Why we’re going to Honduras
On August 8, Providence City Council member Miguel Luna and antiwar activist Shaun Joseph will travel to Honduras as part of a week-long International Mission for Solidarity, Accompaniment and Observation. The U.S.-based part of the delegation is being organized by Quest for Peace, a project of the Quixote Center.
Since the June 28 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya, Honduras has been shaken by continuous popular mobilizations demanding his reinstatement. The coup government has responded with harsh repression. The Honduran human rights organization CODEH estimates that there were 62 murders in the capital of Tegucigalpa in the first 28 days of the coup--many of the victims shot with bullets of the same type used by the police and armed forces. On July 27, a bomb exploded in the offices of STIBYS, the beverage workers' union.
The International Mission has been organized to bring international attention to bear on these human rights abuses. Here, Miguel and Shaun explain why they're taking part.
THE COUP in Honduras brought back bad memories of my childhood in the Dominican Republic. I grew up under the dictatorship of Joaquín Balaguer. Balaguer's government was considered "democratic" by the elites of the United States, but for us, it was very repressive.
I have seen and experienced the barbarities committed by this type of government. At the age of 10, as I was sitting in front of my friend's house, a policeman asked us what we were doing. My friend said, "Nothing." I was looking at the policeman's rifle, so he said to me, "Now that you see it, do you want to taste it?" And he put his rifle inside my mouth. I did not move, and he left.
At the age of 15, I had an experience with the death squads. At the age of 21, a drunk Navy lieutenant put a .45 on my head. My friends told me that I was on a "death list," even though I wasn't involved in politics at the time. Your life was always in danger--in your own country!
In the U.S., we tend to take our freedom for granted. What we have enjoyed for many years in our country, many countries in Latin America are just beginning to experience. We can't go back to "democratic" dictatorships and the dark ages, when troglodytes ran our countries. The golpistas want to set back Latin America 100 years.
It doesn't matter where coups happen. We need to support the people's struggle throughout the world. When I go to Honduras, I will bring the resolution we passed in the Providence City Council declaring our opposition to the coup. Everyone in Honduras--the working people and the oligarchs alike--should know that the world is watching.
ONE OF the first left-wing political books I read was Killing Hope, William Blum's devastating account of U.S. military and CIA interventions in the postwar era--many of which were, of course, directed against the people of Latin America.
I recall my strong feelings of anger and shame as I discovered the true, sordid historical record. I suppose the shame has receded, as I have long since ceased to regard the American state as having anything to do with me. The anger remains.
Or actually, the anger has increased; it's the same anger we felt when Proposition 8 was upheld in California. Suddenly, you're thrown back, against the grain of history, into something vicious and stupid that you thought was played out long ago.
So the Honduran army spirits away the nation's president because Chiquita and Dole don't like that he raised the minimum wage. Really? The people of Latin America are supposed to accept that, not only after their "lost decade," but just as a new path seems to be opening? "Sorry folks: reopen your veins!"
The Obama administration exudes a certain cool confidence that it can transcend all conflicts in politics with rhetoric, invocations, inspirations, "beer summits" on the White House lawn, and so forth. Mass mobilization, combined with Zelaya's attempt to return to Honduras, seems to have thrown a wrench in that strategy.
The U.S. corporate media has, obligingly, kept mostly quiet; they like to embarrass Obama on inanities, not the life-or-death questions. But everyone seems to know that who wins in Honduras is somehow going to be decisive to the future development of Latin America.
So we're going; it seems like a rudimentary act of internationalism. Hopefully, the presence of international observers will put some check on the madness of the coup makers. We'll also report on what we see, hear and experience: Miguel and I will be sending dispatches to SocialistWorker.org as often as we can, and you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook.