Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Honduran Resistance Moving Forward

About a year ago, a month after a military coup in Honduras sent democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya in to exhile, I wrote this:

"Zelaya during his presidential campaign in 2005 and early 2006, ran on promises of economic empowerment for the citizenry, and of empowering the people socially, culturally, and politically, a formula together which he refers to as citizen power. His progressive policies in the past few years have included a sharp increase of minimum wage, free school lunches for children, and the lowering of the price of public transportation. He has also talked about citizen participation, which he claims is the reason why he had called for the referendum on a constituent assembly. This is a program which the rightist military and ruling elites of Honduras simply could not tolerate."

Those are the real reasons behind the June 28th, 2009 military coup. The allegations that Zelaya was power-hungry and attempting to manipulate legality to allow an extension of his term in office, were only fabrications to justify the taking of power by force.

Two months ago, because the World Cup was in full swing, the one year anniversary of the Military coup in Honduras went under the radar, and even more so in Canada because Toronto was simultaneously hosting the G20; the undemocratic clown show where 8 predominately white men made decisions for 6 Billion people.

In 2004, Venezuela and Cuba joined to form ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, to counter the U.S sponsored free trade area of the Americas or FTAA. Today, renamed the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, ALBA is an 8 member organization composed of Latin American countries that aims to provide empowerment through social programs and continental solidarity for political sovereignty and economic independence. On August 25th 2008, Manuel Zelaya and Honduras signed an agreement to join ALBA. For the Honduran elite, this was the tipping point.

With the 2009 coup, the business class aimed to restore ‘economic order in the country. These men in Honduras represent what some analysts have termed a transnational capitalist class; they are the local pillaging chapter of neoliberalism.

What they have done since the coup has been mainly a maintenance of consistent violence and repression, and a restriction of all freedoms. But the complete laissez-faire economic policies they wished to reinstitute have scarcely been reapplied because the resistance has been so adamant.

The coup government has proposed a number of pro-business laws and has granted an additional 500 mining concessions, many of which went to a subsidiary of transnational mining company Goldcorp Inc. Goldcorp is a giant in extractive industries based out of Canada, a country which boasts the unfortunate reputation of being headquarters to 75% of global mining.

Neither has the de facto government even attempted to operate secretively in its tyranny; impunity is chronic. Since January, for example, at least nine journalists have been killed, and no one has been held to account.

Most recently, a number of striking professors, after being tear-gassed and savagely beaten, were arrested, detained, and charged on several counts.

The Honduran teachers had also held some significant strikes in the months leading up to the June 28th, 2009 coup, and now, much like the teachers' unions did in the Oaxaca uprising in 2006, are playing a huge role in fighting state terror and impunity in Honduras. People's Popular Assemblies are involved in both cases, only difference being the Honduran resistance has done it on a national scale.

Traditionally Honduras has been reputed as one of the least politicized countries in Latin America, lacking the militancy generated in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua in the 70s and 80s, and having been trapped for decades in a two-party patronage system resembling something like a cross between Mexican PRI clientelism and pre-Chavez Venezuelan Punto Fijismo.

But Hondurans have really come to understand that their time must be now, and they have demonstrated organizational capacity and a high level of political maturity over the past year.

The "Citizen Declaration" of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), for example, has garnered massive popular support calling for an inclusive constituent assembly to rewrite the Honduran constitution. This pledge has gathered so far nearly 700,000 signatures, and is on track to symbolically surpass the number of votes officially received by Honduran President Porfirio Lobo in last November's presidential elections.

A popular organization called the Bloque Popular, headed by Juan Barahona, a prominent union leader, has spearheaded the National Coordinating Committee of Popular Resistance (CNRP); the CNRP is a strategy building space which operates like a people’s assembly.

The CNRP is the official decision-making body of the Frente, and various organizations from across the country send delegates for participation. The committee garners a great deal of strength from the labor movement—especially the teachers, public-sector workers, banana workers, and bottling-plant workers—its grassroots base lies in the social movements from a range of sectors: the women’s movement; the LGBT community; indigenous and Afro-indigenous peoples; human rights groups; and the campesino movement, which is closely linked with environmental justice activism. The Frente has also divided the country up into regions, each of which sends delegates to the national coordinating committee

The inclusive politics of the FNRP and the solidarity power of the CNRP have really allowed for the cross-pollination of different currents in the broad process of building a movement.

On Aug. 18, thousands of Honduran workers marched in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula on to demand an increase in the minimum wage and to show solidarity with teachers who were in the 14th day of an open-ended strike. Also on Aug. 20, the FNRP and the three main labor confederations set up a national strike committee and regional committees to prepare for a national general strike around a seven-point program. The resistance has said that no official date has been said, but that the strike is imminent. On the same day, the campesino movements will mobilize around land issues.

The FNRP plans for another country wide mobilization in all 18 departments of Honduras on September 15th.

Juan Barahona, one of the Frente’s most prominent leaders has warned that repression, murders and torture will not stop the transformations in Honduras towards a new society.

We demand the immediate release of all political prisoners in Honduras, and an end to the killings of FNRP members. We urge the Latin America and Social Justice communities now as much as ever to stand firmly behind the Honduran Resistance.

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