What comes next in Honduras?

November 4, 2009

The intervention of U.S. officials produced an agreement in Honduras in late October that is supposed to return ousted President Manuel Zelaya to office, if only for a brief period before a new president, elected in a vote set for the end of November, takes office early next year.

Zelaya was forced out of the country in the early morning hours of June 28, and a new regime, led by Roberto Micheletti, took over. But the coup regime has faced strong resistance at the grassroots that no attempt at repression has been able to stamp out. Now, as Congress decides whether it will accept the deal and reinstate Zelaya, the resistance is considering its next move.

Oscar Estrada is a member of the Honduran resistance, and a filmmaker and independent journalist with HablaHonduras. Here, we republish his comments after the agreement was announced at the end of October, from the Quotha Web site, a blog run by author Adrienne Pine.

IT TOOK the U.S. delegation's arrival in Honduras for the right to give up its plans to stay in power until January. Hours earlier, Micheletti had declared that the reinstatement of Zelaya was something he would not agree to "without an armed intervention," and then in the evening on national television, we watched him swallowing his pride, declaring that he would sign the accord.

With that, it was left clear who pulls the strings in Honduras, and this confirmed what we've known since day one--that the United States had the power to resolve this in a matter of a few hours.

Now the ball is in the Congress' court. The resistance met in front of the legislative palace to accompany Victor Meza [Zelaya's representative in negotiations] the moment he arrived to deliver the agreement to the secretary of Congress.

The congressmen and congresswomen will determine whether reinstatement moves ahead, and we will finish once and for all with this chapter of Honduran history--or whether we will continue in resistance. They will have the power to create legitimacy for the November elections among an uneasy population, and international recognition for the presidency that results from them, and even if the right pressures Congress to vote against reinstatement (which they may well do), what is clear is that they no longer need to maintain the onerous Micheletti dictatorship, and are ready to accept Mel in the presidential house.

Pro-democracy protesters have kept up resistance to the coup regime
Pro-democracy protesters have kept up resistance to the coup regime (Chiapas Indymedia)

THE DARK forces of the country have understood that, four months into the coup, they were unable to topple the people's insurrection--not with bullets, nor decrees, nor with blows or illegal chemical weapons were they capable of calming the supreme giant that yanked their dictatorship away from them, turning it into an unbearable eyesore for the region and the world.

[Previous to the announcement of a deal], despite the strict political siege that we have been living with for the past few weeks, the resistance marched throughout the city and brought together thousands of people who filled the streets once again with flags and songs. The coup media could not contain their amazement on seeing the surprising march of the people; they had declared hundreds of times that the resistance was dead from exhaustion, and laughed at seeing us under siege.

They had no option but to report--poorly, as they tend to do--when the police violently dispersed the march as a final means to prevent it from growing, because wherever it went, the people joined it. Tear gas once again saturated our air, and as Channel 36 broadcast images to the whole country of police beating unarmed protesters with police batons and kicking them, the right was reminded that its decrees and threats are powerless against a resistance that is determined to ruin their project of electoral fraud.

The resistance has trusted in the negotiating skills of Manuel Zelaya. Despite the distrust we have for the Congress, we have accepted the syllogism that what is done through the law can be undone through the law.

But the fear of those in power of being made a mockery of continues. "We will accept the integration government but not Zelaya's restitution," declared a Liberal Party congressman, hoping to influence the will of the plenary. "We hope that the National Congress will make its decision based on the law," said Armida de López Contreras, president of the Civil Democratic Union, and we all know what that means to them.

They ignore the fact that one can only come with the other, and that without reinstatement, there will be no agreement. The resistance has given a vote of confidence to the legislature (which is in recess due to the upcoming elections, and in theory does not have to resume until December), and we hope that an extraordinary session will be convened this Monday, just as they did on June 28 [the day of the coup], and that in a few days, Manuel Zelaya can escape his captivity and return to presidential office.

But let us not forget that it was the National Congress who falsified Zelaya's signature to "legalize" the coup d'état; let us not forget that it was they who authorized the curfews, states of siege, and other laws and decrees that violate human rights; let us not forget that the majority of the Micheletti cabinet came from their halls, including the dictator that they swore in; let us not forget that the National Congress has approved or repealed dozens of laws, endangering the vast majority of the population--as in the case of the recent nationwide prohibition on the sale of emergency contraceptive pills--and playing a crucial role in maintaining the fascist dis-government.

But we trust that they have the desire to construct a situation for governability, peace and a true democracy in Honduras--and if they lack that desire, their own ambitions will tell them that in order to be re-elected, they will need to give in to a people that despises them.

THE GENERAL elections will take place in one month, and the resistance hopes their candidates will participate. The candidates have still not decided how they will participate--jointly or separately--and are evaluating the conditions, since they will be campaigning at an enormous disadvantage.

But this "disadvantage" is relative; the coup d'état and the fight against it have given figures like Carlos H. Reyes [leader of STIBYS, the beverage workers' union] a position among the electorate that would not have been possible without the fascist adventure and subsequent popular resistance. In practice, these four months in the streets have allowed us to be present in the media and construct a base for a substantial left in the country.

The independent basis of the candidacy is also an advantage, in view of the erosion of the oligarch's parties by the coup d'état. The challenge now is to organize the 25,000 volunteers necessary to defend polling stations--the infrastructure necessary to prevent the massive electoral fraud that is expected--and to learn in these four weeks the ins and outs of election work that traditional parties have learned over 100 years.

The resistance candidates will soon come to an agreement on how to participate in the elections. The reinstatement of Mel Zelaya is still pending, and the National Resistance Front Against the Coup d'Etat has made clear that its condition for participation is the reinstatement of Mel to the presidency, not the agreement between the negotiating committees.

Nevertheless, there are groups that are urging that the necessary electoral structure be organized as soon as possible, even without restitution. "With the accord, we can begin to work," they say, "we cannot lose one more day." For them, the challenge is at the level of the National Congress; they need to accumulate a respectable number of Congresspeople who can assure a bloc of power within the parliament, and who can, from above, support the struggle that must come from below in favor of the constituent assembly. We have a great chance of achieving it, we know that--but the right also knows it, and that is why they are attempting, by all the means at their disposal, to prevent it.

I support the proposal circulating on the Internet to give Micheletti the prize for the best disguise [on Halloween], since as a Congressman, he was disguised as president for 120 days. Even still, the costume was always big on him.

First published at the Quotha Web site. Translated from Spanish by Adrienne Pine.

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