June 24 — Since last week, the Honduran people have been in rebellion against the dictatorship of President Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH). The general strike and accompanying demonstrations that began last month, organized by the Platform for the Defense of Health and Education in Honduras, have evolved into a demand for the resignation of the president in response to the intensity of state repression.
Doctors and teachers were joined by delivery drivers, who refused to make deliveries and used their trucks to block key highways throughout the country. This quickly caused a fuel shortage in various areas, particularly the big cities.
At one point, a section of the National Police also went on strike and rebelled against their officers, causing the people to once again take the streets and occupy buildings and public spaces throughout the cities. The police have since returned to their work of suppressing protests, since what they truly wanted was more money, but not before JOH mobilized the army to “restore order.”
Despite state repression, the Platform and opposition party Freedom and Refoundation (Libre) continue to call for popular mobilization and have stated their intent to continue struggling until the dictator resigns.
Images of people facing off against tear gas and military police, of human rights defenders assassinated by security forces and of streets blockaded by burning tires show the intensity of the struggle against the neoliberal policies imposed by imperialism over the last decade. The uprising is developing just days before the 10th anniversary of the coup against Manuel Zelaya in 2009.
2009 U.S.-backed coup
Zelaya was president from 2006 to 2009, when he was kidnapped by the military and sent to Costa Rica. The military high command claimed that Zelaya was seeking a second presidential term, which would have violated the constitution.
In truth, the coup was the result of Zelaya’s attempt to join the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), a regional organization promoted by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela to resist imperialist coercion.
This was unacceptable to U.S. imperialism and the Honduran oligarchy, which had already been attacking the progressive government through its control of the media. When presented with the opportunity, they fabricated a constitutional crisis and carried out a military coup.
Publically, the U.S. government under President Barack Obama condemned the coup, but did nothing to help restore the democratically elected president. In fact, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails reveal that the U.S. was negotiating with the coup leaders, many of whom were connected to the Pentagon.
The U.S. did not hesitate to recognize the poll results in November of that year, despite the fact that the elections were run by the military junta. The new conservative president, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, was celebrated for his “reconciliation” efforts. Meanwhile, journalists who supported Zelaya or simply opposed the coup began to disappear.
The current president came to power in 2014 and has been criticized for corruption and increasing state repression against opponents. The right wing accused Zelaya of seeking a second term in order to justify removing him, but JOH was able to amend the Constitution and run for reelection without issue.
The 2017 election was characterized by blatant fraud of JOH’s National Party. The vote count was suspended several times, in one instance for three days, and when it resumed, the almost 5 percent advantage held by the opposition had disappeared.
Ten years of repression, neoliberalism
The anniversary of the coup is an opportunity to reflect on the objectives and consequences of the neoliberal agenda for Latin America. It must be noted that this is a set of policies imposed by U.S. imperialism; therefore the policies are completely subjugated to its interests.
The history of Honduras, like all of Latin America, has been defined by colonialism and its successor, imperialism. The dispossession of Indigenous peoples and the destruction of their lands through extractivist projects and monoculture is the basis by which the oligarchy enriched itself and built the current Honduran state.
Under the neoliberal governments of JOH’s National Party, this process has only intensified. The case of Indigenous (Lenca) land-defender Berta Cáceres, who fought against transnational capital’s attempt to build a dam in Lenca territory, is known throughout the world.
Cáceres was murdered in 2014 by a group of men linked not only to the company building the project and to the Honduran state, but also to the infamous School of the Americas, the U.S. military college that for decades trained soldiers and security forces for the worst dictatorships the continent has known. And Cáceres is only one of hundreds of cases of social leaders murdered while fighting against mining projects and hydroelectric dams since 2009.
In the urban areas, the government has tried to destroy all social services on instructions from the International Monetary Fund. The current struggle to defend health care and education is the culmination of many years of funding cuts aimed at eventually forcing privatization.
While JOH’s dictatorship slashes funds for public services, the police have gotten more and more militarized, with technology and training from the U.S. While the country burns and the people demand justice, last week 300 U.S. Marines arrived in Honduras to add to the U.S. troops already there.
Honduras has the largest U.S. military base in the region, and the country has historically been used to crush social movements in neighboring countries. In 1954, it was the staging ground for soldiers financed by the U.S. to overthrow the Guatemalan government, and the country was also used as a base of support for the Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s.
Ten years after the coup d’etat, the Honduran people will no longer stand for neoliberal austerity and the state repression that comes with it. The two options they have left are to join the caravans heading north or fight in the streets against the government.
For those living in the imperialist center, solidarity with the people of Honduras has to be twofold. First, it means struggling against the fascist border policies of the U.S. government. Second, it means denouncing the JOH dictatorship and demanding that the U.S. cease all training and military aid to its imperial puppet in Honduras.