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Hondurans stand firm against illegitimate government

Published Jul 29, 2009 3:02 PM

Manuel Zelaya Rosales, the legitimate president of Honduras, crossed the Nicaraguan border to enter his homeland July 24 after declaring the second round of mediation arbitrated by U.S.-handpicked Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to be a failure.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, July 28.

Once inside Honduran territory, Zelaya tried to talk with the Armed Forces chief, with no success. He then had to get back to the Nicaraguan side because of the presence of 400 heavily armed troops, including sharpshooters, poised to take action against him and the unarmed masses of people who had come from all over the country to greet him.

In response, the Popular National Front of Resistance against the Coup D’État (FNPRG), which has been organizing strikes and other popular actions since the June 28 coup, remains firm in their demands for the unconditional return of Zelaya to office and for convening a Constitutional Assembly.

Zelaya had accepted Arias’ original seven-point “proposal for peace.” The coup regime led by Roberto Micheletti, who has been aided by United States advisors close to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, rejected that plan and made a counterproposal.

As a result, Arias amended the initial plan and on July 22 produced a nine-point proposal where President Zelaya’s return to office—the first point in the original proposal—was relegated to number six. This was a clear concession to the golpistas (coup plotters), who refuse to accept Zelaya’s return. It amounted to turning the president over to the repressive power of the golpistas.

Zelaya refused to accept it, instead vowing to return to Honduras from Nicaragua. The president initiated a trek to the Nicaraguan-Honduran border accompanied by Venezuelan Exterior Minister Nicolas Maduro, Honduran Exterior Minister Patricia Rodas and other supporters.

Resistance energized despite repression

Those resisting the coup inside Honduras have been carrying out constant actions for three weeks—strikes, demonstrations and other protests. After learning that their President was coming home, the Honduran people, under FNPRG leadership, reinitiated a general strike on July 23 with renewed energy and started mobilizing marches toward the border with Nicaragua.

This was no easy task. The illegal coup regime has militarized the country. Soon after they were aware of Zelaya’s plans, the golpistas sent hundreds of police and heavily armed army troops to the border, meanwhile declaring a continuous curfew in the border area. Troops stopped buses and cars that were carrying demonstrators, and when the people continued by foot, the army formed tight lines surrounding them, allowing the people to neither go through nor return.

The people were trying to reach El Paraiso, one of the three entry points to Honduras from the Nicaraguan side. Zelaya first headed toward El Paraiso, but the heavy militarized presence prevented his entry there. He then moved to the next nearest entry, Las Manos, where he eventually was able to enter for a few minutes before the troops, threatening slaughter, forced him back to Nicaragua.

A letter from Honduras

According to Dick Emanuelsson’s July 27 report on the “Honduras en Resistencia” e-mail list, a reporter from Nicaragua called him to say that between 4,000 and 5,000 Hondurans had crossed to Nicaragua in the region around Las Manos to be with Zelaya.

A letter from Martha Silva in Honduras to a friend in Venezuela, circulated through the Internet, shows the resilience and courage of the people, but also the terrible repression they face. One of the thousands defying the curfew and army repression, Silva tried to go to meet Zelaya.

Silva wrote: “I walked from Arenal to El Paraiso to meet Mel [Zelaya] for more than 50 kilometers, under the sun, rain, mud, hunger, thirst, etc. When we were about only 11 kilometers [7 miles] away, the police stopped us and took us to jail.” [The repressive forces are arresting scores of people, with the only charge that of defying the curfew; in general, they are freed after a few hours, in an obvious attempt to discourage people from continuing.—BJC]

“Once free, I joined the picket line in El Paraiso. Throughout all Friday [July 24], they were beating us and throwing tear gas until 11 a.m. when they started shooting and hurt two compañeros. We spent the rest of the day between screams and tear gas. Goriletti [In Latin America, the golpistas are called gorillas, so Michel-etti’s name has been turned into Goril-etti by the resistance.—BJC] started curfew at 12 noon, so these gorillas forced the stores to close and prohibited anyone from selling us food or water or to assist us in any way. Some people, though, in secret would sell things to us.

“Then [the army] surrounded us with battalions and we decided to make their lives impossible, so we set tires on fire, formed barricades with sticks and stones. We had sort of a carnival with music until the rain put out the fire. We had more than 50 trucks parked with perishable produce where we stayed as if it were a hotel, although the food would rot after three days.

“Well, the night was advancing and I was finishing my shift, so I tried to sleep around 10 p.m. At 6 a.m., we found out that one of the youth was dead, he was 24 years old, and they said that the police killed him. When I saw him, I felt a chill through my body. He was one of the youth with whom we were setting the tires on fire.

“Then later we were told by the forensic team that he had been savagely tortured, stabbed 42 times. His name was Pedro Magdiel Nuñez Salvador. ... Those of us who survived the 1980s know that the same thing happened then ... as a message to the leftist forces, we know those were the methods of the doctrine of national security of assassin Billy Joya and now history is repeating. So even though I am very tired, I wanted to share this testimony.”

Joya, a retired captain of the Honduran army, is an advisor to Micheletti on national security. He was in charge of the murderous U.S.-directed “Cobra” commandos in the 1980s and member of the CIA-created 316th Battalion that tortured, disappeared and murdered scores of Hondurans during that time.

State of emergency at Nicaraguan border

The constant curfew and repression have created a zone where criminal human rights abuses are conducted continually against the resistance forces. Several delegations of human rights organizations have been documenting the coup regime’s consistent abuses since the June 28 coup.

The latest report, dated July 27, focuses specifically on the abuses committed since July 24. It states that since then there is a “very tense situation in Las Manos,” the military and police have established approximately 18 roadblocks, hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested, and at least 2,000 people are trapped between these roadblocks, unable to move or receive food, medicines or basic services. The military has not allowed any humanitarian aid to enter the area. (rebelion.org)

There have been multiple other violations against freedom of expression, constant harassment and threats against reporters, at least six murders—among them the killing of two leaders of the leftist Democratic Unification Party—and death threats to almost every leader in the resistance.

On July 26, prior to the funeral of Pedro Magdiel, while the leadership of the resistance was meeting in El Paraiso to plan for the upcoming week, they heard an explosion. A bomb had been thrown at the building. Fortunately no one was hurt.

Washington’s actions against Honduran people

Ever since Zelaya increased the minimum wage and joined the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA)—the number one enemy of United States-based transnational corporations—both Honduran businesses and the multiple U.S. corporations operating in Honduras have turned sharply against Zelaya. From Exxon Mobil to the maquiladoras (assembly plants), the owners are afraid to see their profits slip away and go instead to benefit the mostly poor population.

So, just as United Fruit of the 1950s (now Chiquita Brands) did, these corporations took action in coordination with the pro-U.S. Honduran oligarchy. Now they work not only with the Pentagon and related organizations, but with the apparently “softer” face of “pro-democracy” imperialist entities like the National Endowment for Democracy, U.S. Agency for International Development and an orchestrated international campaign conducted in the U.S.-based corporate media. This even included an opinion piece by Micheletti attempting to justify the coup in the July 27 Wall Street Journal.

In an excellent investigative report published in the July 8 edition of the Cuban daily Granma, Eva Golinger writes, “Republican Senator John McCain is behind a visit to Washington by representatives of the de facto Honduran government. McCain, known for his hard-line stance against Venezuela, Bolivia and other countries in the region considered to be ‘anti-imperialist,’ organized a ‘press conference’ for the coup leaders on Tuesday, July 7, at the prestigious National Press Club in the U.S. capital.”

Golinger continues: “McCain is chief of the executive board of the International Republican Institute (IRI), an entity considered to be the international arm of the Republican Party in the United States and one of the four ‘key groups’ of the NED. In the last year, the IRI has been working in Honduras with more than $1.2 million in NED funds to influence political parties and ‘support initiatives to implement political positions during the 2009 campaigns. The IRI is to place special emphasis on Honduras, a country that has presidential and legislative elections in November 2009.’”

One of the recipients of the aid was the COHEP, the Honduran Council of Private Enterprises, which is behind the coup in opposition to the increase in minimum wage and the possibilities of any anti-privatization attempts by Zelaya.

Uncertain future

What will happen now in Honduras? Although Micheletti has rejected the possibility of Zelaya returning to office, a piece in the July 26 New York Times clearly states that the “Military in Honduras backs plan on Zelaya.” The Times reports, “The communiqué [announcing the military’s decision] was drafted in Washington after days of talks between mid-level Honduran officers and American Congressional aides. Posted on the Honduran Armed Forces Web site, it endorsed the so-called San José Accord that was forged in Costa Rica.” This includes Zelaya’s return to office.

The popular pro-Zelaya demonstrations in Honduras have reached out to the rank-and-file soldiers and the lower-ranking officers, calling on them to join the people, not to repress them. Perhaps U.S. strategists fear these calls will be successful and that Micheletti’s intransigence will lead to a split in the military that would join the popular revolt. This may be why Washington could work with elements in the Honduran army for concessions that would restore a constitutional government, albeit a weakened one. This remains to be seen.

E-mail: [email protected]