Manuel Zelaya is going home. After nearly two years in forced exile, after two years of protests and marches, after strikes in the streets of Honduras, after the martyrdom of hundreds of members of a huge nationwide resistance, Hondurans have won the right to bring back “Mel,” their “Máximo Líder,” the elected General Coordinator of the Front for the National Popular Resistance of Honduras (FNRP).
A U.S.-government-backed coup ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Rosales on June 28, 2009. After Roberto Micheletti was immediately sworn in as de facto president, the “golpistas” (coup plotters), the Honduran oligarchy and U.S. corporate and military interests figured they had successfully eliminated Zelaya and his reforms. During his presidency, Zelaya rejected neoliberalism and the Honduran ruling class by attempting to have Honduras join ALBA, the anti-free-trade, socially oriented Bolivarian trade bloc headed by Venezuela. With Zelaya president, Honduras also raised the minimum wage 60 percent, enacted land reforms, provided free education and fed hungry children.
With the support of the U.S. government, the golpistas kidnapped Zelaya and sent him into exile, forestalling the “Constituyente,” a proposal to restructure the country’s constitution to promote social improvement.
The coup aroused a mighty resistance movement. Workers World newspaper has written extensively about the Honduran Resistance from the beginning. In every department, in every city and hamlet, the Honduran Resistance has developed into an extraordinary force.
Honduras is a country of about 8 million people. On International Workers’ Day, May 1, more than 3 million FNRP Hondurans marched. On their banners and in their chants for the rights of workers and peasants, they called for Zelaya’s return, for a refoundation of their homeland and for the Constituyente.
Liars, fascists & irresistible forces
After the June 2009 coup, the Organization of American States ejected Honduras from membership. Washington tried to legitimize the Honduran regime by promoting a phony election in November 2009, but Latin American nations in Mercasur, UNASUR and the Caribbean refused to recognize the government of “Pepe” Lobo.
Though U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gushed about democracy’s return to Honduras, oligarchs like Miguel Facussé still used his private army to kill peasants, while police and private cops murdered teachers, students, lesbian/gay/bi/trans/queer people, women, Original (Indigenous) people, and union leaders with impunity. The government refused to pay the country’s teachers or public workers and the golpistas who raided teacher pension funds kept the money.
Meanwhile the FNRP kept organizing. In February the revolutionaries held a National Assembly with representatives from all over the country, who elected Mel Zelaya in absentia as their general coordinator. They vowed to restructure the Constituyente and to bring back Zelaya.
In an interview with Workers World, Lucy Pagoada, a representative of the Nineteenth Department — Hondurans in the Diaspora — and a member of Honduras Resistencia USA, expressed her opinion on why Zelaya has been allowed to return.
“About a month ago, [Venezuelan President] Hugo Chávez met in Cartagena, Colombia, with Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, and Honduran so-called “president” Porfirio Lobo. The meeting was probably at the behest of the United States, which wanted Honduras back in the OAS. The U.S. has been anxious to get Honduras ‘under control.’ Since the coup it has been ungovernable. They decided to bring Zelaya home so Honduras would be back in the OAS before its regional meeting in June.”
U.S. covert involvement
Honduras is an outpost of U.S. capitalism. Early in May in the city of San Pedro Sula, businessmen from 55 countries came to a three-day event called by Bill Clinton: “Honduras: Open for Business.” In the last two years since the coup, fake elections, the unparalleled golpista violence and the increasing resistance have caused foreign capital to flee Honduras. There has been a 46 percent decline in investment. (New Statesman, May 8) With a 51 percent unemployment rate in 2009, the worldwide recession hit Honduras especially hard.
But poverty only increased resistance. So the May 22nd Cartagena Accords signaled the end to Zelaya’s exile in order to placate his supporters. The accords call for respect for human rights and legitimize FNRP participation in Honduran political life. (AP, May 22) Hondurans are hopeful, but the level of repression in the country and the viciousness of the golpistas who are still in power in every locality and in national government make these promises dubious.
“Mel is due to return to Honduras on Saturday, May 28,” said Pagoada. She predicted that hundreds of thousands or more would be on hand to greet Zelaya at Toncontín Airport in Tegucigalpa. “Most Hondurans see this as a historical triumph of the democratic process,” which was facilitated by the courageous organizing of the Honduran Resistance.
“The U.S. got what it wanted,” Andreas Tomás Conteris told Workers World. Conteris, program director for the syndicated “Democracy Now!” radio and television show in Spanish, was incarcerated in the Brazilian Embassy with Zelaya for four months during the coup. “The Cartagena Accords sound great in theory, but are not implementable. Impunity still reigns in Honduras. But this is the people’s moment, and the peoples’ movement will gain strength.”Ω
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