Eighty days since the coup in Honduras there are no signs of the resistance being weakened. On the contrary it is growing and becoming more militant. The conditions exist for the coup regime to be overthrown, but this requires decisive action in the form of a total, all-out general strike.
Tuesday, September 15 is the anniversary of the proclamation of independence of Central America which this year will also mark 80 days since the coup which ousted democratically elected president Zelaya and replaced him with right-wing Roberto Micheletti, the man of the oligarchy.
For the last 80 days we have witnessed the most impressive resistance movement, which has not been cowed by repression, harassment, media manipulation, killing of prominent activists by death squads... Eighty days after the coup, the resistance movement remains strong, its confidence is growing, its organisation is being strengthened and the consciousness of the masses of workers, peasants and the youth has experienced a qualitative leap.
It has been this impressive movement of the Honduran working people, and particularly its resilience, which has kept the issue of the coup under the spotlight and forced countries around the world to intensify diplomatic pressure on the coup leaders.
In the last few days, most countries in Latin America and even the United States itself have declared that they will not recognise the results of the elections that the Micheletti regime has called for November in an attempt to legitimise its rule.
Last week, elected president Zelaya went to the United States and met with Hillary Clinton. Since the coup, the position of Washington has been ambiguous, to say the least. While the US were delighted in seeing the removal of Zelaya, the fact that this was the result of a military coup in which the president was put on a plane by armed soldiers and taken to Costa Rica (with a stopover in the air base of La Palmerola, where a US base is located) was an embarrassment for Obama’s foreign policy towards Latin America. Obama would like to see the restoration of constitutional order in Honduras, but under conditions which would see Zelaya neutralised and the oligarchy back in charge. This was the meaning of the San José talks brokered by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. According to the terms of this “accord” Zelaya would be able to come back to the country, but would be tied hand and foot and gagged by a coalition government, a blanket amnesty for the coup plotters and a commitment not to raise the issue of a Constituent Assembly.
Washington has not taken any serious measure to cut off aid to Honduras and most importantly has not rescinded preferential trade agreements on which a large part of the Honduran economy is dependent. After all, even if Obama and Clinton are not pleased by the methods used by the oligarchy to remove Zelaya, they agree with the result and those who carried out the coup are their own people. Furthermore, there are powerful forces in the United States, in the Republican right, within the Democratic Party and the state apparatus, which openly support the coup in Honduras, and which have very close ties with the Honduran oligarchy. During the 1980s Honduras served as a base for US operations against the Nicaraguan revolution. John Negroponte, Roger Noriega and others who then played a key role in Bush’s Latin American policy, were heavily involved at the time, organising and funding the contra gangs of murderous cut-throat mercenaries. Old favours are not easily forgotten and common class interests stand above disagreements on method.
Just to underline this point, Honduras was invited by the US Southern Command to participate in the Panamax 2009 military manoeuvres starting off the coast of Panama on September 11. When news of this was reported by the media, a SouthCom press release clarified that “Honduras withdrew from the exercise Aug. 10.” This would confirm that the invitation for Honduras to participate was maintained up to 7 weeks after the coup, and that only then the Honduran army withdrew ‑ as opposed to being kicked out!
What did Zelaya get out of the meeting with Clinton? Well, the US Department of State issued an official statement announcing the termination of a “broad range of assistance” to Honduras and the fact that “at this moment”, it “would not be able to support the outcome of the scheduled elections”. Regarding aid to the Micheletti regime, we have already explained that despite a similar announcement on July 7th, money from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (headed by Hillary Clinton) had continued to be transferred to the Honduran regime. If this new statement means that the July 7th announcement regarding the “suspension of aid programmes” to Honduras is now, finally, going to be implemented, that will amount to only a very small pressure on the regime. As part of this “friendly pressure”, Washington has also revoked the visas of a number of prominent figures in the coup, including Micheletti.
The part of the statement which talks about not supporting the illegitimate elections has to be read carefully. The measures announced regarding Honduras, which are certainly not “strong” as the communiqué says, are taken “in light of the continued resistance to the adoption of the San Jose Accord by the de facto regime”, that is, if the coup leaders agree to an accord which as we have already pointed out, would achieve the same results as the coup but by nicer constitutional means.
More important, from the point of view of the finances of the regime, which is not going to be particularly bothered by the cutting off of small amounts of aid (US$18 million), is the position of the IMF. On September 1, the IMF announced that Honduras had been allocated $163 million in Special Drawing Rights. This lead to an uproar of criticism of the IMF, which was then forced to do a partial retreat. “The present regime in de facto control is not able to use these SDRs until a decision is made on whether the fund will deal with that regime as the government of Honduras,” IMF spokesman David Hawley said at a news conference on September 10. If these funds were to be frozen ‑ something that remains to be seen ‑ then it would amount to considerable pressure on Micheletti.
However, the key point in the US State Department’s announcement was the fact that it still refused to regard what happened in Honduras on June 28 as a military coup. The choice of words was both careful and important: “The Department of State recognizes the complicated nature of the actions which led to June 28 coup d’etat in which Honduras’ democratically elected leader, President Zelaya, was removed from office. These events involve complex factual and legal questions and the participation of both the legislative and judicial branches of government as well as the military.” If the US were to declare the coup as a military coup then it would be forced by law to cut off any relations with the Honduran regime and possibly to cut off preferential trade relations with the country. Given the structure of the Honduran economy (heavily dependant on the exports of the maquiladoras to the US and on the remittances of the Hondurans in the US to their families), this would be a deadly blow for the regime, which would collapse within 48 hours. This is precisely the reason why this will not happen. It is one thing to put some pressure on your friends; it is a completely different matter to support your enemies!
The Resistance becomes stronger and more organised
It is really remarkable that after nearly 80 days, the resistance has continued without showing any signs of tiredness or demoralisation. Not only this, but the movement, led and coordinated by the National Front of Resistance Against the Coup, has become stronger, better organised and has undergone a qualitative leap in its political consciousness.
It is important to underline the fact that the Front sees itself as struggling not only for the restoration and return of the democratically elected president Zelaya, but also and above all, for the calling of a Constituent Assembly, which they see as a way of fundamentally changing the political system of the country. Also, the question of socialism, which was completely absent from the discussions before the coup, has now penetrated popular consciousness. Honduras has caught up with the Latin American revolution with a giant leap. An indication of this is the speech at one of the massive demonstrations by Oscar Montecinos, a 10 year old boy who has become one of the symbols of the resistance, which he finished by shouting “paso firme, rumbo al socialismo!” - “forward steadily, towards socialism”.
There are weekly mass demonstrations with tens of thousands of participants, despite the heavy handed police and military presence. The marches go through different neighbourhoods in the main cities where the local population come out in support, shouting slogans, encouraging the marchers, giving them food and water. This is a genuine mass movement with deep roots amongst the workers, the peasants, the youth and the poor. For three weeks the teachers were on strike and when they could no longer maintain the struggle at that level they agreed to work Monday to Wednesday and then strike every Thursday and Friday, which is when the more massive marches take place.
The organised working class has played a key role in the resistance and particularly in the leadership of the Front. On September 8 there was a national meeting of trade union delegates involving the three main trade union confederations which agreed to call for an all out general strike. Already unions like those of the water, the electricity and the telecommunications companies, all of them in the public sector, announced their participation. As we pointed out before, the only effective way of paralysing the regime is by moving towards a full general strike.
On September 6 a very important First National Delegate Assembly of the Resistance Front was held in the capital Tegucigalpa, with hundreds of delegates from all over the country. One of the agreements reached by the meeting was to strengthen the structures of the resistance throughout the country. Israel Salinas, general secretary of the United Confederation of Honduran Workers (CUTH), said that they needed to establish “representatives at a national, regional, departmental, and municipal level as well as in every neighbourhood and county, with the aim of strengthening the movement and organising more people in order to face the challenges that are before us.”
This is a very important step forward and is the correct way of organising, through mass meetings in every neighbourhood, town, village, school, university and workplace, and at the same time electing accountable delegates at all levels. The unity of the movement can only be achieved through a democratic structure. But these local, neighbourhood committees of the Resistance Front must also take up the struggle for concrete problems facing the people where they live and where they work, so that the general struggle against the Micheletti regime becomes inseparably linked with the struggle for jobs, housing, education, health care, land, etc.
Another of the decisions of the Delegate Assembly of the Front was to “actively boycott the electoral farce called by the coup plotters”. This is also correct. Participating in elections called by the Micheletti regime would be akin to recognising its legitimacy. We are convinced that the movement of the masses is strong enough to not only boycott the elections but also to overthrow the regime, if the correct tactics are employed. Already, the demonstrators have started to tear down election propaganda during the course of the regular marches and particularly Liberal Party candidates (the party of Mel Zelaya) have been confronted by angry crowds throwing eggs at them in several parts of the country. The boycott of the elections cannot be a passive act of the people staying at home; it has to be an active movement, as the Assembly of the Front agreed.
Candidates and electoral propaganda should not be allowed into working class neighbourhoods or peasant communities. They should be actively confronted. The whole election campaign should be made unworkable by the mass movement of the people, including a general strike. If eventually the regime should manage to get to Election Day (November 29), then all polling stations should be surrounded by mass pickets, and government workers in the different departments should strike and refuse to collaborate with the carrying out of the elections.
However, the decision of the Delegate Assembly of the Front to boycott the elections has opened up a discussion within the ranks of the resistance. Some are talking of the possibility of using the election ticket of the left-wing Unificación Democrática (UD) to stand in the parliamentary and council elections. Others are saying the Carlos H. Reyes, the independent candidate and trade union leader of the militant STIBYS, should stand for president. This is extremely dangerous as it could divide the resistance and make any tactic of boycott less effective. Obviously the question of boycott or participation is a tactical one. We are clearly in favour of boycott and we think that it is possible to overthrow the regime if the correct tactics are used (a general strike leading to a mass insurrection). However, the decision must be taken in a democratic manner by a democratically convened body (as was the case of the National Delegate Assembly of the Front), and should then be respected by all those who are participating in the resistance. Splitting the movement on a question like this would be highly irresponsible and would amount to an act of betrayal.
In their desperation, the oligarchy is increasingly resorting to paramilitary means of repression. Already a number of prominent activists have been killed using death squad methods. Now, the Colombian paper El Tiempo has reported on the recruitment of “demobilised” Colombian paramilitaries to be sent to Honduras, hired by landowners and ranchers, to defend their properties against the growing and more confident movement of the peasants (See: Estarían reclutando ex paramilitares para que viajen como mercenarios a Honduras). The paper provides proof of one such recruitment meeting in which Colombian ex-paramilitaries were offered $750 plus food and lodging in order to go to Honduras to defend the properties of the capitalists and oligarchs. According to this report, some have already travelled to Honduras.
This confirms another report that has come out of Honduras, about 100 armed men led by the local mayor Quintin Soriano, who attacked a peaceful demonstration in Choluteca. A rally by hundreds of peasants, called by the Resistance Front in this city of 100,000 inhabitants in the south of the country, had gathered outside the offices of the Association of Ranch Owners, and was attacked by a group of 100 men armed with machetes and fire arms, leaving 20 injured.
After 80 days of struggle there is no doubt that the workers, peasants and youth of Honduras are capable of overthrowing the coup and starting the process of transforming society. However, they need to be armed with a correct strategy and correct politics in order to succeed. The Resistance Front has taken many steps in the right direction. It is crucial to strengthen its structures at all levels, based on mass assemblies and elected delegates. The orientation to the working class should be emphasised, a general strike can paralyse the country’s economy and overthrow the regime. Part of the task of the committees of the Front should be to organise their own self-defence and the self-defence of the demonstrations, which are regularly coming under attack by police, military and paramilitary forces. Only a general strike combined with a mass insurrection can defeat the coup. The masses should only trust in their own forces not in any number of diplomatic combinations that are only designed to fool the revolutionary people.