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Resistance to Honduran coup regime deepens

Published Sep 12, 2010 11:35 PM

August was a month of fierce struggle in Honduras. The National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) has engaged in strikes, marches and sit-ins, while the government of Honduras has responded with ruthless repression. Speaking Sept. 6 on the resistance station Radio Globo, Juan Barahona, assistant coordinator of FNRP and president of the United Workers Federation, said he had never seen such brutality by the military and police in Honduras, not even in the 1980s.

September promises to be even more intense.

Hondurans have been in the streets and organizing in the countryside ever since June 28, 2009, when a coup turned the country over to the military and the oligarchs: the 10 Honduran families that own the land and corporations, along with U.S. transnationals. The coup regime under Roberto Micheletti removed legally elected President Manuel Zelaya from office and instituted a series of draconian measures that stripped the population of their rights.

During his presidency, Zelaya had responded to demands by workers and peasants to increase the minimum wage and improve conditions for the majority of the population. With the covert acquiescence of the U.S. government, which had criticized Zelaya’s anti-imperialist reforms, the Honduran oligarchy took control of the nation of 8 million people.

Though Washington claimed to oppose the coup, it favored a fraudulent “election” process that, in January, brought the stooge Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo Sosa to presidency. Lobo is under the military and oligarchy’s total control and has used the police and army to repress the population throughout the country since his election. Though scores of people, including journalists, have been murdered, tortured and disappeared since Lobo’s election, the U.S. government maintains that Honduras has been “restored to democracy.” (Agence France-Presse, Aug. 29)

In Bajo Aguán in northern Honduras, peasants demanded the fulfillment of a rural agrarian reform that would have turned their ancestral lands over to them. The Lobo government responded in April with 3,000 heavily armed troops and violent repression of the peasant organizations.

On Sept. 5, the police and military broke up a three-month hunger strike by workers fired from the National Autonomous University. The 150 union workers had protested their firing by engaging in a peaceful strike until the military entered and beat, fired upon and tear-gassed both the workers and students within the walls of the university. The army then took control of the school. (Presente Honduras, Sept. 5, and TeleSUR, Sept. 6)

The Lobo government and its rubber-stamping Congress was still reeling from the victory of a three-week teachers’ strike in August. The teachers, who the government hadn’t paid since February, struck for back pay and to oppose the privatization of education. Despite vicious attacks by police and armed forces, the teachers held firm and won their demands. Lobo (whom some call “Golpepe,” a contraction of the word “golpe,” the Spanish for coup, and Pepe) was forced to promise to get back their pensions — which the Micheletti government had actually stolen — and restore their benefits.

On Aug. 26 the teachers had taken to the streets of capital city Tegucigalpa in support of demands by peasants’ movements for land distribution. The military responded with guns and tear gas. (Resistencia, Aug. 26)

Since May 1, the Honduran resistance has been organizing for “La Constituyente,” a national constituent assembly to replace the present constitution. It has circulated a petition demanding a referendum to begin the process for a people’s constitution.

The current constitution, which was written in 1982 in collusion with the Reagan administration in the U.S., has exacerbated the gap between rich and poor. It upholds the rights of oligarchs and foreign investors.

Even the U.S. admits that since 2004 the official poverty rate for Honduras has increased from 50 percent of the population to more than 60 percent. (CIA World Factbook) The effects of the global economic crisis have been brutal in Central America, and Honduras is the poorest country in the region.

More than 1 million people have signed the petition for the Constituyente so far. The Resistance demands include land reform; raising the minimum wage; respect for human rights; an end to the persecution and assassination of members of the Resistance; and no privatization of natural resources. This last demand is of particular concern to the Indigenous people of Honduras, who oppose the privatization of Honduras’s rivers.

In addition, the Resistance is calling for international recognition for a national constituent assembly and guarantees for the return of Manuel Zelaya, the coordinator of the national resistance, and 200 more Hondurans forced into exile by the coup.

The Resistance is calling a 12-hour national strike in Tegucigalpa on Sept. 7. When the armed forces so viciously attacked the National University workers on Sept. 5, Lobo issued a warning that anyone supporting the occupation of public buildings or highways would be repressed. But the response of both worker and peasant groups has been to intensify their opposition, calling on all workers, students and peasants to occupy the streets of Tegucigalpa on Sept. 7.

FNRP Assistant Coordinator Juan Barahona said the work stoppage will be the prelude to a general strike that the country’s four trade unions are preparing. (Prensa Latina, Sept. 3)

The Resistance expects to have 1,250,000 signatures calling for the Constituyente by Sept. 15, and notes that the Paro Civico is its first step. The Honduran Resistance has steadfastly moved forward. Its slogan, “They fear us because we have no fear,” is ringing true.