Honduran Coup: Damning Indictment of Capitalism

Since he’s spending his summer vacation at our home, I recently washed my 11-year-old grandson’s dirty clothes.

As I later folded them, small tags told me they were manufactured in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Not one item bore a “Made in USA” label, which is very sad, considering that the unionized needle trades were once a bastion of our country’s labor movement, and that finding attire produced overseas was a rarity just a few decades ago.

All this relates closely to the despicable coup that deposed Honduras’ democratically elected president, Manuel Zaleya.

Although the coup’s initiators say they were motivated by other factors, what really spurred their reactionary ire was Zaleya promoting better pay and conditions for Honduran workers in general, but particularly for the virtual sweatshop slaves whose cruel exploitation by mostly U.S. garment firms has been an utterly obscene profit generator for shameless owners residing in luxury in the North.

It would be extremely naive to think those “foreign” companies, along with others involved in banana and fruit growing, did not facilitate the coup in more than minor ways. It goes without saying, also, that U.S. political conservatives, with operative ties to covert Central American intrigues dating back to the Reagan years, are now malevolently present in Tegucigalpa.

Our nation’s anti-democratic, imperialist role in Central America is nothing new.

Countless religious activists, teachers, clinic workers, union organizers, and ordinary campesinos were brutalized by sordid contras secretly armed and trained by the U.S. under illegal Reagan administration aegis during the ’80s.

Much earlier, however, Yankee pillage of Latin America (as well as other world locales) was already standard operating procedure, as starkly exposed by former Marine Corps Commandant Smedley Butler:

I spent 33 years (in the Marines)…most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism…

I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City (Bank) boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street…

In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. I had a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotions. I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate in three city districts. The Marines operated on three continents.

Progressives familiar with people’s history know about the titanic struggle it took to unionize U.S. labor, lifting largely immigrant masses out of deep poverty, winning them the pay, benefits, and conditions that would shape the contours of our storied “good life”.

They know, too, that the most militant unions were purged and broken during the McCarthyite Red Scare, allowing class-collaborationist tendencies to rise, making the decimation of American labor in the aftermath of Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers essentially a cake walk, much to the profitable delight of corporate parasites.

Now our working class — the backbone of society and the creator of all productive wealth — is losing its jobs, homes, health care, pensions, and collective temper on an unprecedented scale.

The savagely exploitative, intensely destructive Walmart labor relations model dominates U.S. life, and everything we buy is produced abroad in oppressive settings where women and children toil long hours for mere pennies. We (and certainly they) are being ground into the dust as a tiny minority of private “entrepreneurs” live high on the hog, via stolen wealth that properly should be used to improve everyone’s living standards.

But capitalism can’t do that.

It’s unable to function in anything but an increasingly rapacious way, shafting majority wage earners ever more painfully, whether through the acute injustice that leaves evicted families on the street in U.S. cities, or Hondurans fearfully facing military repression and a drastic deterioration of their already desperate existence.

As its growing resort to super-exploitation, dictatorial harshness, violence and war clearly proves, capitalism is the intrinsic enemy — not the ballyhooed champion — of fair play, democracy, simple decency, and peace.

Humanity will have no future worth aspiring to if it stays tied to capitalism’s irreparable flaws and fiercely down-pulling restraints.

The rest of this pivotal century clearly must be devoted to building truly democratic, broadly uplifting socialism on a global scale.

It’s the great moral imperative of our era.

Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, Wisconsin, has been writing progressive commentary with a Heartland perspective for various outlets since the '60s. Read other articles by Dennis.

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  1. brian said on July 11th, 2009 at 12:47am #

    US aid to Honduras cut; racist FM removed Update
    by litho
    Share this on Twitter – US aid to Honduras cut; racist FM removed Update Thu Jul 09, 2009 at 05:06:45 AM PDT
    According to the rightwing Honduran daily La Prensa, the US embassy in Tegucigalpa yesterday announced a suspension of aid that could amount to nearly $200 million. La Prensa quotes heavily from what they say is a communiqué from the embassy, which I can’t find on the embassy’s website. Here’s a back translation from La Prensa’s reporting:

    The Government of the United States is conducting a complete review of all of its foreign assistance programs in order to determine how much of this assistance it could be legally obligated to suspend due to the events of June 28, the coup d’etat and the expulsion of President Manuel Zelaya. This is a careful and deliberate process.
    In other news, the racist Foreign Minister Enrique Ortez Colindres, forced to apologize yesterday for having called Barack Obama a “plantation n…,” has been removed from his post.

    More on the flip…

    litho’s diary :: ::
    The foreign aid cuts announced in yesterday’s communiqué are substantial and directly linked to the mediation efforts by Oscar Arias that begin today. The cuts include $16.5 million in military assistance plus unspecified additional amounts in development aid, all of which has already been suspended. The cuts announced yesterday include assistance in the areas of education, the environment, and family planning, and could amount to some $50 million.

    In addition, the US is reviewing its commitments to Honduras under the Millennium Challenge Account, which currently add up to another $130 million.

    Assistance in public health, specifically food assistance, HIV/AIDS support, and other infectious diseases, will continue.

    The communiqué ends with a call for dialogue, a return to the constitutional order, and the desire that the talks in Costa Rica allow Hondurans to reach a national consensus.

    While I haven’t seen any press reporting directly linking the hardening US line with the antics of the racist buffoon Enrique Ortez, I can’t help but think his utterly undiplomatic statements — and ambassador Llorens’s very harsh but very formal response to them — contributed to Washington’s decision to crack down on the de facto regime. Clearly, the detonating event was the murder of Isis Murillo by soldiers at the Tegucigalpa airport on Sunday, but Ortez’s intemperate comments, it seems to me, were also a contributing factor in delegitimizing the regime.

    First, let’s remember exactly how ugly his comments were (from cadejo4’s excellent diary yesterday):

    “He negociado con maricones, prostitutas, con ñángaras (izquierdistas), negros, blancos. Ese es mi trabajo, yo estudié eso. No tengo prejuicios raciales, me gusta el negrito del batey que está presidiendo los Estados Unidos.”


    “I have negotiated with queers, prostitutes, leftists, blacks, whites. This is my job, I studied for it. I am not racially prejudiced. I like the little black sugar plantation worker who is president of the United States.”
    Here’s how ambassador Llorens responded:

    As the official and personal representative of the president of the United States of America, I convey my deep outrage about the unfortunate, disrespectful and racially insensitive comments by Mr. Enrique Ortez Colindres about President Barack Obama.

    Statements like this are deeply outrageous for the American people and for me personally. I am shocked by these comments, which I condemn in the strongest terms.
    And here’s what happened to Ortez yesterday:

    President [sic] Roberto Micheletti yesterday named ambassador Roberto Flores Bermúdez as the new minister of Foreign Relations, in substitution of Enrique Ortez Colindres.

    According to radio reports yesterday from the Presidential Palace, Ortez will take over as Minister of Government and Justice.
    Flores Bermudez had been Zelaya’s ambassador to the United States, but joined with the coup plotters after Zelaya was overthrown. We could assume that his appointment to FM shows the coup government realizes they need to patch up relations with Washington.

    The head scratcher here, though, is the appointment of Ortez to Government and Justice. The guy is a troglodyte, criticized even by La Prensa for his “racist comments directed at the President of the United States.”

    The coup group must be a lot smaller than they would have us believe if they can’t find a qualified lawyer — one without this jerk’s baggage — to take over a key cabinet ministry…

    Update: Huge h/t to Abbey Kelleyite, who after hours of searching finally came across the original communiqué in English on the US Embassy website. Here’s the full text:

    Press Releases 2009

    U.S. Aid to Honduras and Negotiations in San Jose, Costa Rica

    July 8, 2009

    TEGUCIGALPA – The United States Government is undertaking a comprehensive review of all its foreign assistance programs to determine how much of this assistance could be legally required to be suspended in light of the June 28 coup directed against and expulsion of President Manuel Zelaya. This is a careful and deliberative process.

    However, as a matter of policy, the USG has suspended military assistance programs (totaling US$16.5 million) and development assistance programs that provide support to the Government of Honduras (GOH). In addition to military assistance, we are halting activities related to USG support to the GOH ministries in basic education, environment and family planning. Letters of suspension have been or are being sent to the implementing agencies. The timely release of new assistance funding for Honduran in 2009, totaling over US$50 million, could be in jeopardy, as well as the approximately US$130 million remaining in the Millennium Challenge Compact.

    Programs that directly benefit the Honduran people are continuing. All assistance supporting the provision of food aid, HIV/AIDS and other disease prevention, child survival, and disaster assistance, as well as election assistance to facilitate free and fair elections, is still being provided to the Honduran people.

    At the same time, the U.S. Embassy is gratified by the announcement yesterday of negotiations to be held in Costa Rica facilitated by Costa Rican President and President of the Central American Association Oscar Arias, whose standing as a mediator and peace-maker is of the highest level. The Embassy encourages the pursuit of this regional dialogue to seek a return of the legitimate Honduran government and a restoration of the constitutional and democratic order. Secretary of State Clinton and OAS Secretary General Insulza both worked very hard to promote this dialogue and to seek a consensual way of addressing the serious problems of political polarization in Honduras. The Embassy calls upon the people of Honduras to continue the open, peaceful pursuit of consensus and dialogue.

  2. Josie Michel-Brüning said on July 11th, 2009 at 3:48am #

    Thank you to Dennis Rahkonen and thank you to Brian for quoting that US AID is considered to be cut. This is a geam of hope.
    But I hope this will be not to late for the following:

    July 7, 2009—The life of Dr. Luther Castillo, indigenous Garifuna physician in Honduras, is in imminent danger.MEDICC has learned that the Honduran army has orders to capture Dr. Castillo, and if he resists, to shoot him. He was already included on a list of persons whose lives and personal integrity were declared “at risk” by a July 3rd communiqué from the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

    We have been able to verify that Dr. Castillo’s cellphone communications have been cut. The last conversation with him took place at approximately 2:30pm today, in which he reported on continued demonstrations demanding the return of elected President Manuel Zelaya, despite security forces’ repression.

    Just weeks ago, Dr. Castillo was named director of International Cooperation in the Honduran Foreign Ministry. Since 1999, he has directed the Luaga Hatuadi Waduheñu Foundation (“For the Health of our People” in Garifuna), dedicated to bringing vital health services to isolated indigenous coastal communities.


    Call the White House and the State Department, urging the US government demand:
    · safety for Dr. Castillo, his colleagues, and all persons protesting the coup,
    · an end to the repression, and
    · the unconditional return of constitutional President Manuel Zelaya.

    State Department: 202-647-4000 or 1-800-877-8339
    White House: Comments: 202-456-1111, Switchboard: 202-456-1414

    More Background
    After his 2005 graduation from the Latin American Medical School in Havana, Dr. Castillo returned to the Honduran coast, where he led construction of Honduras’ first Garifuna Rural Hospital, now serving some 20,000 in the surrounding communities. The hospital opened in December 2007, just months after Dr. Castillo was named 8 0Honduran Doctor of the Year” by Rotary International’s Tegucigalpa chapter. “Thank you for inspiring me,” said California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, speaking at the hospital’s opening ceremony.

    The hospital and its community health outreach are supported by a number of U.S. and other international organizations, including the Sacramento, California Central Labor Council, Global Links, The Birthing Project, and MEDICC. Several US medical schools also have cooperative arrangements with the Garifuna hospital, including Johns Hopkins, Emory, Charles Drew and University of California (SF).

    Dr. Castillo is featured in ¡Salud! (www.saludthefilm.net), a documentary film that received the Council on Foundations Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film & Digital Media (USA). MEDICC (Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba), http://www.medicc.org, is a US non-governmental organization working to enhance cooperation among the U.S., Cuban and global health communities aimed at better health outcomes.

  3. Tennessee-With-Zelaya said on July 12th, 2009 at 11:07am #



    “The dictatorship of the proletariat is a stubborn struggle, bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and administrative against the forces and traditions of the old society.” -Lenin

    The dictatorship of the proletariat is the instrument of the proletarian revolution, its organ, its most important mainstay, brought into being for the purpose of, firstly, crushing the resistance of the overthrown exploiters and consolidating the achievements of the proletarian revolution, and secondly, carrying the revolution to the complete victory of socialism

    The dictatorship of the proletariat arises not on the basis of the bourgeois order, but in the process of the breaking up of this order, after the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, in the process of the expropriation of the landlords and capitalists, in the process of the socialisation of the principal instruments and means of production, in the process of violent proletarian revolution

    Under capitalism the exploited masses do not, nor can they ever, really participate in governing the country, if for no other reason than that, even under the most democratic regime, under conditions of capitalism, governments are not set up by the people but by the Rothschilds and Stinneses, the Rockefellers and Morgans.

    Democracy under capitalism is capitalist democracy, the democracy of the exploiting minority, based on the restriction of the rights of exploited majority and directed against this majority.

    Only under the proletarian dictatorship are real liberties for the exploited and real participation of the proletarians and peasants in governing the country possible. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, democracy is proletarian democracy, the democracy of the exploited majority, based on the restriction of the rights of the exploiting minority and directed against this minority.

    The dictatorship of the proletariat cannot arise as the result of the peaceful development of bourgeois society and of bourgeois democracy; it can arise only as the result of the smashing of the bourgeois state machine, the bourgeois army, the bourgeois bureaucratic apparatus, the bourgeois police.

    Therefore, Lenin is very right in saying:

    “The proletarian revolution is impossible without the forcible destruction of the bourgeois state machine and the substitution for it of a new one” (see Vol. XXIII, P. 342)

    Soviet power as the state form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The victory of the dictatorship of the proletariat signifies the suppression of the bourgeoisie, the smashing of the bourgeois state machine and the substitution of proletarian democracy for bourgeois democracy

    Let other people you know learn about socialism! Spread the word… the more people who know the truth, the greater the force against the capitalist system! Resistance forever!

    ……..(‘(…´…´…. ¯~/’…’)
    ……….”…\………. _.·´