FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

High Stakes in Honduras

When rallying in the streets of Tegucigalpa for the ousted President Manuel Zelaya, Alejandra Fernandez, a 23-year-old university student told a journalist why she supported Zelaya: “He raised the minimum wage, gave out free school lunches, provided milk for the babies and pensions for the elderly, distributed energy-saving light bulbs, decreased the price of public transportation, made more scholarships available for students.” Others gathered around to mention the roads and schools in rural areas the president had created.

“That’s why the elite classes can’t stand him and why we want him back,” Alejandra explained. “This is really a class struggle.”

But it’s not just because of these relatively progressive reforms that Zelaya enacted that he deserves our support. Nor is it simply because this democratically-elected leader was ousted in a repressive coup led by right-wing oligarchs and military officials trained at the infamous torture and counterinsurgency school, the School of the Americas, now known as Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, based in Georgia.

He also deserves our support because he was ultimately overthrown in response to his plans to organise a popular assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution.

According to Central American political analyst Alberto Valiente Thoresen, Honduras’s current constitution, written in 1982, “was the product of a context characterised by counter-insurgency policies supported by the US government, civil façade military governments and undemocratic policies.” In an assembly made up of elected representatives from various political parties and social sectors, a new, likely more progressive and inclusive constitution could have a lasting impact on the country’s corrupt politicians, powerful sweatshop owners and repressive military institutions.

Many commentators have said that Zelaya sought to re-write the constitution to extend his time in office. Yet nothing indicates that that was the case. Leading up to the coup, Zelaya was pushing for a referendum on 28 June in which the ballot question was to be: “Do you agree that, during the general elections of November 2009 there should be a fourth ballot to decide whether to hold a Constituent National Assembly that will approve a new political constitution?” This non-binding referendum – not plans from Zelaya to expand his power – was enough to push right wing and military leaders to organise a coup.

If the Honduran people approved the formation of a constitutional assembly in November, it would likely take years – as it did recently in Bolivia – to rewrite the document. Zelaya would not be president as he would not be running in the upcoming elections. His term in office finishes in January 2010, too short a time to complete a national assembly’s rewriting of the constitution.

Given that it was the call for the constituent assembly that led to the coup, it appears that the coup leaders are more worried about an assembly in which the people could re-write their own constitution, than Zelaya himself. Clearly it’s the Honduran oligarchs, rather than Zelaya, who are more interested in concentrating and conserving their own power.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Zelaya in Washington today, and one development was that Costa Rica’s president Oscar Arias will act as mediator for the return of Zelaya. But there still is plenty of room for improvement in the US’s stance. The Obama administration should listen to Zelaya’s demands rather than impose preconditions for US support. And it should avoid bullying Zelaya into dropping his plans for the new constitution, or limiting any progressive reforms he may want to enact upon returning to office. The Honduran people should decide what course Zelaya should take, not the Obama administration and certainly not any right wing junta.

Although the Obama administration has been critical of the coup and relatively supportive of Zelaya, it should go much further. Some clear signs that Washington backs Zelaya would be withdrawing the US ambassador from the country, following in the footsteps of the other nations that have condemned the coup. The US should also cut off all of its aid to the rogue government, and end all military aid to the country. These actions would put pressure on the already weak military and send a clearer message to the region that, at this point, Washington is entirely against the coup, and willing to respect demands from Latin American leaders, all of whom have called for Zelaya’s reinstatement.

This past Sunday, after his plane was turned back upon trying to land in Honduras, Zelaya told reporters: “the United States, which has tremendous power, should take action. Specifically, the strongest government in economic matters, in aspects of the sphere of the dollar, for us is the United States. If they decide to live with the coup, then democracy in the Americas is over.”

BENJAMIN DANGL is currently based in Paraguay and is the author of “The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia” (AK Press). He edits UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America, and TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events. Email: Bendangl(at)gmail(dot)com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America, covering social movements and politics in the region for over a decade. He is the author of the books Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, and The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. Dangl is currently a doctoral candidate in Latin American History at McGill University, and edits UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America, and TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events. Twitter: https://twitter.com/bendangl Email: BenDangl(at)gmail(dot)com

November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
Patrick Howlett-Martin
A Note on the Paris Peace Forum
Joseph G. Ramsey
Does America Have a “Gun Problem”…Or a White Supremacy Capitalist Empire Problem?
Weekend Edition
November 09, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Louis Proyect
Why Democrats Are So Okay With Losing
Andrew Levine
What Now?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Chuck and Nancy’s House of Cards
Brian Cloughley
The Malevolent Hypocrisy of Selective Sanctions
Marc Levy
Welcome, Class of ‘70
David Archuleta Jr.
Facebook Allows Governments to Decide What to Censor
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Zika Scare: a Political and Commercial Maneuver of the Chemical Poisons Industry
Nick Pemberton
When It Comes To Stone Throwing, Democrats Live In A Glass House
Ron Jacobs
Impeach!
Lawrence Davidson
A Tale of Two Massacres
José Tirado
A World Off Balance
Jonah Raskin
Something Has Gone Very Wrong: An Interview With Ecuadoran Author Gabriela Alemán
J.P. Linstroth
Myths on Race and Invasion of the ‘Caravan Horde’
Dean Baker
Good News, the Stock Market is Plunging: Thoughts on Wealth
David Rosen
It’s Time to Decriminalize Sex Work
Dan Glazebrook
US Calls for a Yemen Ceasefire is a Cynical Piece of Political Theatre
Jérôme Duval
Forced Marriage Between Argentina and the IMF Turns into a Fiasco
Jill Richardson
Getting Past Gingrich
Dave Lindorff
Not a Blue Wave, But Perhaps a Foreshock
Martha Rosenberg
Dangerous, Expensive Drugs Aggressively Pushed? You Have These Medical Conflicts of Interest to Thank
Will Solomon
Not Much of a Wave
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Yemeni War Deaths are Five Times Higher Than You’ve Been Led to Believe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail