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Now reporting to U.S. movement

Voices of resistance to Honduras coup

Published Aug 6, 2009 7:16 PM

Honduran workers and farmers have protested every day since a military coup d’état overthrew that country’s democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya on June 28. Voices of that resistance movement spoke in Philadelphia July 31 stressing the urgency that Zelaya be returned to power and the coup d’état overturned.

Honduran delegation and supporters in
Philadelphia on July 31. From left, Patricia
Montes from Boston, Abencio Fernández
Pineda, Dr. Juan Almendares, María Luisa
Jiménez, Berta Joubert-Ceci from
Philadelphia, Oscar Chacón from Chicago,
Bartolomea Leduc, Dr. Luther Castillo
and others. The group is in the U.S. to
explain the resistance to the coup in
Photo: Kelly Kelly Valdez

Several of the speakers expressed hope of reversing the coup, noting that despite the pepper spray and the killings, this is the first time they are seeing such a level of unity and determination to resist by the Honduran people.

Sponsored by the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, the delegation of human rights activists first stopped in Washington, D.C., to lobby U.S. government representatives to immediately suspend all military and financial aid to the military junta led by Roberto Micheletti.

Oscar Chacon, Executive Director of NALACC, stressed that the Honduran crisis is a top priority for the solidarity movement, noting the danger that this coup d’état serves as a green light for military actions in other countries if not stopped soon.

Berta Joubert-Ceci, who has written extensively in Workers World about the situation in Honduras, chaired the meeting, which was co-sponsored by the Philadelphia International Action Center, Prometheus Radio Project, and Anarchist/Autonomous People of Color Philly.

Internationally known Honduran medical doctor and human rights activist Dr. Juan Almendares laid blame for the coup d’état on the military forces trained by the U.S. at the School of the Americas and supported by the U.S. government’s continued refusal to suspend all aid.

Almendares noted that former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras John Negroponte visited Honduras in early June and held talks with forces involved in the coup d’état, including business leaders, church hierarchy and the military.

Almendares criticized the U.S. media for building up support for the coup d’état by failing to report that broad sectors of the Honduran population had supported Zelaya’s call for changes in the constitution, which historically discriminated against women, Indigenous and Afro-Hondurans.

In 2001 Almendares received the Barbara Chester Award for his ground-breaking efforts with prisoners, victims of torture, the poor and Indigenous populations. A torture survivor himself, Almendares has been targeted by death squads.

Dr. Luther Castillo, named Honduran Doctor of the Year by Rotary International’s Tegucigalpa chapter, described the coup d’état’s negative impact on Indigenous people and on the Afro-Honduran Garifuna population along the Atlantic coast from which he comes.

Trained at the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba, Castillo led the construction of Honduras’ first Garifuna rural hospital that has served over 20,000 people. He spoke of the resistance to efforts by the coup d’état to close the hospital and an attack on protesters that resulted in the murder of a young teacher who was shot in the head by the military.

The Garifuna, who comprise 15 percent of the population of Honduras, are descendents of Africans brought to the area on slave ships 212 years ago. Their ancestors were never enslaved because they killed the slave masters. This spirit of resistance continues today with the Garifuna’s fight against assimilation and now the coup d’état.

Independent journalist and a member of Honduran grass-roots organization Los Necios, youth activist Gerardo Torres described how poor and working people in Honduras have benefited from changes made by Zelaya, who increased the minimum wage and stopped the privatization of water and electricity.

“The same people who accused Zelaya of trying to stay in power were members of the Supreme Court who have been in power 29 years,” Torres said. “The coup d’état in Honduras is an example for other countries and it’s key to U.S. interests. If the U.S. took support from the coup d’état [leaders], they couldn’t last a week.”

Abencio Fernandez Pineda, coordinator of the nongovernmental Center for the Investigation and Defense of Human Rights in Honduras, described the growing problem of death threats against people opposing Micheletti. “People are being assassinated, including a journalist killed because of his reporting, and there are five cases of people who are disappeared,” Pineda noted.

Pineda also explained that the curfew imposed by the military junta is being used as an excuse to arrest people who oppose the coup d’état. “Everything is done in the name of ‘security.’ Fifty-four people were arrested at protests today, including women and children.”

Maria Luisa Jimenez, a former police officer who has denounced corruption, spoke from firsthand knowledge of what the military is capable of doing against the people who oppose the coup d’état. She described police and military checkpoints that have been placed throughout the country. “There are paramilitary death squads killing people and women arrested and raped in detention,” Jimenez said. Private security and mercenary forces, involving more than 60,000 armed men, are also operating in the country.