'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Honduran Coup Never Happened (Part 2) 

I perused the Internet sites of the The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Guardian today. None of them had any new articles related to the coup in Honduras and the effort of the deposed President, Manuel Zelaya, to return to the country to serve out his term. After meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week, and then attending a brief, purported mediation conducted by former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, Zelaya is now encountering American indifference.

Some of us anticipated these developments. From the beginning, the US reaction to the coup has been one of wanting to appear as if it supported the return of Zelaya, the elected President, while doing as little as possible to make it possible. Confirmation of this strategy emerged last Friday, when, as noted here, The New York Times, in a headline for an article about the failed mediation effort, described Zelaya, along with the person installed as President by coup, Robert Micheletti, as rivals:

Prospects for a quick resolution of the political crisis in Honduras were thrown into doubt Thursday, as the two men claiming their nation’s presidency left negotiations only hours after they had begun and showed no signs of budging from the positions that have divided the country.

At the risk of coming across as a conspiracy theorist, the erasure of the coup from public consciousness by the Times was telegraphed by the State Department a couple of days before:

While Secretary Clinton reiterated the United States’ condemnation of Mr. Zelaya’s ouster, she stopped short of calling for his reinstatement, a departure from statements by President Obama earlier Tuesday and from the position taken by much of the international community.

When asked whether the United States viewed Mr. Zelaya’s return as central to the restoration of democratic order, she said that she did not want to “prejudge” the talks before they began.

“There are many different issues that will have to be discussed and resolved,” Mrs. Clinton said. “But I think it’s fair to let the parties themselves, with President Arias’s assistance, sort out all of these issues.”

Perhaps, because they perceive no alternative, some supporters of Zelaya, and the social movements associated with him, continue to hope that the Obama administration will take action to bring about his return. On Friday, I had the opportunity to interview Laura Carlsen, director of the Americas Program for the Center for International Policy, about the situation in Honduras. She, quite correctly, insisted that the condemnations of the coup by the Obama administration were a departure from previous Bush administration practice, and held out the hope that the US would follow through with cuts in military and economic assistance.

There is no question that Carlsen is far more knowledgeable about the people and institutions of the Americas than myself, and I recommend her blog highly, but, even so, I am not optimistic. Indeed, she revealed why the US is so ambivalent about the return of Zelaya later during the course of the interview. She observed that the social movements of Honduras, composed of peasants, indigenous people and labor activists, are insistent that the return of Zelaya must take place without preconditions, especially as it relates to efforts to amend the Honduran constitution. In their view, the constitution, implemented by the military in 1982, is far too favorable to the oligarchy.

As explained by Carlos Reyes, a Honduran labor leader and National Coordinator of the Popular Resistance:

When the current Constitution was drafted in 1981, both the country and the region were under a low intensity war sponsored by the United States and its ambassador to Honduras, John Dimitri Negroponte.

Honduras was officially governed by civilians, but it was the military that effectively ruled the country, under the command of General Gustavo Álvarez Martínez, a murderer who ordered the death of countless civilians. In that context, the business sector, following instructions from the United States embassy, set out to achieve two goals: the sale of Honduras, and the reduction of the State with the purported aim of eliminating poverty. These two principles permeated the Constitution, with the ensuing effect of advancing a neoliberal agenda and everything that such a model entails.

In 2005, the country reached its most critical moment with the signing of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States (DR-CAFTA), which unleashed an intense wave of protests led by our social movements. The DR-CAFTA delivered a final blow to the Constitution, and we saw that it was time to form a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution and recover our sovereignty.

Carlsen is no doubt correct, and it is precisely for this reason that the US will obstruct the return of Zelaya as anything other than a figurehead to serve out the remaining months of his term. If Zelaya resists, the US is willing to give the coup leaders all the time they need to shatter the power of the social movements that so threaten its economic interests there. Expect any future aid cutoffs to be carefully calibrated so as to enable the dictatorship to stay in power until elections that the US can then embrace.

As Keegan Keegan observed last Friday:

The ball is back in the court of Zelaya and the social movements. Do they wait for the next opportunity to discuss the situation or for the international community to take more concrete measures or do they reject dialogue as a strategy of the oligarchy to maintain power for long enough to shift public and international opinion?

My opinion is that the need for concrete actions is immediate and that every day which passes under this dictatorship is a day lost by the Honduran people. The advances of the ALBA (Allianza Bolivariana Para Los Pueblos de America Latina, Bolivarian Alliance for the peoples of America) and its many programs have been stolen from the Honduran people. President Zelaya decided to join the ALBA after the oligarchy refused to support his plans to create a more just Honduras. Today it was announced that in the face of the aggressions of the coup government around 80 of the 120 Cuban staff providing services to the Honduran people have left the country.

Programs which have been delivered over the last year as a result of the ALBA which are no under threat include "Yes I can" (Yo si puedo) the Cuban literacy program which has helped more than 150 000 Honduran's become literate, support for food sovereignty and agricultural development which includes 100 tractors provided by Venezuela, 70 scholarships for Honduran students to go and study in Venezuelan Universities, Mission Miracle (mission Milagro) which has restored the site of around 5000 in Venezuela with the help of Cuban medical staff. Cuba has also supported, the construction and staffing of medical clinics in regions previously denied the right to health services and sports coaches. These are the actions that the Honduran oligarchy is rebelling against. The possibility of an educated population which is guaranteed its basic rights rather than having them determined by their place in the capitalist hierarchy is not acceptable to those who want low wages and a controllable society desperate to buy.

In the next two or three days I think we will know the path of the struggle in Honduras. Either the social movements and Zelaya will take strong action and risk the violence that could be brought upon them by the oligarchy or they will continue with passive actions and the process of a drawn out "dialogue" which will leave the oligarchy in power leading up to the November elections. Neither path is ideal nor do they have definite outcomes but a choice will soon be made.

Yes, the two or three days mentioned by Keegan have just passed, but, generally, he is correct, a decision must be made by the social movements, or one will be forced upon them. . . every day which passes under this dictatorship is a day lost by the Honduran people. Unfortunately, the US, and the Obama administration, knows this better than anyone. Just because the Honduran people find themselves struggling in darkness does not eliminate the possibility of being successful.


11th Communiqué of the National Front Against the Coup d'etat

The National Front Against the Coup d'etat in Honduras made up of the different organized expressions in the country united in the face of the situation provoked by the coup d'etat, communicates:

1. We energetically condemn the killing of Roger Bados, militant of the Democratic Unity Party and member of the Popular Block. This happened in his house and his house-mate and sister were also wounded. Roger was an active member of the Honduran popular movement and actively participated in the actions against the coup d'etat. We demand punishment for those who thought up and carried out this crime.

2. We reiterate our demand to unconditionally retore the institutional order in the country, at the same time we re-affirm our willingness to continue with a process that leads us to the installation of a National Constitutional Assembly that allows the re-founding of Honduras.

3. With respect to the mediation meetings taking place in San José Costa Rica, we denounce that it has been clearly demonstrated that all of this has been a delay tactic to keep President Zelaya outside of the country. It is not true that the discussions have stayed open, as when the Commission of the Government of President Zelaya asked for this mediation to take place in Honduras they did not respond and the Commission of the coup-makers clearly said that they would not allow this process to take place in our territory.

4. We repudiate the persecution and capture of the reporters from the Telesur Network. Sunday morning they were detained by the national police, taken out of the hotel they were staying at, taken to the embassy of their country, all this under the argument that they don't have anything more to do in. We condemn the repression against the media that tells what is really happening in the country.

5. We make it known amongst the rest of the Honduran population that during the radio programs of the Center for Women's Studies and the Center for Women's Rights transmitted by Radio Cadena Voces, on Saturday July 11th, they cut the signal at the hour they broadcast. In these programs they read news about the actions taking place against the coup d'etat.

6. We communicate that last weekend protests and take-overs against the coup-detat took place all over the country. In San Pedro Sula, Santa Barbará, Sava, Sonaguera, Trujillo, Tocoa, Copan and Tegucigalpa, where on Saturday there was a political cultural act in the place where the Armed Forces killed the young man Isis Obed Murillo. The tribute included protest music from well-known artists, messages from different people, amongst whom were family members of the young man, and there was also a Garífuna ceremony.

7. We put out a call to the whole population for us to continue the struggle and demand the restitution of individual guarantees, for now they have suspended the curfew but they continue violating the rights of the population by keeping our rights suspended. The intimidation of people with militarization of offices, organizations, highways and other places also affects all people.

One can only respect the bravery of the Hondurans and the clarity of their insight, as some American progressives run to catch up with them.

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