General strike resists Honduras coup
Mass movements oppose military regime
Published Jul 1, 2009 5:23 PM
June 30—Some 200 heavily armed soldiers from the Honduran army surrounded
the house of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya at dawn on June 28.
After firing on the house, soldiers forced their way in, pointed their rifles
at Zelaya’s head and chest, and forced him into a vehicle. They drove him
to an airplane that flew him to Costa Rica.
This blatant military coup has thrown down a challenge to all of progressive
Latin America. It aroused immediate mass resistance from Honduran mass
organizations and active hostility from progressive governments throughout
Latin America and progressive organizations worldwide. It has received no open
diplomatic support anywhere in the world, even from reactionary imperialist
|Protest at UN hits Honduras coup, U.S. role|
Chanting in Spanish, “Zelaya, friend, the people are with
you!” and “Army of the coup, imperialist instrument!” 200
demonstrators rallied and marched to the United Nations in New York on June 29
protesting the military coup in Honduras. Coup leader Romeo Vasquez got his
training at the U.S. Army’s “School of the Americas” in Fort
Benning, Ga., along with the rest of the Honduran military officers.
According to a Cuban press agency report from Honduras, “The main trade
unions, farmers, youth and social organizations in Honduras are on the second
day of a strike against the dictatorial government in the country.” (June
30, Prensa Latina)
Zelaya has promised to return to Honduras after he addresses the Organization
of American States in Washington. OAS Secretary-General José Miguel
Insulza, United Nations General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto,
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and Ecuador President Rafael Correa will
Though the coup forces have already issued an arrest warrant for Zelaya should
he come home, every social and progressive sector is organizing to welcome
Zelaya with a massive march.
Who backs the coup
This military coup served the interests of the tiny group of wealthy oligarchs
and right-wing, pro-U.S. political forces in Honduras that oppose the Zelaya
administration. These rightists are against reforms Zelaya has been making that
aim to help low-income people, workers and the disadvantaged. They abhor
Honduras’ decision last year to join the Bolivarian Alternative for the
Americas (ALBA), an organization promoting regional cooperation that already
includes Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, the Grenadines, Nicaragua, Saint
Vincent and Venezuela.
ALBA member countries commit to work for the benefit of the peoples, not the
multinational corporations, to put people first before profits, to make
solidarity their slogan for trade and cooperation in cultural, sports, science
and every other endeavor, and to work as a non-competitive group for the
integration of the region.
This is in sharp contrast to trading relations with the U.S., the Honduran
economy’s dominant trading partner.
Zelaya took office in 2005. Although he comes from the center-right Liberal
Party, he has more recently taken progressive positions, even expressing
solidarity with the Cuban Revolution.
Leading up to the coup
The coup plotters struck just as a poll was about to take place. The voters
were being asked to express their opinion about having a non-binding poll
during the next elections in November on the question of whether they wanted to
change Honduras’ Constitution. The poll was non-binding because the
Legislature’s anti-Zelaya majority had passed a law preventing any
referendum from being conducted 180 days before the end of a president’s
term, and Zelaya’s term ends in early 2010.
The Honduran people had sent 400,000 signatures to the president’s office
requesting a referendum on changing the current Constitution, which they
perceive as inadequate for the needs of the majority of the population.
On June 24, Zelaya ordered Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Vásquez, a graduate
of the notorious School of the Americas in the U.S., to distribute the polling
material to the voting centers throughout the country. Vásquez refused,
claiming the consultation was “illegal.” Zelaya then ordered
Vásquez removed from office. Later the Supreme Court, also opposed to
Zelaya, reinstated Vásquez.
The ballot boxes, which had been held on a military airbase, were later
liberated by the people and by Zelaya himself.
Before the coup, many sectors allied to the oligarchy, including members of
Congress, opposition groups, clergy and businesspeople, called on people to
stay home and abstain from voting.
Zelaya and his cabinet under attack
When Zelaya arrived at the airport in Costa Rica on June 28, he and Costa Rican
President Oscar Arias gave a joint press conference. Arias expressed his
opposition to the coup and solidarity with Zelaya, who for the first time was
able to publicly denounce the coup.
Back in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, the military tried to hunt down
every one of Zelaya’s cabinet members, who are still at risk. The army
surrounded the home of Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas, who called on the
ambassadors of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela for protection. As the military
broke into the house, the ambassadors embraced Rodas to prevent the troops from
Soldiers beat them away and then took Rodas and the Cuban ambassador away with
them. They forcibly took Rodas to a military air force base and sent her to
Mexico. They left the Cuban Ambassador in the middle of a road.
People’s resistance to the coup regime
Roberto Micheletti, president of the National Congress and the main coup
plotter, was quickly sworn in as the “new president” of Honduras in
a replay of the 2002 Venezuela coup against President Hugo Chávez.
Micheletti read a phony June 25 “letter of resignation” alleged to
be from Zelaya, but where his signature had been forged. A few minutes later,
Zelaya appeared on TeleSur television and on CNN in Spanish from Costa Rica
saying that he did not resign at all, but was forcibly removed from office.
Upon learning of the coup, Honduran social movements began to gather before the
Presidential Palace in support of Zelaya and rejecting the coup regime. They
defied a curfew Micheletti had imposed and stayed through the night, vowing
they would stop the usurper from reaching the palace. The people built
barricades in several streets surrounding the palace, wrote pro-Zelaya and
anti-Micheletti graffiti on walls, set tires on fire and parked water trucks in
front of the presidential building.
Unions, students, women and other social sectors mobilized. An effective
national strike was started on June 29 and all schools were closed. The next
day three major public-sector labor unions launched a general strike. About
100,000 workers joined the strike, according to Oscar Garcia, vice president of
SANAA, the Honduran water workers union. (CNN, June 30)
Micheletti started a reign of terror, ordering the dispersal of the
demonstrators, by force if needed. The country was militarized. The army closed
the roads, preventing groups of Indigenous peoples and others from traveling to
Tegucigalpa to join the resistance.
Electricity was cut in most of Tegucigalpa, making both phone and Internet
communication extremely difficult. The official television channel was shut
down as were several other stations that had been reporting about the coup.
Only private channels were on the air, broadcasting cartoons and other programs
that had nothing to do with the events, and falsely reporting that there was
complete calm in the country.
The repression intensified. Helicopters hovered, heavily armed troops and tanks
reinforced the military and the police were called in. The armed forces inside
the Presidential Palace grounds at one point started marching towards the
demonstrators, who were outside the fence. Shots rang out and tear gas was
thrown against the unarmed people. By the end of the day on June 29, it was
reported that one person had been killed, more than 100 wounded and more than
TeleSUR and the media
TeleSUR, which is based in Venezuela but serves all Latin America, was the only
media consistently informing the world about this horrible event. Even CNN in
Spanish showed footage from TeleSUR. This struggle showed the crucial role of
the progressive media. The international progressive community was able to
quickly respond because of TeleSUR. Its courageous video crews transmitted
constantly, interviewing people in Tegucigalpa, showing images of the struggle
that brought tears of condemnation.
Late June 29, because of their crucial role in exposing this criminal coup, the
TeleSUR crew members were detained, their cell phones and personal documents
confiscated. Thanks to the diligent action of many people involved in media
work and the help of the Venezuelan ambassador, they were released and resumed
broadcasting the next day.
Progressive Latin American leaders respond
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Venezuelan President Chávez made it
clear that never again would a Latin American country be abandoned to
right-wing coups. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega quickly volunteered his
country for three very important emergency conferences to discuss Honduras. All
were set for June 29, the day after the coup. First ALBA met, then the System
of Central American Integration (SICA), and finally the Rio Group, which has 24
Latin American and Caribbean member nations. The U.S. belongs to none of these
Expressing urgency, these leaders were firmly determined to prevent a
right-wing coup from taking away the advances that the popular and progressive
movements and governments throughout the region have attained. Even less
progressive Latin American governments denounced the coup and demanded the
immediate reinstatement of Zelaya.
The ALBA and the SICA countries both vowed to recall their ambassadors from
Honduras until Zelaya was reinstated. Other measures taken were the closing of
the borders with Honduras, a stop to loans and funding, including for sports
and cultural events, and several other measures that would paralyze the coup
Even OAS and U.N. working groups held emergency meetings that condemned the
coup. The full OAS will meet on July 1 in Washington, D.C.
Nearly every progressive movement worldwide has condemned the coup. Most
governments have publicly opposed it. Brazil, Chile and Mexico have joined ALBA
and SICA in recalling their ambassadors from Honduras. The Spanish Foreign
Minister says he will recommend similar actions by the European Union. Even the
U.S. president, secretary of state and ambassador to Honduras have had to
publicly oppose the coup and recognize Zelaya as the only Honduran
The U.S. role appears to be ambiguous. Because of the ongoing connection
between the Pentagon and the Honduran military, it is doubtful that the
Hondurans could move without the knowledge of significant figures in the U.S.
government and the Pentagon. President Barack Obama’s public rejection of
the coup—though relatively mild—is a first and raises the question
of who in U.S. ruling circles is making policy.
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