Honduras repression deepens before election

A U.S.-sponsored military coup in Honduras on June 29, 2009, ousted elected President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya. Since that time, his spouse, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, has become a leading figure in the movement to restore his presidency as well as a leader in the burgeoning resistance movement for the rights of all throughout the country.

That movement, organized under the umbrella National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), has fought valiantly since the coup. The FNRP has worked hard to include all working-class Hondurans in its movement, including women, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities, Indigenous and Afro-Honduran communities, youth, teachers, farmers and fishers, and more.

Now Castro de Zelaya, who is running for president in the upcoming presidential elections on Nov. 24, has a lead in national polls over ruling National Party candidate Juan Hernández. The winner will replace Porfirio Lobo Sosa, who became president in a questionable, military-run “election” some five months after the coup.

Castro de Zelaya is running under the newly formed Libertad y Refundación party (Libre), which, with the support of the FNRP, presented more than 81,000 signatures to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in order to become a legal party in 2011. (resistenciahonduras.net, Nov. 3, 2011) Castro de Zelaya has called for “democratic socialism” (abc.es, Oct. 12) and, if elected, promises to immediately convene a National Constituent Assembly in order to fundamentally rewrite the Honduran Constitution with the input and participation of all sectors of Honduran society.

Along with chronic malnutrition in many communities, homelessness, a dengue fever epidemic and lack of health care, the Honduran people face the continuing onslaught of imperialist multinational corporations that offer paltry jobs, pollute Honduran lands and support corrupt politicians.

The 2009 coup was designed to allow the efforts of these capitalist barons to continue, at the expense of the rights and very lives of the Honduran people.

Since 2009, the repression, militarization and attacks on all social movements in Honduras have reached astonishing levels. Honduras is now the murder capital of the world, with an average of 10 people murdered each day. (Reuters, Oct. 22) In August alone, five members of the LGBTI communities were killed in the country. (Honduras Accompaniment Project press release, Oct. 14)

On Oct. 16, Elvin Hernández, an alternate congressional candidate with the Libre party in the Department of Yoro, was killed. A militant campesino movement in Yoro province has been occupying lands controlled by Asunoza, owned by British corporation SAB-Miller and one of the largest sugar companies in Honduras. (Honduras Resists email, Oct. 21) Women play a central role in this movement; throughout Honduras, some 700 campesinas have been arrested or detained in the last three years alone for defending the land and natural resources in their communities. (Los Necios email, Oct. 16)

One day after Hernández’s death, the dead body of videographer Manuel Murillo was found in the capital city, Tegucigalpa. (International Press Institute, Oct. 25) He had been shot three times in the face. Murillo was with Mel Zelaya on the night of the coup and videotaped soldiers taking Zelaya out of his bed, and then flying him to Costa Rica. Murillo was then kidnapped in February 2010 by members of the National Police, who threatened that they would murder his family if he didn’t turn over videos of the popular protests that had occurred since the coup. (Los Necios email, Oct. 25) The political group Los Necios reports that Murillo’s death is the 36th assassination of social commentators in Honduras in the past decade, with the majority of them occurring since the 2009 coup.

The potential for repression during the upcoming elections remains great. On Oct. 14, the government ordered another 1,000 military police onto the streets of Honduras, raising their number to 5,000 since the Honduran Congress authorized the creation of a new, militarized police force in August. (Reuters, Oct. 15) Ten days later, presidential candidate Hernández, who is also president of the Congress, announced that he will give more powers to this Military Police force and push for a constitutional amendment to make them a permanent unit in Honduras.

These forces, who wear black masks covering their faces, have been terrorizing the people of Honduras. According to El Libertador, “So far, [Hernández] has remained silent about the abuses committed by the group in regard to the arrest and prosecution of opposition leaders, in particular, those from the Libertad y Refundación party.” (Oct. 24)

The solidarity and labor movements in the U.S. are responding to this threat. The San Francisco Central Labor Council submitted a resolution to the national AFL-CIO convention in September urging central labor councils to contact their congresspeople and organize delegations of election observers from the U.S.

A delegation of activists, lawyers, labor unionists and community organizers from the United States will travel to Honduras in the week before the election to serve as election monitors and to show their solidarity with the resistance movement there. For updates and more information, visit lavozchicago.blogspot.com, hondurasresists.blogspot.com and iacenter.org.