Honduras Delegation Accompanies Resistance*
By Chuck Kaufman
Fifty men, women and children, armed only with machetes and sticks, stared down 300 Honduran soldiers and a judge who came to their village with the intent to destroy their community radio station. After a three hour stand-off on the shores of the Gulf of Fonseca, the soldiers went away.
This, and stories like it, were heard over and over again by our delegation to Honduras from Sept. 14-22, 2010. The delegation was co-sponsored by Marin Task Force on the Americas and the Alliance for Global Justice. It was led by Andres Conteris of Democracy Now in Español who spent four months in the Brazilian embassy with deposed President Manuel Zelaya.
Since the US-backed coup of June 28, 2009, the social movements in Honduras have come together and matured as a movement for the fi rst time and with a unity seldom witnessed anywhere in the world. The Popular Front for National Resistance (FRNP) is made up of groups ranging from “Liberals in Resistance” who are members of Zelaya’s center-right political party who opposed the coup, labor unions, teachers, LGBT activists, women’s groups, youth, artists and peasant organizations.
Resistance Petition Success
Our delegation was organized to provide accompaniment on September 15th, Central American Independence Day, when the FRNP held marches in every major city that far overshadowed the official celebrations of the defacto government of President Porfi rio Lobo. On that day, the Resistance released the names of over 1.3 million Hondurans who signed petitions calling for a constituent assembly to write new constitution to “refound the nation.” The goal of the FRNP was to gather more signatures than the one million votes that the coup government claimed Lobo received in what the resistance calls the election” of November 2009. We could only dream of collecting 1.3 million signatures in our many-times-larger country, which signifies the unity and determination of the Resistance and the rejection of the coup by the majority of Hondurans.
In Tela, on the Caribbean Coast, one leader told us, “It used to be that when the police said ‘go there’ we went. Not anymore.” Police tried to seize the stage and musical instruments during Tela’s September 15th Resistance march, but the participants surrounded the stage and refused to allow the police to close them down.
Our delegation participated in the gigantic Resistance march in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. I have been in every major US anti-war march since 2001 and none were bigger. Student marching bands, t-shirted union blocs, dancers, sound trucks, graffi ti artists and uncountable numbers of citizens stretched for nearly all of the two mile march route in the hot sun. Despite the presence of heavily armed military near the beginning and ends of the march, there was almost no police or military presence along the march route and the marchers were festive and boisterous. The number of young people in the march was particularly notable.
But, at the same time that the Tegucigalpa march was making its way to a peaceful conclusion, the march in Honduras’ second largest city, San Pedro Sula, was attacked by police just as it was concluding in a space where a concert featuring Honduras’ most popular band was to perform. They reportedly fired 1,000 tear gas canisters into the crowd and into the building housing Radio Uno, which supports the resistance. One street vendor was killed outright and two others, including a nine year-old boy, died the next day. Dozens were injured including the members of the band who were beaten and their instruments and equipment were destroyed.
We met with some of the victims several days later who still bore gruesome injuries including one man whose teeth were smashed by a rifl e butt. The Resistance is defiantly planning another march in San Pedro Sula on October 21st to raise money to pay for the $20,000 worth of leased sound equipment destroyed by the police... and to make the point that they will not be frightened away from demanding their
While the unified Resistance was born in June 2009, two people in separate parts of the country told us they had “died” that day. They said that since they were already dead, they had nothing left to lose so they would not give up their struggle to “refound the State.”
Since the coup ten journalists have been murdered as well as dozens of mid-level and grassroots leaders of the Resistance. The human rights abuses have increased since “Pepe” Lobo took office. It appeared to our delegation that the only thing holding back even greater repression is the failure of Lobo, and his strongest sponsor, the Obama administration, to reintegrate Honduras into the community of nations. The US recently failed to convince the OAS to reinstate Honduras. Reportedly the State Department will begin a new push to recognize Honduras in December.
Many people we met with see the long arm of the US behind the coup against President Zelaya. Certainly the Obama administration wasted no time increasing military aid and crowd suppression equipment after the coup. It has also inaugurated a second US military base in the country and a third is under construction. One person gave us a list of Zelaya’s “offenses” before concluding, “Then (US Ambassador Hugo) Llorens was sent here to direct the coup.” Among the things he listed:
1. When the US had to get Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles out of Panama, Zelaya refused a US request to give him asylum.
2. Zelaya put the franchise to provide oil to Honduras out for bid and the US backed the companies that already held the franchise over the low bidder.
3. Zelaya proposed turning the US Palmerola Air Base into a much needed civilian airport.
4. Zelaya began to investigate internet phone companies that were costing the treasury millions of dollars and the US “had a fit.”
5. The “final straw” was when Honduras joined the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA).
Berta Oliva, president of COFADEH, Honduras’ most respected human rights group, told the delegation preceding ours that unless they get international accompaniment within the next few months, “the Resistance will be cooked up and served.”
By Chuck Kaufman (Kaufman is a National Co-Coordinator for The Alliance for Global Justice)
*SOURCE: Alliance for Global Justice
The Alliance for Global Justice is a founding member of the US Honduras Solidarity Network. Groups in the network are striving to make sure we take delegations to Honduras at critical moments to use our privilege as US citizens to provide some protection to the Resistance. If you are interested in possibly going on an AFGJled delegation, send me an email at Chuck@AFGJ.org. Also needed are Spanish-fluent people who can spend 3 months to a year in Honduras accompanying the Resistance and documenting human rights abuses. If you think you might be qualifi ed, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org