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Honduran resistance leaders vow to continue struggle against coup

Published Jul 24, 2009 7:44 PM

July 20—The publicized side of Honduras events is the so-called “peace mediation” in Costa Rica, which is supposed to be seeking a violence-free resolution of the criminal and violent coup d’état that deposed constitutional President Mel Zelaya on June 28.

The other side—ignored in the worldwide corporate media—is the power of the growing and vibrant movement of the Honduran people, the workers and farmers, who are carrying out heroic resistance to the coup. Resistance leaders tell that side to Workers World.

Supporters of Honduran President
Manuel Zelaya protest coup.

It has been amazing to see the popular surge, coalescence and coordination during the first 23 days since the coup. Unions, youth and students, women, peasants, Indigenous, Afro descendants—all have joined in the Popular National Front of Resistance against the Coup D’État (FNPRG).

In a telephone conversation on July 19, Juan Barahona of the Honduran Unitarian Workers Federation told WW that FNPRG representatives from every region of the country had just met in Tegucigalpa and decided to continue with the resistance regardless of the outcome in Costa Rica. He stated that the mobilizations will continue July 20 at 8 a.m. before the National Congress.

Jorge Arturo Reina, the Honduran
ambassador to the U.N., speaks
July 15 at New York meeting in
solidarity with Honduras.
WW photo: Brenda Sandburg

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is promoting the mediation in Costa Rica as a dilatory tactic. For the mediation, Clinton recruited Costa Rica’s President Oscar Arias, who won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation in Central America at that time. He proved to be a very effective broker for U.S. interests during the 1980s against the Nicaraguan Sandinista Revolution, and will now be used against another people of Central America, the Hondurans.

Coup leader Roberto Micheletti showed up at the first negotiation in Costa Rica with six instead of the agreed-upon four advisors. Two of them were from the United States, both linked to the Clintons: Bennett Ratcliff, from a San Diego law firm, and Lanny J. Davis “who has served as President Clinton’s personal lawyer and who campaigned for Mrs. Clinton for president.” (New York Times, July 13)

Danger of renewed U.S. aggression against Latin America

Many analysts, especially in Latin America, consider the coup against the Honduran people—which could only be plotted and carried out with the support of powerful forces in the U.S.—to be just the beginning of a wider attempt to reverse the progressive wave in the continent. Several simultaneous developments point in that direction.

As Ecuador bids farewell to the U.S. air base in Manta and joins the Venezuela-initiated Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) as its eighth member nation, a suspicious and phony video surfaces in Colombia. The video implies that the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) helped financed Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa’s presidential campaign. This is an obvious maneuver meant to later accuse the Ecuadoran government of “terrorism.”

Then there is the latest Government Accountability Office report. As the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, the GAO denounced the alleged growing penetration of drug trafficking in Venezuela, which it classifies as a “narco state,” and claims that Venezuela is one of the “major trans-shipment hubs for cocaine en route to countries such as Spain and the United States, with Honduras frequently being used as an air-bridge.” (vheadline.com, July 19)

In addition there is this new danger threatening the whole region: the U.S. announced the establishment of five more U.S. military bases in Colombia.

Honduras can be a turning point. At the Costa Rica talks, Arias presented seven points to the two sides. The first was the return of Zelaya to the presidency. The remaining six points were concessions to the coup leaders: the constitution of a “government of reconciliation” that would include Micheletti’s allies; a general amnesty; that Zelaya withdraw his call for a Constitutional Assembly; to hold the general elections earlier; the transfer of the armed forces from the Executive’s control to that of the Electoral Tribunal; and the establishment of a commission to watch over the implementation of these accords.

Nevertheless, Zelaya publicly accepted the proposal. Micheletti rejected it.

From Washington’s viewpoint, the longer it takes for Zelaya to return home, the easier it will be for the de-facto government of Roberto Micheletti to hold onto its illegal administration. Washington counts on the eventual fatigue of the resistance movement after weeks of mobilizations.

Voice of the Honduran Resistance: Berta Cáceres

But imperialist arrogance typically underestimates the power of the peoples. Honduras, which for decades has been a U.S. military outpost in Central America, its oligarchy very closely linked to the imperialists, had little opportunity before now to display its peoples’ movement.

This time is different. WW spoke at length with Berta Cáceres from the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) on July 20. Her organization was founded in 1993 to struggle for the rights of Black people and of the Indigenous, particularly of the Lenca nation in the southwest of the country.

WW: How did the COPINH join the current struggle?

BC: The COPINH for a long time has demanded full and informed participation and consultation regarding Indigenous and Black peoples. We have a clear anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal political position and have struggled for the construction of a space for direct participatory democracy.

It is within this sense that we support the initiatives of President Zelaya. Even months before the coup, we denounced the threat that the sectors of power represented and the possibility of a coup against President Zelaya.

We also know that what has happened goes beyond special interests and has national and even international interest. And this coup is a bad precedent for our continent’s history and its processes of freedom and emancipation. This could also be the initiation of an onslaught of 21st century-style repressive coups by the continent’s right-wing oligarchy against all the processes that are liberating our peoples and seeking to build a more just and humane world.

COPINH, as a combat organization of struggle, has joined fully the resistance. [For that] our Indigenous radio has been shut down, we have been persecuted, watched over, our communications intercepted. We have seen how pure fascism has come out, but also a combination of destructive capitalism that is racist and patriarchal with a clear, aggressive character. That is why as a people we are more than ready to participate along with the rest of the diverse Honduran people in this heroic struggle.

WW: What is the role of women?

BC: It has been fundamental, decisive. From taking bridges to mass marches, I would say that the majority were women of all ages. We are also in the leadership of the FNPRG, making decisions, participating, because we believe that we are protagonists, decisive actors in the history of our country. We are contributing our creativity, with a great deal of inventiveness in each activity.

WW: What do you think of President Arias’ negotiations?

BC: For us, that is already a failure. We think the last 72-hour time limit [proposed by Arias for the continuation of talks] is a desperate way of finding a solution. ... We have said that we accept point number one, which is the reinstatement of Zelaya to the presidency but reject the other six points because they do not coincide with the FNPRG’s position and that of the Honduran people.

The rest of the points will imply impunity for the coup plotters who have murdered and repressed the people, and have turned the clock back 30 years on our accomplishments. We have demanded an investigation of the armed forces, their function and their role in the coup.

We also demand that there be a point included about human rights, because there have been extensive violations. ... Then, in that sense, we call on the OAS and the U.N. to act on their resolutions and sanctions of Honduras and for all the governments to increase the economic sanctions against the de-facto government.

WW: What are the plans for this July 20-26?

BC: There are many activities. The Workers Federations are holding an assembly right now to call actions and strikes in governmental and private institutions, including taking over roads, days of art and culture of resistance against the coup, departmental, regional and community actions that will increase on Thursday and Friday [July 24] when we wait for the return of compañero President Zelaya.

WW: I heard today that after being closed since the beginning of the strike, 50 percent of the schools will open.

BC: Yes. That has been an agreement among the six teachers’ federations, which are very strong at the national level. They did it in order to have days of awareness for the parents and families, since there exists a huge campaign of disinformation and manipulation by the de-facto government against the organized teachers. In this way, the teachers will regroup and will join all the actions of Thursday and Friday.

There is no other way to inform the people since there is a curfew, a state of siege, violation of freedom of expression, and we cannot use the media to tell the people the truth. There is only one national TV channel and a local radio station. What the people are using is clandestine alternative media.

WW: It has been three weeks of constant mobilizations. How has the movement survived?

BC: There have been relevos (pauses), concentrations in some regions, and increasing the mobilizations when it is more crucial. The youth’s creativity has appeared, very powerfully, more than with speeches, through theater and music. There have been different actions in each region.

There have been very important actions outside of Tegucigalpa. For example, in Colon there have been constant road closures that have prevented the transport of Standard Oil’s production and African Palm oil products, which is owned by Miguel Facusé, one of the coup plotter’s financiers in Honduras and one of the richest men in Central America.

WW: What do you think will happen with the ALBA?

BC: The ALBA is for us an alternative popular project constructed not only by Mel Zelaya but by the Honduran people. It benefits the poorest sectors in the country, for example, the Indigenous and the Black people. That is why we struggled before and demanded that Honduras join the ALBA. The whole movement has participated in the construction of Honduras ALBA, and we are determined to defend it and will not allow our victories to be reversed.

WW: How can we help from the United States?

BC: The petition that the IAC’s Ramsey Clark wrote is good. It should continue because the U.S. ambassador knew and approved the coup. The involvement of the Pentagon and the hawks from the USA, of the far right and the Cuban counterrevolutionaries is a fact. Even Micheletti’s USA’s advisors are still here.

And Otto Reich was present at the air force base under a security operation the evening before the coup. This is a very delicate matter that shows the involvement of these sectors, contrary to what President Obama has said. And we have seen how these golpistas (coup plotters) have shown their racism against President Obama.

It is crucial to continue demanding that the U.S. withdraws its ambassador and cuts all aid. There is still U.S. support through the financing of AID and other projects; that is why the de-facto government is not worried. Therefore it is essential to continue demonstrating against U.S. embassies and force the USA to participate fully in the sanctions—to do what that government is obliged through the OAS and U.N. resolutions. [Activists] should also demand that the Canadian government cease to support the de-facto government.