I’m in honduras now where the country is living under a coup government. What’s happening here is a massive threat to the democratic revolution which is changing the face of Latin America and was beginning to change the reality in Honduras. The revolution in Latin America has been my inspiration for the last few years since I fell in love with the land and the people and felt it’s suffering.
Here is something of a summary of the situation off the top of my head..
In summary Honduras is the country in the north of Central America which didn’t experience an open civil war in second half of the last century. It played the role of a strategic point for US aid to anti-revolutionary movements in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua during there wars and has since had extremely close ties with the US. These ties include a military base with 600 US soldiers, military and other aid, a free trade agreement and millions of Hondurans who have immigrated to the US to escape the poverty which these ties to the US have created.
The president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales was elected as a conservative candidate for the Liberal Party in 2005 with 28% of the total vote. He wanted to help the majority poor and was pressured by social organizations and sindicates to make changes. The rich wouldn’t help so he asked the social movements, PetroCaribe and later the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the peoples of America). They said yes so Honduras so he started to get closer to governments trying to get away from the path of capitalism and US control of governance. He made some basic reforms like increasing the min wage by 60% which turned the right and private media against him. Some of the social initiatives he has brought into the country with the help of ALBA (the new block with economic, social and cultural ends which includes Cuba, Veneuzuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras and the Carribean islands of Dominca, St Kitts and Barbados) include "Yes I can" (Yo si puedo) the Cuban literacy program which has helped more than 150 000 Honduran’s become literate, support for food sovereignty and agricultural development which includes 100 tractors provided by Venezuela, 70 scholarships for Honduran students to go and study in Venezuelan Universities, Mission Miracle (mission Milagro) which has restored the site of around 5000 Hondurans in Venezuela with the help of Cuban medical staff. Cuba has also supported, the construction and staffing of medical clinics in regions previously denied the right to health services and sports coaches. These are the actions that the Honduran oligarchy is rebelling against. The possibility of an educated population which is guaranteed its basic rights rather than having them determined by their place in the capitalist hierarchy is not acceptable to those who want low wages and a controllable society desperate to buy. This alliance provoked massive discontent amongst the 10 or so families that control most of Honduras’ land, busines and services as well as the US government and inteligence agencies who have been trying in vain to eliminate socialism as an option for the world for the last century or more.
When President Zelaya called for a poll or a popular non-binding consult with the people of Honduras about whether there was a need to write a new Honduran constitution which could result in things like improved workers rights, abolition on the free trade agreement with the US, a new guarentee to basic services such as water, education, food security and health, it was too much for those with the interests of capital at heart. Had the process gone ahead there was an oportunity for the people to say yes we believe that a body should be created to draft a new constitution or no. The next steps would most likely have been to elect those who would write a draft constitution as happened in Venezuela and Ecuador and for that new constitution to go to referendum as was the case in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. This attempt to invoke a popular consultation and real democracy was not a grab at power because the above processes were all proposed to begin at the elections in November when a new president was to be elected. (Honduras has a 4 year single term system which makes it almost impossible for a serious deviation from the norm because of short terms and the difficulty in maintaining continuity. The continuity of elite domination with the same financial interests however has been historically easy to maintain regardless of who’s in the big chair.)
During the week that the consult was to take place the army refused to distribute the ballot papers and as a result a military general was removed by Zelaya. The papers were distributed by popular mobilzation, a further threat to the elite. The next act was a vote of no confidence from congress against the President which was backed by the Honduran legal system. Still it wasn’t certain that the ballot wouldn’t go ahead so in the early hours of Sunday morning the president was taken from his house in his pyjamas and transported to Costa Rica in an operation involving hundreds of members of the Honduran army. The US government has denied any knowledge or involvement in the actions and the CIA documents are yet to be published so we can’t be certain yet but Honduras, Washington and the Liberal-Left Grasping at Straws goes a long way to explaining the improbability that the US elite are not supporting the coup. The coup leaders also falsified a resignation by Zelaya which was delivered to congress earlier in the week of the coup.
Since Sunday the 28th of June a dictator named Michiletti (but commonly known as Gorriletti or Pinocheletti in Hondursa) has been installed. Private media are trying to create a feeling of business as usual and for a lot of people it is. The majority of the elite and those who live by the word of the church here are celebrating while many remain indifferent as they concern themselves with the task of survival which is not an easy one in Honduras. Despite the attempt to establish a new status quo there were around 300 000 people at the protest last sunday where the young man was shot in the head by a sniper. They were waiting for the arrival of Zelaya by plane. The military blocked the runway so he couldn’t land.
Yestarday the 9th of July was a day of dialogue. It failed. The rich want Micheletti, the dictator to stay untill november when they can elect a leader who represents their interests. If the elite hold meida control and congress until November the crisis of having a president that might damage some of their business interests by helping the poor or create conditions for a more radical democratic society will most likely be over. Zelaya’s Liberal party have selected a conservative candidate for the upcoming elections as have the ultra-right National Party. These are the two parties that traditionally hold power who may even decide to amalgamate as happened in Colombia to secure Alvador Uribe’s iron fisted reign. For another party to be elected would take a massive shift that will only be possible if some freedom of expression is available and if social programs which were impacting the country can be restored..
It’s hard to see the way out that doesn’t end in blood shed and the right maintaining control. At the moment they have the military, media and congress under their control as well as a soft support from the United States. The massive popular actions coordinated over the last 12 days include blocking roads, alternative press, internet and radio publications. The biggest questions at the moment are will President Zelaya risk imprisonment by coming back to the country, will he accept a slow negotiation process unlikely to yield fruits or will he accept living in exile. For social movements it’s a question of what length they will go to in oreder to damage the interests of the rich to try to force the elites from power and what levels of repression will be employed against them. At the moment both sides are in somewhat of a holding pattern showing their presence but not making any definitive statements. For the international community it also remains to be seen to what extent they will act on their condemnations or if they are content with being seen as opposing the events.
It’s great to be living history. It’s not the safest place to be but it could prove a decisive moment for the alternative being created in Latin America which is yet to take a backwards step in it’s advance towards a new world order.