Honduras resistance launches political party; Political statement of the FARP; Cartagena Accord debated

By Felipe Stuart Cournoyer and John Riddell

July 11, 2011 -- johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- A national assembly of the resistance, uniting more than 1500 delegates from across Honduras, voted on June 26 to launch a new political party, the Frente Amplio de Resistencia Popular (Broad Front of Popular Resistance, FARP).

The assembly was convened by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (National People’s Resistance Front, FNRP), the main coordinating body of popular struggle since a right-wing coup overthrew the democratically elected government of President Manuel Zelaya two years ago, on June 28, 2009.

The new party is to function as an arm of the Resistance Front in the political-electoral arena and will contest the 2013 presidential elections.

The delegates met under large suspended banners displaying the images of ALBA presidents—Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Raúl Castro (Cuba) and Evo Morales (Bolivia), alongside those of Francisco Morazán, Simón Bolívar, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Honduras was illegitimately removed from the ALBA alliance by the coup regime established in 2009.

At the assembly, Zelaya, who returned from exile on May 28, urged the FNRP to guard its unity. It must embrace all sectors affected by the cruelty of the existing system, which has devastated the lives of millions of Hondurans, he said. Zelaya stressed that Honduras needs deep structural reforms. The Honduran resistance, pressing forward in every field of activity, is capable both of taking political power and setting in motion the convening of a constituent assembly, he said. (See report by Dick and Miriam Emanuelsson.)

According to a July 10 report by the Nicaraguan left-wing website radiolaprimerisima.com, “The president of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, has initiated a discussion with a number of political parties on convening a Constituent Assembly. This proposal is similar to the one advanced by Ex-President Manuel Zelaya, which caused his ouster on June 28, 2009.”

Zelaya took part in this discussion, which was held in the Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa. Zelaya insisted that it is the people who have the sovereignty to convoke a constituent assembly, not the state authorities. The Cartagena Accord accepted a framework in which the people must be consulted, he said, calling on organisations of teachers, peasants, workers, and various social sectors to demand their inclusion in the process.

Death squads still active

Zelaya returned to Honduras as part of the May 22 Cartagena Accord, which included provisions to rein in the coup regime’s campaign of terror against resistance and social activists. This repression included close to 100 political killings in 2010. As we warned in our May 24 report on the accord, the Cartagena agreement did not halt death-squad activity.

According to Bertha Oliva of COFADEH (the Committee of Family Members of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras), only a few days after the accord was signed, a death squad struck down a close associate of Xiomara Castro, Zelaya’s wife and political partner, along with another victim. Oliva was interviewed June 24 by Todd Gordon and Jeffery R. Webber (see “Imperialism and the Future of Honduran Resistance.”) “Security forces can torture, and nothing will happen”, Oliva said. “They can detain and assassinate their opponents, and nothing will happen.”

On June 5, three peasant activists were assassinated near their San Esteban cooperative, Oliva reports. The same day, security guards working for Miguel Facussé, a large landowner notorious for illegal expropriation of peasant lands, entered the National Agrarian Institute and opened fire on peasants who had taken refuge there, seriously wounding one of them. On June 10, government and private security forces invaded several other peasant cooperatives in the Bajo Aguán region.

During their visit to Honduras, Gordon and Webber met many other activists who had recently received death threats.

Nor is repression directed only at the grass roots. On June 15, Gordon and Webber say, Zelaya’s former chief of staff, Enrique Flores, who had returned from exile on the same plane as the former president, was placed under house arrest—a clear violation of the Cartagena Accord.

Assessing Cartagena

According to Gordon and Webber, the urgent struggle against this murderous repression has been rendered more difficult by the Cartagena Accord, which “is likely to cast a democratic veneer over these atrocities, à la Colombia”. The accord “is best understood as a blow to the Honduran Resistance, one that is likely to undermine efforts to continue building a grassroots movement genuinely capable of challenging political and economic power in the country”.

Gordon and Webber concede, however, that this is not currently the prevailing view in the resistance.

They analyse the movement as divided into three wings: the “official resistance”, composed of the forces that broke with Zelaya from the capitalist Liberal Party (“a persecuted branch of former members of the ruling class”); a militant wing, Refoundational Space, which is critical of the accord; and “a third and oscillating force … composed principally of popular classes and oppressed groups”.

In the lead up to the accord and since Zelaya’s return, Gorden and Webber say, “momentum within the Resistance has moved from Refoundational Space to the official wing of the Frente”.

This “momentum” was evident at the Resistance Front’s June 26 conference. Delegates of COPINH (Council of Peoples’ and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras), a major component of Refoundational Space, argued against the decision to launch a political party in conditions of ongoing capitalist pillage and repression in the country. In their view, “To fall into the trap of participating in the 2013 elections would be a huge mistake.” (Berta Caceres of COPINH in an interview by Gordon and Webber.)

Yet the resolution launching a political party to participate in electoral activity was approved by a 90%-95% majority at the Resistance Front’s June 26 assembly.

Gordon and Webber question the fairness of debate in the assembly. Most speakers were “selected from the officialist camp”; Zelaya’s personal authority weighed heavily on the gathering; discussion was “truncated”, they say.

Dick and Miriam Emanuelsson note, however, that the four resolutions presented during this discussion had been fully discussed by base organisations and committees of the Resistance Front in urban barrios and on a municipal and departmental level. Opponents of launching a political party were able to make their arguments before the assembly, but they did not convince many, and the vote to launch the FARP was greeted with general jubilation. There is no basis to question grassroots delegates’ understanding of the different strategic choices before them or their capacity to evaluate them.

According to the assembly decisions, the new political party will not replace the Resistance Front. Membership in the party will be individual; forces with divergent views on the party remain united in the Resistance Front.

Combined strategy

Gordon and Webber conclude their analysis with a quotation from Tomás Andino, a Refoundational Space delegate at the Resistance Front assembly:

The same powers that were responsible for the coup d’état remain in place…. [A]re we to expect that these forces that came to power through force are going to give up that power through voting? No! … [T]he only strategy available to the people is to rise up…. If we simply move toward participation in elections we are going to be lost.

If the Resistance Front majority were proposing to replace a strategy of mass action with sheer electorialism, Andino’s point would be well taken. In fact, this majority argue for maintaining the grassroots struggle for a Constituent Assembly and democratic rights alongside participation in the coming elections. Andino and the Refoundational Space delegates were unable to convince many that such a combined strategy would be unviable.

There are some in Honduras and elsewhere who believe that electoral action will have a negative effect, no matter how it is conducted. But in several Latin American countries in recent years, including Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua, an integration of electoral action with grassroots initiatives has had some positive results.

Gordon and Webber have contributed to building our understanding of the Honduran resistance, which deserves close study internationally. But there is no need for us pass judgement at this stage on the debate among Honduran activists.

Whatever our views on the discussion there, we have a joint responsibility to continue building opposition to the repression in Honduras and to ongoing pillaging of the country by imperialist powers and their corporations.

Political statement of the Broad Front of People’s Resistance

Frente Amplio de Resistencia Popular (FARP)

We want reconciliation but do not find any will; we demand freedom for political prisoners and an end to persecution.
We want JUSTICE; we are going to sue the material and intellectual authors of crimes against humanity.

July 11, 2011 -- http://www.resistenciahonduras.net --The violent rupture of constitutional order produced on June 28, 2009, by undemocratic and oligarchic sectors with external support, that opposed the legitimate request from the former Constitutional President of the Republic, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, known as the "the fourth ballot", interrupted a healthy process of evolution and transformation of electoral democratic culture to a participatory and sovereign democracy.

The immediate creation of a National Front of Resistance Against the Military Coup and its pacific struggle over two years across the country, produced a new political identity involving grassroots, democratic, progressive and revolutionary movements who fought throughout this period for the establishment of true democracy. 

That instrument of the people which began as a response to the outburst of the sectors that led the coup, became the National Front of People's Resistance (FNRP), that in addition to sustaining the political demands for the return of exiles, justice for those who were abused by the coup plotters, constituted the main trench of complaints against the constant violations of human rights and the rapid retreat of the workers victories during the last 50 years, mainly affecting the nation’s teachers, peasant farmers and the workers. 

With the return of the 2006-2010 Constitutional President of the Republic and National Coordinator of the People's National Resistance Front, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, which occurred thanks to the Agreement for National Reconciliation subscribed by President Porfirio Lobo Sosa as Head of State of Honduras, and the Presidents Manuel Santos of Colombia and Hugo Rafael Chaves Frias of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. These new developments in the country oblige us to reaffirm our demand for due compliance of the people’s demands;  the establishment of a National Constituent Assembly and the punishing violators of Human Rights. 

During its recent National Assembly the Front decided to create the Broad Front of People’s Resistance for political participation in all electoral processes in the country, precisely with the intention to continue to show signs of the will for national reconciliation in the framework of peaceful rule and democracy for which the people of Honduras have been struggling during the last two years, demanding justice in the polls. 

However, this reconciliation process has had serious obstacles to be immediately overcome in order to enable us to continue along that path of reconciliation. The case of political persecution of Lawyer Enrique Flores Lanza, former Minister of the Presidency in the government of “Citizen’s Power” and member of the Political Commission of the National Front, Rebecca Santos, prisoner in her own home country, as well as death threats to Father Fausto Milla of Copan and his assistant Denia Mejia, members of the coordination of the National Front, as well as the sustained denial of Honduran nationality to Father Andres Tamayo member of the Political Commission, are illustrations of actions that the Front is facing in this process of dialogue . Political will should be expressed precisely in the realm of actions and not only in statements convenient in the face of the international community. 

On Thursday July 7, “Truth and Reconciliation Commission”, created by the government of President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, acknowledged that the events of June 28 constituted a coup. 

In an extensive document, the commission recommends to the state of Honduras:

1. In Honduras the constitutional reform faces the problem that, paradoxically, because of the wording of Articles 373 and 374 of current Constitution, it seems impossible to reform the constitution so that it supports a comprehensive review of the text through a national constituent assembly, as this could be understood as a modification of the "unchangeable articles".

To find a solution to this dilemma, the Commission proposes to follow the parameters set by modern constitutional doctrine that defends the meta-juridical and meta-constitutional of the original power of a constituent assembly.

Therefore, as it is established by the constitution, all acts of “de facto” government that replaced the legitimate government are null. Beyond that, the demand is made of the state's obligation to compensate the victims and to punish the murderers, and the obligation to convene a National Constituent Assembly that leads to the creation of a New Constitution to guarantee the constitutional order of the Republic . As well as it has been said by the “True Commission”, which for over a year has fought against impunity and indifference, and whose views deserve to be incorporated in the opinion of the Commission. 

We are in complete disposition to contribute to the processes  of national reconciliation in the republic and the convening of a Constituent National Assembly provided that is recognised and undertaken upon the need to fully implement the reconciliation agreement signed by the President Lobo as head of the state. 

Tegucigalpa July 9, 2011, Tegucigalpa MDC.

Honduras accord: a gain for Ottawa?

By John Riddell

July 14, 2011 -- An exchange between Todd Gordon/Jeffery R. Webber and Richard Fidler addresses whether the Cartagena Accord, which opened the road to Ex-president Manuel Zelaya return to Honduras, marks a victory for the Canadian government in its efforts at capitalist penetration of the Central American country.

The article by Gordon and Webber was published in the Canadian Socialist Project's the Bullet July 13, 2011; Fidler’s response was posted the same day to this site.

Here are the opening paragraphs of Gordon and Webber’s article, “The Cartagena Accord: A Step Forward for Canada in Honduras”, followed by Fidler’s reply. For the initial texts in this exchange, see “From Cartagena to Tegucigalpa: Imperialism and the Future of the Honduran Resistance” (Gordon/Webber) and “Honduras resistance launches political party, as repression continues” (Riddell).

Todd Gordon/Jeffery R. Webber:

Honduras entered a new political phase on May 28 with the return of exiled former President Manuel Zelaya. His repatriation followed the signing of the Cartagena Accord between Zelaya, Honduran strongman Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, and the governments of Colombia and Venezuela. From the vantage point of Canadian imperialism – a major external force in Honduras – the new topography of politics in the country is less a hindrance to, than an opportunity for, expansion on several fronts.

There is an argument, popularized by sections of the international Left, which presents Cartagena as a democratic breakthrough. That is, if judged against the repressive period inaugurated by the June 28, 2009 coup against Zelaya, post-Cartagena Honduras can be expected to adhere more closely to norms of human rights and to offer greater opportunity for democratic participation, relatively free of fear and intimidation. Such arguments conceal the systematic authoritarian continuity that underpins the new phase. The novelty of the period lies rather in the fresh packaging of the old dictatorship, something like a Bush war made palatable by Nobel Peace laureate Obama.

The construction of a democratic facade in post-coup Honduras found its earliest expression in the fraudulent November 2009 elections that ushered in Lobo and showed the door to Roberto Micheletti, the immediate successor to Zelaya following the coup. Cartagena then allowed the return of Zelaya to the country, the readmission of Honduras into the Organization of American States (OAS), and formal recognition by the Lobo regime of the new Frente Amplio (Broad Front) party of the official resistance. It is against this backdrop that the activities of Canadian capital in Honduras, and all their associated violence, are likely to intensify, with the support of the Harper government.

The Ottawa connection

Honduras has become an important anchor to Canada’s engagement with Central America, an engagement driven by the promotion of strong property rights for capital and the containment of challenges to these rights through diplomatic, economic and security strategies.

Canada extended considerable energies in trying to ensure a particular ‘resolution’ to the coup. From the outset, the Harper administration sought to end the isolation of Honduras from the acceptable elements of the ‘international community’ – the country’s membership in the OAS was revoked because the coup violated this regional institution’s democratic charter – while at the same time securing its segregation from the orbit of Venezuelan influence and that of other Centre-Left governments in Latin America and the Caribbean. A brutally repressive, free-market regime, furbished with a hollow democratic shell, is the ideal model for the isthmus in the eyes of Canadian interests in Honduran mining, maquilas and tourism.

As a major source of foreign investment in Honduras, and with a strong predisposition toward neoliberal zealotry, Ottawa’s post-2009 coup policy has been to contain Zelaya and back pro-business Lobo. Zelaya was a member of a populist faction within the traditionalist Liberal Party whose modest social reforms and pragmatic shift toward closer relations with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez did not serve to ingratiate him with the ruling coterie in the U.S. or Canada.


Response by Richard Fidler:

Readers of this website may be interested in a second article that Jeff Webber and Todd Gordon have now posted on the struggle in Honduras (see http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/526.php). In it, they take much the same line that Jeff Webber took in From Rebellion to Reform in Bolivia (Haymarket Books): that Evo Morales (and the mass forces he led) had betrayed the popular movement arising out of the water and gas wars by agreeing to contest a national election in 2005 — an election that placed Morales and the MAS in the presidency, putting the mass struggle on a new, more advantageous footing for the struggles to come.

This article argues that the Honduran resistance has been weakened by the Cartagena Accord, but the argument is not sustained. The Accord, while not ending the repression of course, has apparently opened up some democratic space for the popular resistance — and the resistance movement, in its overwhelming majority, is using it in part to build an electoral front to contest the next national elections. Is there any evidence that the Accord has undermined the resistance to repression? What is the basis for the authors’ claim that, in negotiating the Accord, Chávez and Zelaya have somehow sanctioned the Lobo post-coup regime? If the Accord remains in force, the Frente can reinforce the grass-roots resistance to repression in the streets and communities with a battle at the ballot box, with or without Zelaya heading its slate.

It is hard to see how the Harper government’s interests are advanced by this development. As the authors note, “Opposition to Zelaya’s return from exile was at the core of the Canadian strategy in the months following the coup….” Well, Ottawa lost that one.

It is also unclear to me just what the impact is of the Honduran readmission to the increasingly discredited OAS — especially in light of the recent foundation of CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations, a counter organization to the OAS which excludes both the US and Canada.

As the authors note, Canadian corporations continue to pillage Honduras’ resources, and the repression of opposition militants does not appear to have abated. No doubt these issues will be major concerns of the Broad Front for Popular Resistance in Honduras, as they should be for us here in Canada.

For other articles by Richard Fidler, see Life on the Left.