[Marxism] Trampling on Honduran Democracy
sabocat59 at gmail.com
Thu Nov 26 09:31:02 MST 2009
Trampling on Honduran democracy
The election in Honduras has the blessing of the US, but not the
people, their president or the rest of the world
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 26 November 2009 11.30 GMT
On Sunday, Honduras's coup regime, with the support of the US, is
staging a presidential election of a special kind. Voters will have a
choice of two candidates: the coup supporter Porfirio Lobo or the coup
supporter Elvin Santos. The anti-coup candidate, Carlos Reyes, has
withdrawn his nomination and condemned the election as fraudulent.
"Cash discounts" will be offered to anyone who can prove they voted,
courtesy of the country's coup-supporting big business federation.
Trade unions and social movements calling for a boycott of the
election are facing mafia-style threats, with the regime's chief of
police boasting that he has compiled a blacklist of "all those of the
left". "We removed the so-called head [the president, Manuel Zelaya],
and we know everyone, from A to Z, that forms part of these groups."
Those on the blacklist have good cause to be concerned. Since Zelaya
was overthrown by the military in June, 4,000 people have been
arrested, hundreds beaten and hospitalised and dozens charged with
sedition. Yet more have been kidnapped, raped, tortured, "disappeared"
Independent media has fared little better. Anti-coup TV and radio
stations have been raided by the army and forced off air; their
broadcasting equipment confiscated or destroyed with acid. In one
case, journalists leapt from third-floor windows to escape the
Yet Hondurans have continued marching, striking, blocking roads and
meanwhile getting used to day and night curfews, the smell of tear gas
and the grief for friends and family members murdered by the coup
regime. They have been struggling, not merely to protest at the
trampling of their democratic rights, but also because of the hope
which Zelaya had begun to inspire.
In a country marked by malnutrition and widespread illiteracy, in
which 10 families control most of the economy and the media and
dominate the state apparatus, Zelaya had begun a process of economic
and political empowerment for the impoverished majority. This included
a doubling of the minimum wage, the introduction of free school meals
and the provision of agricultural machinery for small farmers.
In line with demands from trade unions and social movements, Zelaya
had proposed a referendum on constitutional reform to be held on the
same day as a new president was elected. This proposal has been
ludicrously misrepresented as an attempt by Zelaya to extend his term
in office; a charge that is logically impossible to sustain but that,
with the help of much of the international media, became the central
justification for the military takeover.
In the first weeks following the coup it looked like Barack Obama's
pledge to "seek a new chapter of engagement" with Latin America might
actually have some substance. Obama spoke of the "terrible precedent"
that would be set if the coup was not reversed, and in July the US
gave its backing to the San Jose accord, a Costa Rican-brokered
compromise that would see Zelaya back in office, albeit as head of a
"unity government" and with him promising to shelve the constitutional
Although this would have left much of the power in the hands of the
army and other state institutions controlled by the elites, hence the
reason the accord garnered US support, Zelaya took the view that it
was the best deal he was going to get and signed. But the coup leaders
refused, fearing that Zelaya's return would unleash an unstoppable
momentum for democratic reform. Instead they resolved to run out the
clock on the Zelaya presidency by hanging on until this month's
scheduled elections, and then to bank on US recognition of the new
However, to the chagrin of the regime, the US administration, itself
divided over whether to support or oppose the coup, announced further
measures to isolate the de facto government. More aid was suspended,
visas to the coup plotters were revoked, and critically Hillary
Clinton's state department declared that the US would "not be able to
support" the outcome of the elections because of concerns that they
would not be "free, fair and transparent".
Following a state department visit in late October, the regime finally
caved in and signed a deal which provided the mechanism for Zelaya's
return to office. But behind the scenes, Clinton was already preparing
to sell out Honduran democracy.
For weeks, the hard right of the Republican party, under the
leadership of Senator Jim DeMint, had been threatening to block
Democrat nominees for key posts in Latin America. Clinton wanted a way
out of the impasse, and DeMint, a fanatical supporter of the Honduran
coup, offered her a trade-off: we will agree your nominees, he told
her, if you will agree to recognise the outcome of the Honduran
election, regardless of whether Zelaya is returned to the presidential
Clinton, never a fan of leftwing Latin American leaders, was happy to acquiesce.
When the state department broke the news of its volte-face to a
stunned international community, the coup leaders immediately
understood the message. With US recognition now in the bag, they were
no longer under pressure to reinstate the legitimate president. Zelaya
and the head of theOAS were furious, but the San Jose deal was
effectively dead, killed by the very same state department that had
played such a key role in imposing it.
So Sunday's election goes ahead with the blessing of the US, but not
of the Honduran people or their president. With the rest of the world
refusing to recognise the legitimacy of the outcome, the forces inside
and outside the US administration that conspired to wreck Obama's
vision of a new era in regional relations still have to contend with
popular opposition to the coup. In this most conservative of central
American nations, a historically passive population has been
galvanised into political action on an unprecedented scale. Here in
Honduras, the resistance movement says with well-founded confidence,
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