New turning point in Honduras

September 24, 2009

Shaun Joseph, recently returned from a solidarity delegation to Honduras, analyzes the latest stage in the struggle to stop the coup against Manuel Zelaya.

HONDURAS' LEGITIMATE president, Manuel Zelaya, returned to the capital city of Tegucigalpa in defiance of the coup regime led by Roberto Micheletti, ushering in a new stage in the battle against the ruling oligarchy and the military.

In a spectacular secret operation, Zelaya entered the country covertly--likely from neighboring Nicaragua--and traveled overland to the capital, announcing his arrival in a Monday morning phone call to the Honduran television network Cholusat Sur. Zelaya is now installed in the Brazilian embassy, together with several members of his cabinet and leaders of the anti-coup resistance.

The golpistas (coup-makers) spent much of Monday denying Zelaya's presence in the country; in an unforgettable turn of phrase, Micheletti dubbed Zelaya's announcement an act of "media terrorism."

Indeed, the golpistas have good reason to be terrified by the situation. Within hours, thousands of people had gathered around the Brazilian embassy to welcome Zelaya home. The coup regime announced a blanket curfew that was extended for several days afterward.

Protesters march through Tegucigalpa the day after Zelaya's return
Protesters march through Tegucigalpa the day after Zelaya's return

The embassy is considered an extension of the Brazilian state, so the golpista forces cannot enter it without committing an act of war. But the coup-makers have attempted to cut off food, water and electricity to the embassy compound. Zelaya also reports that the golpistas are blasting loud music at the building, reenacting a bizarre yet common U.S. military tactic.

Zelaya's return depended on the political isolation of the golpistas, both internationally and domestically. Zelaya couldn't have managed the operation to get back to Tegucigalpa without the cooperation of at least Nicaragua and Brazil--as the most conservative of the center-left Latin American governments, Brazil's participation is telling. Domestically, it is difficult to believe that Zelaya's passage was possible without the acquiescence of some part of the armed forces.

THE MICHELETTI gang has few good options for responding. Assuming it avoids starting an unwinnable international war, the one path left to them is to escalate the violence against the people, in the desperate hope of forcing Zelaya to compromise.

What you can do

The Quixote Center suggests that activists call the U.S. State Department (202-647-4000) and Congressional representatives (202-224-3121) to demand that the U.S. send a strong message to the coup regime in Honduras to refrain from violent assaults on civilians, human rights organizations and/or the Embassy of Brazil.

For more on the situation in Honduras, Spanish speakers can find live streaming video from the Venezuelan TV station TeleSur. The Honduran TV network Cholusat Sur and radio station Radio Globo also provide live streams, although both are frequently pulled off the air by the golpistas. The Frente Nacional Contra el Golpe de Estado Web site also carries the latest communiques from the resistance.

English speakers can find frequent updates at the excellent Honduras Oye! and Al Giordano's The Field.

The Facebook page Miguel and Shaun in Honduras also posts frequent updates from a variety of sources in both languages.

The regime may have already cast its lot this way--on Tuesday, golpista forces attacked demonstrators outside the Brazilian embassy. According to a report posted on the National Front Against the Coup d'Etat Web site:

Forces of repression have used firearms, tear gas bombs, pepper spray and rubber bullets against those who were found [near the embassy], some who were still asleep. There are people with bullet wounds and grave injuries at the Hospital Escuela. The exact number of detainees is unknown.

But repression has so far not been successful in intimidating the active resistance or its mass base.

The Front called for a mass peaceful demonstration Wednesday morning in open defiance of the golpistas' blanket curfew. Just surviving requires Hondurans to demands violating the curfew. Meanwhile, pro-resistance Web sites are reporting barricades up in the streets in neighborhoods across greater Tegucigalpa, and street fighting against the police.

Zelaya is calling for a "dialogue" to resolve the situation, but this is likely more for diplomatic consumption than anything else.

The San Jose Accords, a rotten "compromise" fronted by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias on behalf of the U.S. government, are probably dead--the Front is the organizer of Zelaya's triumph, and its leaders, drawn from the popular organizations of workers, peasants and indigenous people, are uniformly hostile to Arias' proposed settlement. Although the Organization of American States formally backed the Accords in a recent vote, the dissenting votes of Venezuela and Nicaragua are surer signs of the new reality.

The U.S. still supports the Arias deal, but it scarcely matters. The Obama administration's attempts to "face both ways" have landed it in a position where both sides resent the U.S., and feel that they owe it nothing. Within American politics, the administration opened itself to attacks from the Republican Party, which forthrightly took up the golpista cause--the right will blame Obama for "losing" Honduras.

Regardless of who "lost" it, though, Honduras is beginning to break free from the suffocating grip of North American imperialism. No one can say whether the golpistas will abdicate on the basis of some face-saving agreement or be overthrown by an insurrection, but the idea that they will survive in power seems nearly impossible.

The working classes of Honduras, organized in a resistance movement of great discipline and determination, are on the verge of the most important political victory for the people of Latin America since the defeat of coup against Venezuela's Hugo Chávez in 2002. If they succeed, they won't stop with restoring the old status quo.

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