Honduras: Growing Political and Organizational Maturity Will Bring Victory

On June 28 the military coup d’etat took place. On that very same day the seeds of the National Front Against the Coup were sown. Since then it is developing politically and organizationally on a daily basis with the people, exhibiting courage and determination in the face of repression and assassinations. The Front is not only responsible for huge peaceful demonstrations in the cities, but also organizing thousands of local cells and activities in the cities, towns and countryside, carrying out political education in the process. President Zelaya and his legitimate government are also maturing and radicalizing themselves. It has maintained the governing organization in operation whether in exile or in the Brazilian Embassy. Zelaya himself has visited Washington and many capitals in South America, seeking increased support. He attempted two courageous peaceful incursions into his country, by airplane and by ground, and succeeded on the third occasion despite the serious dangers.

10-03-10-570In a situation of negotiations between on the one hand the putschists and on the other hand the legitimate government and its allies in the Front, all this in the context of the presidential elections, what is the Micheletti de facto government attempting to do? Amongst other things, it is trying to divide the resistance forces and weaken the mass movement in the streets in order to gain time and legitimize itself through elections. However, all three forces, firstly the Front and its affiliate social and trade union organizations and followers in the street, secondly the two potential candidates for the presidential elections who are directly linked to the Front and thirdly the Zelaya government, have all further developed their unity with each other. Their combined tactics in this complicated situation constitute one of many examples exhibiting the rapidly growing political maturity and consciousness of all the components forming the resistance. All of these forces, far from succumbing to the usual imperialist tactics of divide and rule, are further unifying themselves. The resistance in the streets, the new political forces and the constitutional Zelaya government all complement each other.

From an exclusive October 5 telephone interview with Zelaya by some international media and reported by on-the-spot journalist Giorgio Trucchi, the following are excerpts:

Question: You have agreed to sign the San Jose Arias Plan or Agreement which does not envisage the main demand of the National Front Against the Coup, that is to begin a process to install a Constituent Assembly. Does this imply a concession by you? [The question is related to President Zelaya refraining from promoting the Constituent Assembly during the remainder of his mandate.]

Zelaya: The person who is going to sign the Plan is me as the elected representative of the Honduran people. The Plan has two components: my restitution in order to say No to coups d’etats; the Latin American presidents are interested in this so as to feel confident that the sovereignty of the people is going to be respected and that no military, economic and political elite can replace the will of the people.

The second component comprises the social processes and reforms and is related to timing….The Constituent [Assembly] is not a power of the President, neither of the de facto regime, nor any other group. It is a faculty of the Honduran people who, through a people’s consultation, can determine when they are going to do it. That is why the signing of the Arias Plan is consistent with my position in relation to the reforms that have to continue…. The decision to organize a Constituent [Assembly] belongs to the people who are sovereign…1

In an October 14 interview with Front leader Juan Barahona and as reported by Telesur, in response to the question:

Another point where it will be difficult to reach an agreement is number 3, where it is proposed that President Zelaya concedes the promotion of a Constituent Assembly?

Barahona: President Zelaya has already said that he is ready to sign the Agreement of San Jose and renounce the Constituent Assembly during the period that will remain to end his mandate. We are going to respect this position of the President; however, we as the Resistance are never going to renounce the need to push for the Constituent [Assembly]…. There will be no elections if President Zelaya is not restored ….

I am very pessimistic [about the negotiations] and I do not have many expectations that it can reach a comprehensive agreement. The putschists are trying [since the beginning of the negotiations] to divide our delegation saying that there exists strong contradictions between the resistance and President Zelaya. We [the resistance] meet daily to refine strategy and seek common positions, but this disinformation campaign indicates that they want to make the dialogue fail and then place the responsibility on our shoulders. They have gone so far as to launch a campaign against myself personally saying that I am very tough [a hardliner] and therefore I am not fit for negotiations. In this sense, it is true that I am tough, because I will never be willing to renounce the rights of the people…2

In communiqué No. 28 of the National Front, dated October 13, it is stated:

…We withdrew our comrade Juan Barahoma from the so-called Guaymuras dialogue. Our comrade Barahona was acting as the representative of the National Front against the Coup in the delegation of President Zelaya in the said dialogue.

The delegation of the coup regime, in a typical act of intransigence to hinder the advance of the negotiation, tried to paralyze the dialogue by refusing to accept that our representative would sign accord No. 3 referring to the installation of the National Constitutional Assembly with reservations, since we wished in that reservation to have it recorded that our Front does not renounce nor will it renounce the struggle for this demand, which is the demand of the Honduran people. Conscious of the fact that this was a manoeuvre to cause a failure of the dialogue using any pretext, since signing with reservations was suggested by them in an earlier session, we decided not to lend ourselves to this and therefore we took this decision, leaving President Zelaya at liberty to substitute another representative that enjoys his trust. In that sense, the lawyer Rodil Rivera Rodil was delegated as part of the commission of President Zelaya in substitution for our representative.

The preceding signifies that the [National Front] left the Guaymuras dialogue and that we will keep fighting in the street for the demands that we have raised since the 28th of June; the return of constitutional order, the restitution of President Zelaya to his office, and the convening of a Constitutional Assembly.

We declare that we respect the decision of our president if he decides to sign the San Jose Accord, even with all its conditions, and we declare that we are in full harmony with him in regard to the demand that the coup perpetrators sign an accord by which they will abandon power, and the office of President of the Republic will be returned to him [Zelaya.]3

It was reported on October 19:

In a telephone message to a meeting of the National Front…[on October 18, Zelaya] called on it to keep up the peaceful struggle to restore democratic legality, broken by the June 28 military coup. ‘We will resist until the people obtain victory’… [and] stressed that the struggle will continue until we obtain a country with justice and equity, in a truly participatory democracy. The national directorate of the Front agreed [on October 18] and vowed to continue the peaceful resistance until the return to power of Zelaya and then go on to a national Constituent Assembly…4

There are two candidates for the presidential elections who are fully involved in the National Front:

César Ham of the Unificación Democrática (UD) party and trade union leader and independent candidate Carlos Reyes. Zelaya called on them both to take a stand against participating in the elections under the existing conditions which would lend legitimacy to the putschist electoral process.5

In an interview carried out by Giorgio Trucchi in Honduras with popular trade union leader and independent presidential candidate Carlos Reyes, the latter stated, as published on September 30:

“…If we the people´s and democratic candidates do not withdraw from this electoral process, we would be endorsing all that scaffolding [built-up by Micheletti] and weaken the resistance…”6

This position was confirmed on October 15 by one of the Front leaders Rafael Alegría who emphasised that Reyes will not be candidate under the current conditions in order to “…refrain from legitimizing coups d’etats or constitutional breakdowns…”7

On October 19, the UD party, the third most important of five political force amongst all tendencies in Honduras, announced that it is withdrawing from the elections taking into account that they are “unconstitutional without the restoration of the legitimate president, Manuel Zelaya…”8

This tendency developed even further on October 22. Even a section of the Liberal Party, a party to which the coup perpetrators are linked and one of the biggest political parties in Honduras, joined the protest against the elections. According to an interview accorded to Prensa Latina on October 22: “The Coordination of the Liberal Party against the Coup in Honduras confirmed that it will abstain from participating in the November 29 elections if there is no re-establishment of democracy in the country…. In order for the elections to be recognized by the people and the international community, the indispensable requirement is the return to constitutional order and of the legitimate President, Manuel Zelaya. The Coordination was created in the middle of August during a meeting with the participation of more than 5,000 Liberal Party delegates who rejected the break-down of legal democracy carried out by the military on June 28…”9

Despite all the pressures, on October 25, the National Front, through the voice of its Coordinator Juan Barahona declared that the Front met on October 24 and confirmed their position that “one of the agreements reached was to ratify that if President Zelaya is not returned to his position, there will be no elections on November 29 in the face of the rejection by the vast majority of the people…Barahona pointed out that the candidates running as independents, those from the UD, from the sections of the Liberal Party, as well as Innovación and Unidad Social Democrática parties opposed to the coup, have all anticipated their withdrawal from the elections if Zelaya is not restored…”10

According to a Prensa Latina report, in order to make sure that this orientation regarding the elections makes its point, on October 25 the Front met at the local neighbourhood base and then following the mandate received from this level, decided on October 25 that the 121st consecutive day of resistance will take place on October 26…” Of great political significance, in my view, is that the Front decided in favour of “the resistance carrying out a variety of initiatives in order to stop the military dictatorship from succeeding in its attempt to seek an appearance of legality through the elections.”11

This constitutes one of the most important steps in the struggle since the coup; right from the beginning the Honduran oligarchy and those supporting them either directly or indirectly have been attempting to gain time, to stall until the elections take place and in this way “legitimize” the coup.

Since June 28, the Honduran people and all progressive forces including the Zelaya legitimate government have been developing their unity, political consciousness, organization and peaceful tactics with the immediate objective being the restitution of Zelaya followed by Constituent Assembly, the latter whether Zelaya is ever returned to power or not. The putschists have provoked a mass movement in the country to renew Honduras through a new constitution as the foundation. In fact the new foundation has already been built on a solid basis constituted of the people’s political consciousness and the innovative alternative organization.

For example, in an October 23 interview, Barahona declared that “Honduras completely changed, and we are going to inherit a very positive result of all this; an organization and an important experience. During these days of struggle the level of consciousness has risen far more than by means of a hundred courses on class struggle…”12

Honduras 2009 already has carved out its place in the most recent history of this small Central American country. It is bound to win, nothing can stop it.

Each country in the region has its historic moments which have proven to be watersheds in its respective history:

* Cuba, as the pioneer, is so rich in ground-breaking historical steps. Taking the most recent history, one can indicate the attack on Moncada in 1953 as the continuation of José Marti’s nineteenth century tradition, and its future development following the Granma landing in 1956, the Sierra Maestra war in 1957-1958, with decisive events such as Che’s historic 1958 action in Santa Clara which broke the back of the pro US-military dictatorship.

* Venezuela 1998 is now synonymous with the first electoral victory of Hugo Chávez, coming out of a long struggle by the leader and his movement, a year which changed the coursed not only of Venezuela, but affected all of South America. However, a coup d’etat organized by Washington and their allies in Caracas in 2002 turned into a disaster for the US and Venezuelan oligarchy when the political and organizational strength of the people of Venezuela exploded into a massive action. The secret to success, amongst other factors such as the support for the President from a section of the military, had as its basis mass participation as was explained to the author in a recent interview accorded by a Venezuelan participant who is now a Legislator.13 The columns of people coming from all over completely overwhelmed the coup perpetrators in Caracas. The political consciousness including the need for further organization took a leap forward in a just a couple of days.

* Bolivia 2005: Evo Morales as an indigenous trade union leader and his movement were hoisted to the head of the government in the wake of a massive and successfully organized involvement of a marginalized people; they discussed and acted upon election procedures and soon after a new Constituent Assembly as the basis of a new constitution.

* Nicaragua 2006, nourished from the tradition of the 1970s and 1980s but with a renewed political organization and tactics, Daniel Ortega broke through to victory in 2006.

* Ecuador 2006, the election of Rafael Correa as President proved to be the first step in a rapid succession of political events running into 2008 including a referendum on the need for a Constituent Assembly, the actual election of a Constituent Assembly and the successful referendum on a new modern constitution emerging out of the Constituent Assembly.

Honduras 2009 marks the watershed between the old and the new in this country which Zelaya attempted to remove from its position of being one of the poorest nations in South America, an economic and military colony of the USA. Honduras 2009 may continue into 2010, but the Honduran people will win, just as did the Cubans, Venezuelans, Bolivians, Nicaraguans, Ecuadorians and others.

  1. Entrevista en exclusiva con el presidente Manuel Zelaya, en Tegucigalpa, Giorgio Trucchi, Rel-UITA, 5 October 2009 []
  2. Telesur, 14 October 2009 []
  3. voselsoberano.com,13 October 2009. []
  4. Raimundo López, enviado especial Prensa Latina, 19 October 2009. []
  5. Telesur, 17 October 2009 []
  6. Giorgio Trucchi, Carlos Amorín, Rel-UITA, 30 September 2009. []
  7. Telsur, 15 October 2009. []
  8. Venezolano de televisión, 19 October 2009. []
  9. Raimundo López, enviado especial Prensa Latina, 22 October 2009. []
  10. Prensa Latina, 25 October 2009. []
  11. Raimundo López, enviado especial Prensa Latina, 26 October 2009. []
  12. tercerainformacion.com, 23 October 2009. []
  13. Lor Mogollón, Henrys, Deputy ,Yaracuy Province, in a private interview with the author, October 14, 2009, Montreal. []

Arnold August is a Montreal-based author/journalist/lecturer and Cuba specialist. His first book was Democracy in Cuba and the 1997-98 Elections (English, 1999). His 2013 book is Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion (English, Spanish, French). He can be reached at: arnoldaugust@hotmail.com. Read other articles by Arnold.

2 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. mary said on October 30th, 2009 at 9:22am #

    Just a sop? Is this saying that President Zelaya only has two more months in office if reinstated? Don’t much like the use of the words ‘crept back’ here. It is easy to judge the tone of this report from the language used eg ‘leftist’ Zelaya.

    http://uk.news.yahoo.com/22/20091030/tts-uk-honduras-ca02f96.html

    Honduras’ Zelaya set to return to power
    7 hours 25 mins ago
    Sean Mattson

    Honduras’ de facto government has accepted a deal that opens the door for the return to power of President Manuel Zelaya, toppled in a military coup four months ago. The breakthrough late Thursday followed renewed pressure from senior U.S. officials who travelled to Honduras this week for a last-ditch effort to end a crisis that has given U.S. President Barack Obama a foreign policy headache.

    “It is a triumph for Honduran democracy,” the leftist Zelaya said after the rival sides agreed to a deal that he said should see him restored to office in the coming days.

    Congress still needs to approve his return, but Zelaya said he did not expect any new setbacks. “This is a first step. My reinstatement is imminent, I’m optimistic,” he told Reuters.

    Zelaya was toppled and sent into exile on June 28 but crept back into Honduras last month and has since been holed up in the Brazilian embassy with Honduran troops surrounding the building and his rivals demanding his arrest and trial.

    De facto leader Roberto Micheletti, who took over the country within hours of Zelaya’s ouster, had repeatedly refused to step aside to let the leftist return, but he softened his position Thursday.

    “I have authorized my negotiating team to sign a deal that marks the beginning of the end of the country’s political situation,” Micheletti told reporters Thursday night.

    He said Zelaya could return to office after a vote in Congress that would be authorized by the country’s Supreme Court. The deal would also require both sides to recognise the result of a November 29 presidential election and would transfer control of the army to the top electoral court.

    If approved by Congress, Zelaya would be able to finish out his presidential term, which ends in January.

    Micheletti said the deal will create a truth commission to investigate the events of the last few months, and would ask foreign governments to reverse punitive measures like suspending aid and cancelling the travel visas of prominent figures involved in the coup and the de facto government.

    END OF ISOLATION

    The United States, the European Union and Latin American leaders had all insisted Zelaya be allowed to finish his term and they threatened not to recognise the winner of the November election unless democracy was first restored.

    A U.S. team led by Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon and Dan Restrepo, Washington’s special assistant for Western Hemisphere affairs, sat in on talks earlier in the day and warned that time was running out to reach a deal.

    The coffee-producing Central American country has been diplomatically isolated since Zelaya was rousted at dawn by soldiers on June 28 and flown to exile on a military plane.

    Zelaya had angered many in Honduras by becoming an ally of socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Critics also alleged he was seeking backing to extend presidential term limits, a claim he denies.

    Human rights groups have documented major abuses by the de facto government and say free and fair elections would be impossible after Micheletti curbed civil liberties and temporarily shut down pro-Zelaya news organizations.

    Obama cut some aid to Honduras after the coup but had been criticized by some Latin American for not doing more to force the de facto government to back down. At home, however, some Republicans accused him of doing too much for Zelaya.

    The collapse of talks last week prompted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to dispatch the U.S. delegation to push again for a negotiated settlement.

    (Additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa; Writing by Jason Lange; Editing by Kieran Murray)

  2. Arnold August said on October 31st, 2009 at 12:09pm #

    Mary, I think you are right in questioning the objectivity of the Reuters report. The situation has not been played out yet. I think the fact the the putschists had to concede to the demand of the poeple and the constitutional President Zelaya that he be reinstated, is a victory for the people. They have been in the streets every day since June 28 demanding, amongst other things, the return of Zelaya as head o government. This step forward is a result of the unity developed between all the anti-coup forces, Zelaya, the National Front leading the resistance and the progressive political parties and their presidential candidates for elections linked to the Front.

    However, if one examines the statement issued by Secrary Hillary Clinton on October 30, 2009 during her visit to Pakistan, it points to some serious dangers on the horizon. Firstly, she spoke as if the negotiations had been finalised and everything had returned to normal. however, the Honduran Congress has to approve the agreement, which at the time of writing, it has not yet done so. Even then, there are conflicting reports, Micheletti saying that the Supreme Court has to appove the Congress position, the same Suprere Court which the military dominates and was instrumental in the coup and its subsequent legal “justification.”

    Clinton also said that “we’re looking forward to the elections that will be held on November 29.” This the crux of the matter. It is quite possible that Micheletti ageed to the accords in order to satisfy Washington’s desire to hold the elections in a seemingly “democratic” and “constitutional situation.”

    There are sevral important questions remaining, even if the Congess approves the agreement. How can free and fair elections can take place in the current situation? There remains only 4 weeks to the election date. The candidates from the Resistance Front have not, at the time of writing, taken a decision along with the Front, as to whether they are to participate in the elections. If they decide to continue to boycott them because of the current situation, what kind of elections will Clinton and Micheletti be left with? Do they care? They will just blame the Front and the anti-establishment candidates for boycotting the elections and refusing to have their voices be heard in a “democratic way”, that is through what is dubbed as the normal channels. Even if they do decide to participate, what chance do they have to win if the military and the others continue or repress the people?

    Right since June 28, the State Department has been stalling and waiting for a situation in which Washington can approve coup status quo without it looking it that way.
    Let us see what the decision will be regarding the Front’s participation in the elections. Perhaps today or Monday.