Earlier articles explained the June 28, 2009 coup and aftermath, the latest accessed here.
For Hondurans, the event marked a new beginning, not an end to their dark history. Widespread killings and human rights abuses followed and a sham November election, installing Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo Sosa president, a US-friendly stooge heading a fascist regime. The nation’s military is firmly in control against popular resistance, street violence and death squad terror its repressive tools. The Obama administrative stands firmly supportive. It blessed the coup, the new government and provides aid, all for hardline rule, none for popular needs.
Activists and journalists are especially threatened. Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries anywhere for those speaking openly about government corruption, human rights abuses, and despotism, the latest casualty — Radio Internacional reporter, Zelaya Diaz, shot dead on August 24 along a rural San Pedro Sula road. According to press reports, he died from two bullet wounds to the head, another in his chest. Like similar past incidents, an investigation, if it occurs, will be whitewashed. No one will be held accountable.
Though not openly threatened, an earlier suspicious fire damaged Diaz’s home, a message perhaps demanding he stop reporting on politics and crime. Since March alone, eight journalists have been killed, a disturbing pattern against others stepping too close to honest reporting about what Hondurans most need to know – the truth about their corrupted, brutal regime.
Despite the UN General Assembly’s June 30, 2009 condemnation of the coup “by acclimation,” 90 nations have now restored diplomatic ties, normalizing relations after the October 30 Tegucigalpa-Jose Accord (the unfulfilled agreement to form a National Unity/ Reconciliation Government) and Lobo’s election — business as usual triumphing over the rule of law and democratic freedoms, Washington always in the lead, pressuring others to go along.
Resistance, however, continues. On August 27, Honduras Resists reported that protests and police repression filled Tegucigalpa streets, the nation’s capital, for the third straight day. Security forces surrounded the National Pedagogic University where teachers, students, unionists, campesinos, and other activists gathered inside demanding social justice.
They were attacked, police using tear gas, then beating some overcome and forced outside. Others were arrested. The previous day, thousands of teachers were assaulted near the Presidential Palace (Casa Presidential), the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH) saying a number were wounded, yet Escuela Hospital refused to treat four injured professors. Protests erupted after negotiations with the Lobo government failed. Security forces responded repressively.
Honduran human and worker rights are consistently denied. As a result, on August 31, the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) called for a September 7 nationwide strike for a living wage and other demands, including keeping the nation’s natural resources public, not privatized.
According to Juan Barahona, President of the United Federation of Workers of Honduras (FUTH), it’s also to “express our rejection of this regime,” its repressive policies and neoliberal model.
In addition, FNRP wants a National Constituent Assembly to review and rewrite the Constitution, supported by most Hondurans. It also plans a September 15 national mobilization commemoration on the 187th anniversary of independence from Spain.
It needs another from Washington, Honduras’ ruling oligarchy, fascist government, and repressive military and police, cracking down brutally against activists, campesinos, and supportive journalists for social justice.
Report from Rights Action (RA)
RA focuses on community development, emergency relief, environmental and human rights issues in Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and El Salvador. It aims to “build north-south alliances and carries out education, political and legal work for global equity and justice,” following a “just development model.”
On August 31, it reported that Honduran repression continues, elaborating on three-days of Tegucigalpa crackdowns. It followed weeks of public school teacher demands for the return of $200 million taken from the National Institute of IMPREMA, an institution managing their pension funds.
The umbrella organization FOMH represents six teachers unions and their 63,000 members nationwide. After the June 2009 coup, they said the new regime took the money they want back.
Students have demands as well, wanting 180 fired workers reinstated and National Autonomous University (UNAH) director, Julieta Castrellano’s resignation. Allied with teachers, they also oppose Lobo’s plan to privatize public education. As a result, it’s been in crisis for months without resolution. Students occupied the university. Police assaulted it repressively.
Peaceful protests continued. Hardline crackdowns followed. Police used water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, brutal beatings, and arrests, in the presence of women and children around the National Pedagogical University. From a black Toyota, a gunman fired a 9-millimeter weapon at protesters, the car belonging to the National Congress.
Besides arrests, “Over 100 people were captured and ‘guarded’ by police against a fence outside the University.” After human rights representatives intervened, they were released. Yet many teachers and students were trapped in classrooms suffering tear gas exposure. Seven or more others were injured, including a Globo TV/Radio journalist.
Earlier in August, security forces brutally beat three union leaders and one teacher, fingered by regime infiltrators in their marches. The corporate-owned media call protesters “instruments of violence,” accusing them of disrupting children’s education. In fact, they’re Hondurans for social justice.
On August 31, the Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN), a coalition of US organizations, denounced state repression, saying:
“the recent brutal attacks by government forces against non-violent protests show that there has been no reconciliation after last year’s coup d’etat, and the US government’s policy of support for the current government must be changed. We call for an immediate end to the repression and human rights violations against the opposition movement,” its teachers, students, unionists and other supporters.
HSN spokeswoman Vicki Cervantes said “The United States government continues its support for the oligarchy and Lobo in the form of aid and pressure on other governments in the hemisphere to accept” its legitimacy when, in fact, it has none.
Meanwhile, popular opposition is growing. For the first time since 1954, Honduran trade union federations called a general strike. In addition, nearly one million eligible voters signed letters demanding a National Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution. So far, hardline repression continues, Washington providing weapons and ammunition.
Campesinos Struggling for Their Rights
They’re ongoing throughout Honduras, including in the northern Valle de Aguan, once the country’s agrarian reform capital, campesinos now contesting their land rights agreed to in a MUCA arranged deal — the Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Agua.
Signed in December, they agreed to abandon occupied areas in return for 11,000 acres of cultivated and uncultivated land. However, powerful landowners objected, using security forces to intimidate, threaten, and persecute farmers, killing eight or more and arresting others on grounds of “theft and trespassing.”
The Aguan land struggle continues, the Committee in Defense of Human Rights (CODEH), saying “the facts show that the justice system like the Public Ministry and the Police are allied with the landowners of the zone to persecute those who try to challenge their privilege.”
Decades of the country’s dark history under a ruling oligarchy left up to two-thirds of Hondurans impoverished, unable to meet basic needs. Most are landless or have too little, over half unemployed or underemployed, while wealthy landowners control most valued areas and want more, never satisfied with enough.
Despite the 1962 agrarian reform, the 1992 Law for Agrarian Modernization rolled back earlier gains. Thereafter, indigenous movements only marginally restored losses, no match against wealthy oligarchs backed by repressive state forces, enforcing death squad terror.
Honduras’ class struggle persists in the hemisphere’s second poorest country after Haiti, committed to end decades of repression, injustice and poverty, a growing problem throughout most of the world, dark interests wanting more wealth and power at the expense of easily exploitable people.
In America, the major media suppress the Honduran story — the coup, deep repression, and popular struggle for change. Committed grassroots pressure continues, what’s mostly absent in the United States on a fast track toward despotism, the kind Central America has long experienced, Haitians and Hondurans most affected, yet persist for their rights against long odds they’re determined one day to overcome.