Honduras: violence and repression continue five years after U.S.-backed coup

Almost five years after a military coup on behalf of the Honduran right-wing ruling class overthrew the elected government of President José Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, violence and repression continue every day against “La Resistencia” — the individuals and organizations that have come together to resist the forces behind the coup and its aftermath.

La Resistencia includes Indigenous peoples, the lesbian-gay-bi-trans-queer community, Afro-Hondurans, Garifuna people, trade unions, peasants, students, women’s organizations and liberation-theology-based churches. It is a true rainbow coalition of the Honduran people.

On April 9, Carlos Mejia Orellana, a human rights defender and radio journalist at Radio Progreso, was murdered. On May 3, the environmentalist and anti-mining activist Rigoberto Lopez Hernandez was tortured and killed in Santa Cruz. Hernandez had campaigned against an iron oxide mine near natural springs that provide drinking water to a number of rural communities. On May 16, Delmer Anibal Duarte, the mayor of Iriona, Colon, was assassinated while attending a meeting in La Ceiba. No arrests have been made in any of these cases.

And on May 13 a special unit of the National Police known as the COBRAS violently attacked, with batons and tear gas, a peaceful demonstration by LIBRE (the Liberty and Refoundation Party) supporters outside the National Congress building. The protest was focused on the issue of representation in the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. The COBRAS then moved to Congress chambers inside the building and attacked LIBRE members of Congress, including Mel Zelaya. This writer has seen the COBRAS in action while visiting Honduras, and can only describe them as armed lumpen psychopathic thugs.

This violent repression of the popular forces goes on with the OK or willful ignorance of the Obama administration, the State Department and the Pentagon. The U.S. Southern Command military officers in Honduras and everyone in the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the capital, know what is going on.

In contrast, a May 7 press release from Task Force-Bravo reported on a “Camaraderie Day” of athletic competition celebrating the relationship between the U.S. and Honduran armed forces.

The U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs reported on May 12: “As part of its Honduras engagement plan, U.S. Southern Command’s Human Rights Office sponsored a dialogue for senior-level Honduran military personnel and influential human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This was the second such dialogue SOUTHCOM’s Human Rights Office has sponsored in the past year. The dialogue, held in Tegucigalpa April 29-30, included the participation of U.S Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske, Honduran Minister of Defense Samuel Reyes Rendon and Honduran Chief of the Joint Staff Gen. Fredy Santiago Díaz Zelaya.”

It would be of great interest to the Honduran Solidarity Movement if SOUTHCOM’s agenda and  so-called human rights dialogue were made public!

Five years of repression, resistance

On June 28, 2009, in a military coup on behalf of the Honduran right-wing ruling class, President Mel Zelaya was flown out of the country in his pajamas to Costa Rica, with a stopover at the Pentagon’s SOUTHCOM Joint Task Force-Bravo military base. The base is located at the Soto Cano Air Base only 50 miles from Tegucigalpa, where Zelaya was seized. The Barack Obama administration alleged that U.S. military personnel at the base and in-country embassy staff did not know that Zelaya was on the plane.

After an incredible struggle, along with an international solidarity campaign, Zelaya was able to return to Honduras, where he is now member of LIBRE and a deputy in the National Congress. The LIBRE party was formed after the coup by members of La Resistencia and has the second-largest representation in Congress.

In November Xiomara Castro de Zelaya — Mel Zelaya’s spouse — lost a close election for president of Honduras. Many supporters and local leaders of LIBRE were murdered during her campaign, and issues concerning the manipulation of computerized voting results were never addressed. In January, with the full support of the Obama administration, coup supporter Juan Orlando Hernández from the National Party became president.

Honduran activist: ‘class war’

Workers World recently spoke with Lucy Pagoada, a LIBRE party activist who is secretary of the 19th Department (Diaspora), to discuss the morale of the Honduran people and the role of the Obama administration.

Compañera Pagoada told WW: “The morale of the majority of us, especially those of us who are members of the resistance and the LIBRE party, is high. We understand that what we have in Honduras is class war: the majority of people, the hungry, the undereducated, the sick, the homeless, against a small group, the oligarchy. … Therefore, we will continue to struggle until justice is due, until the people take the power that was taken from them, and until we can create a new system of justice and equality for all.

“The Obama administration has directly participated in financing the military police. … This clearly indicates that the U.S. is the one maintaining the current situation of state terror and violence the the Honduran people are facing. If the U.S. stops feeding this beast, things could change for the better. So it’s up to President Obama to put a stop to the bloodshed in Honduras or continue to perpetrate this violence,” Pagoada concluded.

On June 28, solidarity activists will take to the streets and meeting halls on the fifth anniversary of the 2009 coup and celebrate the relationship among peace, social justice and revolutionary activists in Honduras and the U.S. To find out about events in your community, be in touch with the International Action Center at iacenter.org.