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Honduras: Obama's new puppets on display; Massive demonstration as Lobo takes power

The mass national resistance movement against the June 28 coup remains a viable and significant political force. Photo by James Rodriguez.

By Felipe Stuart Cournoyer, Managua

January 26, 2010 -- During the dubious Honduran election process leading up to voting day on November 27, 2009, the people would chant “Santos[1] de santo no tiene nada. Lobo de lobo lo tiene todo” ["(Elvin) Santos gets nothing from the saints; Lobo’s taken it all from the wolf.”] 

On January 27 new puppets will take centre stage in the puppetry act Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Elected "president" Pepe Lobo (no doubt called "wolf, or little wolf" by his gringo controllers at the US embassy) will accept the strings of attachment to the invisible government and state power that continue to rule in Honduras. This obscure and menacing group is an unelected corps of representatives of the army high command and of the ten ruling oligarchic families. They meet under the informal moderation of the US ambassador of the day, and with the blessing of the ranking cleric of the Roman Catholic Church. 

Lobo has agreed to offer a "safe conduct" visa to ousted President Mel Zelaya, who is still exiled in the Brazilian embassy along with supporters. The January 26 edition of the Tegucigalpa daily El Heraldo reported that Arturo Valenzuela (US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs) and US ambassador Hugo Llorens, accompanied by a Canadian government diploflunky, will meet with outgoing (and ousted) President Mel Zelaya in the afternoon at the Brazilian embassy (see ). The photos that will certainly be taken of the encounter, and Zelaya’s subsequent helicopter trip to Toncontín airport, will offer a somewhat sublime (or obscene, depending on viewpoint) symbol of how this scene began, and how the curtain dropped.

Zelaya was kidnapped by armed soldier-thugs on June 28, 2009, and hustled out of the country to Costa Rica, with a brief stopover at the US-controlled Soto Cano (Palmerola) airforce base near the capital. Costa Rica's president Oscar Arias, who was later to play a back-stabbing role in the San José talks between coup leaders and President Zelaya's representatives, knew President Mel had been kidnapped prior to his arrival in the Costa Rican capital, clad only in his pyjamas. Arias’ perfidious role in helping to disguise and camouflage Washington's role in the coup, and later to legitimise and consolidate the coup regime, was foretold the day of the flight from Soto Cano to Costa Rica.


Some sectors on the international and Latin American left have expressed a sense of despair or fatalism with respect to what has been, in many circles, been interpreted as a defeat for Latin American independence from the overwhelming power of Washington and the weighty US military-industrial-communications complex.

Obama, after all, it seems, pulled one over on the Organization of American States' (OAS) majority that had vowed never to accept the coup. He managed to entice the servile and discredited Oscar Arias to broker a negotiations process whose only purpose was to confuse and disorient the resistance forces in Honduras, the international solidarity movement, and to buy urgently needed time to bring the coup regime into a smooth, uneventful landing, safe and out of harm’s way. This maneuvre succeeded, despite warnings from grassroots leaders in Honduras and wise counsel from international revolutionary leaders including Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez.

But, did the San José maneuvre and the survival of Roberto Micheletti's coup regime until the end of the constitutional period of the deposed president bring about a clear, certain and stable victory for the Honduran ruling class and its imperial backers in Washington?

That question has already been answered on the streets and university grounds of the country, in the factories and workplaces, in the public employees' sector, in the rural fields and agricultural work centers, and in the ports and transport industries. The mass national resistance movement against the June 28 coup remains a viable and significant political force. It was not disoriented either by Oscar Arias or by the electoral sham on November 27. Despite disagreements over how to respond to both challenges and obstacles, the movement remains strong and united. This resistance is without precedent in Indo-Latin America and the Caribbean. Never has such a prolonged resistance to a military coup held its ground and outlasted formal political stalemate.

Mass movement

This movement has united and educated forces across the traditional barriers of class, race, ethnicity, language, gender, age, rural-urban differences, culture, regionalisms and educational backgrounds. It has demonstrated political sophistication, not just here and there, or at the most critical moments, but consistently. It has resisted, and continues to resist, provocative efforts of the secret police and CIA agents to entice its younger elements into violent and criminal acts in order to create public support for even harsher repressive measures. It has evaded efforts to promote provocations against the police and rank-and-file soldiers in order to keep the largely poor and rural soldier ranks isolated from the mass protests and propaganda in favour of democratic rights and the constitution of the republic. It has risen over and over again to the challenge of uniting very diverse class and political tendencies and forces into a fist of defiance, without falling into the temptation of silencing the ranks in order to lend an appearance of more solid support for leadership decisions.

By maintaining openness and ample space for the voices of the grassroots, the resistance has demonstrated over and over again that an essentially harmonious relationship prevailed between different levels and sectors of the movement. Differences were and are treated as a normal eventuality in any genuine mass upsurge involving forces barely acquainted with working together, especially under conditions of fierce, violent repression and the silencing of opposition media.

Part of the "miracle" of the movement's unity, in my view, stemmed from the fact that the entire movement held firm and intransigent around the key demands of the resistance -- rejection of the unconstitutional de facto regime and the restoration of the constitutional presidency; an end to all repression and for the return of the army to its barracks; restoration of press freedom and re-opening of banned TV and radio stations; release of all political prisoners; no impunity for those who carried out the coup, nor for military and police personnel involved in crimes against the population, including assassinations, torture, disappearances, beatings and rape. 

Finally, the key demand that ties all this together into a perspective for democratising the Honduran state is the call for a constituent assembly -- a political process leading up to an assembly empowered to change the country's constitution, and to set in motion democratic and fair political processes that must form the basis of a responsible and credible electoral and political exercise for deciding which political forces will form the national government.

This is an ongoing struggle. It "ain´t over 'til it’s over" as the US baseball saying has it. The final innings in this fight lie ahead, not behind the Honduran and Central American people.

Much at stake in the region

Much is at stake, not just in Honduras, but across the region. One immediate impact of the coup was to give courage and sustenance to reactionary forces in Panama and Costa Rica to finally come out into the open in their opposition to the process of Central American unity. Its most advanced recent expression was the SICA (Central American Integration System) and the C-4 Accord (through which citizens of Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala can travel between the four countries without a passport or visa -- an important step towards establishing a common labour market, something prized by local capitalists).

Costa Rica's president Oscar Arias has made it clear that his country, if he has his way, will turn away from the SICA and join Panama and Colombia in a different sort of alliance, whether formal or informal. That tripartite arrangement is a direct threat not only to Venezuela and Ecuador, which border on the Colombian narco-state (and Washington's South American "Israel") but also against Nicaragua, which has significant border disputes with both Colombia (maritime) and with Costa Rica (territorial disputes over the Rio San Juan and environmental issues stemming from the contamination of Costa Rica's feeder rivers with heavy metals and other poisons).

Looking at the geopolitics of the Honduran coup from an even higher vantage point, it is clear that the coup was part of Washington's strategy to re-militarise its relations with South and Central America, and with the Caribbean countries. The coup was followed by the agreement to install military bases in Colombia, and later in Panama; and by the decision to take the US Fourth Fleet out of mothballs and redeploy it to the southwest Caribbean theatre -- offshore from Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. 

Hence, Obama has demonstrated not only his skills at what Eva Gollinger described as "smart diplomacy", but also his readiness to use the big stick, even if he has to go through denial acts and blame Hillary Clinton, his secretary of state, for the more crude moves in this warfare.

We like to remind ourselves in Nicaragua that "Sandino vive, la lucha sigue" (Sandino lives on, the struggle goes on). It does. Francisco Morazán lives on in the mass resistance movement that has changed politics and governing in Honduras forever.

[Felipe Stuart Cournoyer is a Canadian-born Nicaraguan citizen who divides his time between the two countries. He is a member of the FSLN and a contributing editor to Socialist Voice, published in Canada.]


[1]  Elvin Santos was the candidate of the Liberal Party, while Porfirio Lobo won the presidency for the Partido Nacional. The two parties are both traditional and conservative, and play the same tweedledum, tweedledee role in Hondura's electoral charades as the Democrats and Republicans in the USA. Coup leader Roberto Micheletti is also a leading Liberal Party member, as was ousted legitimate president Mel Zelaya.

Massive demonstration as Lobo takes power

January 27, 2010 -- Honduras Resists -- De facto president Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo took power today as the international business press suggested that the coup had finally triumphed over the resistance, or at the least the crisis is over. Meanwhile, despite the ongoing human rights crisis, kidnapping, murder and intimidation, hundreds of thousands of Hondurans of all ages, classes, and from all regions, took to the streets to mark a cleartheir  rejection of the legitimacy of Lobo's presidency, and to prove that their demands for justice and a constituent assembly would not fade.

Organisers say it was the second largest demonstration since the June 28, 2009, coup d'etat. There were marches in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, and smaller marches in other places. The one in the capital went to the airport, where a sea of Honduran citizens danced, shouted slogans and showed tremendous spirit as they waited to watch their elected president Manuel Zelaya board a plane for a brief flight to the Dominican Republic. A stage was set-up on the field where Is Isis Obed Murillo was murdered by the army on July 5, 2009. Musicians played resistance songs, all sections of the resistance gave speeches and the names of the martyrs of the resistance were read out.

The energy in the streets was exhilarating, a fresh tidal wave of unified opposition that revealed the National Resistance Front has only just begun to fight.

The demonstrations saw little repression despite the presence of droves of police and soldiers, armed and in riot gear. The transfer of power to Lobo was not completely spotless, as demonstrators were harassed coming into the city, taken off buses and manhandled by police. Worse, soldiers and police in the northern province of Colon carried out the second raid this month on campesinos organised by the CNTC, which has carried out land recoveries that were being legalised by Zelaya. Three campesinos were wounded by gunfire from police and paramilitaries, and one remains in critical condition.

This drives home the message that we heard all day from the Honduran people in resistance: "!Por que el futuro nos pertenence, el presente es de lucha!"


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