Honduras: Asking the right questions to reach better answers

By Ricardo Arturo Salgado, translated from the Spanish by Felipe Stuart Cournoyer

August 21, 2009 -- Tegucigalpa -- A lot has been written on the Honduran situation, more in solidarity with opposition to the coup than in favour of it. The media seems to feed on scandalous news -- no blood, no news. Unless what’s involved is a people on the way to liberation...

A few weeks ago I publicly exposed a potential collapse of the health system in Honduras; today public hospitals have only four basic medicines. They are being told to make emergency purchases from pharmaceutical firms owned by golpistas [coup makers]: Laboratorios Finlay, owned by Jorge Canahuati Larach, who also owns the newspapers el Heraldo and La Prensa, and is an arms supplier; Elías Asfura, owner of  Laboratorios Karnel, also has various TV Channels and now owns the once government-owned Channel 8; MANDOFER, owned by the Andonie Fernández family which also owns Audio Video, a golpista group that includes Radio América.

This collapse also forces the coup government to plea for private bank loans at commercial interest rates. Collateral for these loans is the obligatory bank financial reserve, that is the guarantors are bank saver-depositors. Basically we are confronting a process of mortgaging the state, and eventually a catastrophic version of the “corralito.” (1)

If we stop awhile to think about it, the pillage the golpistas are literally carrying out not only shows their brazen ambition and likely their premonition of being close to their time, but also it will leave President Manuel Zelaya with a desolate country. Above all, the new government, which will be from the left, will inherit a grave situation. They are already clearing the road for future destabilisation.

Meanwhile, we have warned about peculiar movements among the Zelayaist liberal sector, aimed at obtaining a preponderant position in the new government. Fortunately, President Zelaya has made public a communiqué urging his followers to desist, and they have affirmed they will follow his instructions.

As we should assume, a division within the National Resistance Front against the Coup could have terrible results for the people’s struggle. The idea of a national Constituent Assembly to re-found the country is fundamental; it cannot be achieved if ambitions for power and for keeping alive the old two-party arrangement are not abandoned.

I think the situation makes for a lot of discussion, but concrete facts indicate that President Zelaya will return to Honduras thanks to an agreement favourable to the golpistas. But this does not mean that he has given up. Zelaya’s importance today is rooted in his capacity to influence the outcome of the next elections.

If Zelaya does not return we are going to boycott the electoral process, and the results of this strategy are essential. It is difficult to predict how much longer the consensus of Latin American countries regarding Honduras will hold. Countries like Colombia, Peru, Panama and even Mexico could break down this fragile OAS [Organization of American States] consensus. Elections in Chile are just around the corner. A probable victory of the Chilean right could determine what happens, in a scenario in which governments of the right would recognise the coup regime.

In the long and medium term, the imperialist offensive against the advance of popular governments could realise its first victory in Honduras. It is not accidental that the Yankee government is delaying any process for resolving the situation. We are mindful that the US Congress functions as if it were the 19th century, with a sizeable group of members who still hate Lincoln for the abolition of slavery. They are susceptible to lobbying by a highly paid political clique of coup-making businessmen.

We Latin Americans cannot and should not fall into this trap. They have tried to distance President Zelaya from President Chávez but they cannot take away his convictions -- that are certainly closer to those of the Venezuela’s Bolivarian president than to those of the sadly celebrated Alan García. Our president is important, but not because of the fourth ballot box [cuarta urna (2)] That consultation took place on June 28 [the day of the coup]. When they carried out the coup, the consultation was ended. Today, three-quarters of the population want to see the country re-founded.

For that reason, it is imperative to press within the international community for the unravelling of this crisis. We have made a lot of headway on the domestic front, we have all kinds of hardships, but conviction is powerful. Although they repress us, we are freer than coup functionaries; neither Michelleti, nor Elvin, nor Pepe, nor any other golpista can walk the streets of Tegucigalpa -- now their prison. (3) The only way they can go out is with a military contingent.

Pressure from sister countries is still wanting. They have done a lot already, and we thank them for that. But what is missing is a final offensive. That’s why it’s important to ask the right questions. 

[Ricardo Arturo Salgado is an active participant in the National Resistance Front against the Coup, and a Tegucigalpa-based sociologist and researcher. The original title of this article was ``Formular las preguntas correctas para llegar a las conclusiones mas acertadas’’.]


(1) Corralito was the informal name for the economic measures taken in Argentina at the end of 2001 by Minister of Economy Domingo Cavallo in order to stop a bank run. They were fully in force for one year.

(2) La cuarta urna -- the fourth ballot box refers to a referendum the Zelaya government tried to carry out on June 28 that would have asked Hondurans their opinion about a proposal to have a fourth ballot box in the scheduled November national elections in which people could vote for or against a proposal to hold a Constituent Assembly in 2010 to reform the national constitution.The expression now stands for the Constituent process now sought.

(3) Pepe is Lobo Sosa (presidential candidate of the ultra right Partido Nacional de Honduras, and Elvin is Elvin Santos Ordoñez, presidential candidate of the Liberal Party, also ultra right. He is known for his outlandish corrupt dealings.