Zelaya, it should go much further. Some clear signs that
This past Sunday, after his plane was turned back upon trying to land in
For more background on the coup see this previous article: Showdown in Honduras: The Rise and Uncertain Future of the Coup
Benjamin Dangl is the author of The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (AK Press). He is the editor of TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events, and UpsideDownWorld.org, a website covering activism and politics in