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Hondurans vow to fight on against coup

Published Jul 8, 2009 1:55 PM

July 7—Honduran popular leader Juan Barahona told Workers World today that the resistance to the illegal June 28 coup that deposed President Manual Zelaya grows daily despite the fierce repression and constant attacks by the coup regime and the corporate media. The coup regime is increasingly isolated. A leader of the Popular National Front of Resistance to the Coup D’État (FNPRG), Barahona said, “They can only stay alive with the oxygen from the U.S.”

Opponents of the military coup march to
airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where
President Zelaya’s plane tried to land on
July 6.

The FNPRG is the leading coalition of three workers’ federations, the six teachers’ federations, youth and students, Indigenous, political parties and other sectors of society organizing the resistance. Barahona said they continue strong and with high spirits.

His voice was full of excitement after nine days of constant demonstrations. One gathering of hundreds of thousands of people at Toncontín Airport in Tegucigalpa attempted to welcome their constitutionally elected president as he flew back from Washington but was unable to land. Barahona said the people are determined to struggle and thanked the international community for its support.

The general strike continues, and all public schools are closed. Only the private sector is operating “normally.”

Rosendo Delgado of Latinos Unidos
at July 1 Detroit protest.
WW photo: Abayomi Azikiwe

The movement in Honduras asks for more pressure on the U.S. government and requests that condemnations also be sent to the illegitimate coup government in Honduras.

At the airport

Though this Central American country is about the same size and population—8 million—as Virginia, hundreds of thousands of Hondurans from all over the country converged on July 5 outside Toncontín Airport to welcome Zelaya back. The Honduran military’s coup a week earlier had forced the constitutionally elected president out of his residence and flew him to Costa Rica.

Zelaya was returning July 5 from Washington, D.C., where he attended an emergency meeting of the Organization of American States, which voted unanimously to eliminate coup-led Honduras from membership.

Live reports of TeleSUR in Honduras showed the airport crowd’s excitement. The people shouted, “Watch out, the people’s struggle is spreading throughout Latin America,” “People, join in,” “The people united will never be defeated” and “We want Mel,” referring to Zelaya’s middle name. The unarmed crowd faced a huge deployment of heavily armed police and military, including snipers, which prevented the demonstrators from approaching the airport.

As the Venezuelan jet flown by two Venezuelan Air Force pilots and carrying Zelaya and U.N. General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto approached, the enthusiastic crowd had grown so large the police finally stepped back, allowing the people closer. This turned out to be another criminal action by the illegal authorities.

People called on soldiers not to fire but to join them, but the military attacked the demonstrators with tear gas and live ammunition. A shot to the head killed one 19-year-old, and gunfire wounded dozens of others. Troops parked two vehicles in the middle of the runway as they threatened the pilot that the Honduran Air Force would intercept the plane.

After several futile attempts to land, the pilot left, taking Zelaya to Managua, Nicaragua where he met the presidents of Nicaragua, Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay and held a press conference. By July 7 he flew to Washington for talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Lies and arrogance of the coup regime

Nearly all governments and international bodies have repudiated the coup regime. The Latin American governments and organizations like the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, the Central American Integration System and the Rio Group have recalled their ambassadors and have cut trade and cooperation with Honduras.

Despite its isolation, the illegal government of Roberto Micheletti, with the complicity of the oligarchy-owned media, continues to lash out against Zelaya, cynically defending the coup as a necessary action to bring “peace and constitutionality” to the country.

Honduras’ general prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Zelaya. Rodolfo Padilla Sunseri, the mayor of San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second largest city where militant demonstrations have been taking place, was arbitrarily removed and replaced by William Hall, Micheletti’s nephew.

The country has been militarized. The army has placed roadblocks in the main highways, particularly the ones leading to Tegucigalpa, in an attempt to stop demonstrators from reaching the capital. The army has stopped buses and shot at the tires; yet people have continued on foot to join the resistance.

Miguel Insulza, the president of the OAS, went July 3 to Honduras in a desperate attempt to try to solve the situation through diplomacy. However, after 15 representatives of the Supreme Court told him Zelaya’s ousting is “irreversible,” Insulza concluded that the OAS should eliminate Honduras as a member and that there were no conditions for a peaceful return of Zelaya. He also met with the popular movement opposing the coup.

That same day, 1992 Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú arrived in Honduras with a delegation of human rights advocates to monitor the conditions. The coup regime had declared a curfew and state of siege forbidding individual rights and the right of association, resulting in an explosion of human rights abuses. To date, 800 people are still detained.

Demands on Obama and the USA

The Latin American community is now focusing on the U.S., which has neither removed its ambassador nor suspended aid and trade, vital to Honduras. U.S. policy is seen as favoring the coup despite President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton’s tepid condemnations, expressed only after Latin American governments took strong actions in defense of the deposed Honduran president.

Many voices demand stronger U.S. condemnations and actions. In a letter circulated on the Internet, 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel of Argentina wrote: “There are no isolated events; this reflects the politics aimed at protecting the hegemonic political and economic interests throughout the continent.”

Esquivel criticizes governments that “have expressed themselves very timidly in the face of the coup, who appear to support the military coup.” He says that Latin Americans pressured Obama to condemn the coup—mildly—and then Obama “turns aside, knowing that the Pentagon and the CIA are promoters and supporters of the Honduran military coup.” (Granma, July 6)

Pentagon and Honduras

For decades Honduras has been a U.S. military outpost in the region, whose ruling oligarchy is tightly linked with the imperialist North. From Honduras the U.S.-backed Contras attacked the Sandinista Revolution in neighboring Nicaragua during the 1980s. Joint training and exercises demonstrate the Pentagon’s close association with the Honduran army.

The Pentagon’s Soto Cano Military Base in Honduras is now under the command of Col. Richard A. Juergens, who was the Director of the Special Operations Command during the February 2004 kidnapping of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The leadership of Honduras’ military were all trained at the infamous “School of Assassins,” the U.S.-run School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga.

In addition, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon Jr. and U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens were fully aware of the conflicts leading to the military coup. They met with government officials including Zelaya and Micheletti before the coup. (New York Times, June 29) They could easily have threatened to cut aid should a coup be carried out, but they did not.

Who benefits from this coup? Washington is unhappy with progressive developments in Latin America. The U.S. rulers hate Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas and the possibility of losing an important source of wealth that they stole from Latin America a century ago. The imperialists hate the idea that those in their “own backyard” begin trading among themselves and with China, Russia and Iran.

The big coup backers are from the entrepreneurial and wealthy class in Honduras, the 13 oligarchy families. They say Zelaya was too close to Chávez.

Response from U.S. progressives

U.S. organizations and individuals have joined the international progressive movement to oppose the coup and express solidarity with the Honduran people, among them Danny Glover, the AFL-CIO and International Action Center founder Ramsey Clark.

In his open letter Glover writes, “It is imperative that citizens across the United States write and call upon President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to quickly execute every available influence to ensure that President Zelaya is safely returned to his post.”

The AFL-CIO writes, “We call on the United States Government to also take all measures within its diplomatic powers to ensure that all Honduran civilians, and particularly trade unionists and social activists denouncing the coup, are safe and secure and will not be victimized by violence and repression.”

In a July 5 letter to President Obama, cosigners Clark and Bishop Filipe Teixeira of the Diocese Saint Francis of Assisi in Boston write, “We conclude that the United States government has responsibility for the coup and is obligated to demand that the Honduran army return to constitutional order and avoid criminal actions against the Honduran people.

“We therefore insist, for the benefit of the peace in the region, that President Barack Obama immediately cut off all aid and relations to the Honduran army and suspend U.S. relations with the government of Honduras until the constitutional president is returned to office.”