ILPS: ON THE COUP D’ETAT IN HONDURAS

ON THE COUP D’ETAT IN HONDURAS
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
08 July 2009

Honduras President Manuel Zelaya Rosales (UPI Photo/Monika Graff)

Honduras President Manuel Zelaya Rosales (UPI Photo/Monika Graff)

Riot police disperse supporters of ousted Honduras President Manuel Zelaya near the presidential residency in Tegucigalpa (Esteban Felix / Associated Press)

Riot police disperse supporters of ousted Honduras President Manuel Zelaya near the presidential residency in Tegucigalpa (Esteban Felix / Associated Press)

Before the dawn of June 28 in Honduras, some 200 heavily armed soldiers of
the Honduran army stormed the residence of elected President Jose Manuel
Zelaya, took him at gunpoint and drove him to an airplane that flew him to
Costa Rica. A few hours later, the National Congress comprised of the
country’s oligarchs quickly installed erstwhile Speaker of the House Don
Roberto Micheletti Bain as “interim president” who read a bogus letter of
resignation allegedly signed by Zelaya himself.  Later in the day, the
military arrested members of Zelaya’s cabinet, detained the ambassadors of
Venezuela and Cuba, began hunting down leaders of progressive mass
organizations and imposed a nationwide curfew.

This brazen takeover by the top brass of the Honduran Armed Forces and the
country’s traditional oligarchs has outraged the Honduran people who have
now taken to the streets to reject the putschists. Unions, students, women
and other social sectors have launched a general strike, setting up
barricades and defying the curfew imposed by the Micheletti government. The
army, headed by US-trained General Romeo Vasquez, has responded with
increasing violence which has so far resulted in at least two deaths, over a
hundred injured and hundreds more imprisoned.

The international community has roundly condemned the coup d’état and the
escalating violence of the army in Honduras. The General Assembly of the
United Nations has unanimously denounced the military takeover and demands
the restoration of Zelaya to the Honduran Presidency.  But the de facto
Micheletti government, with the support of the Army, the National Congress,
the Supreme Court and local mass media, continues to defy the Honduran
people and international opinion.

The coup d’état in Honduras is a desperate attempt by ultra-rightist forces
within the traditional pro-US Honduran elite to stem the rising tide of
change swelling from below.

Zelaya himself shares the same roots as the landed and bourgeois comprador
oligarchs that have ruled Honduras since Central America gained independence
from Spain. He belongs to the same political party as Micheletti.  He won
the presidency in the 2005 elections on a conservative platform.  He took
over the reins of a government committed to US-promoted neoliberal policies
that have kept the Honduran economy dependent on banana, coffee, and shrimp
exports; foreign investments in maquiladora sweatshops; dollar remittances
from US-based Honduran migrants; and US military and civilian “aid”.

But this long-standing neocolonial relationship with the US has began to be
challenged by the advance of mass movements against neoliberal globalization
and US imperialist intervention in the region.  Increasing people’s protests
in recent years has prompted the Zelaya government to raise the minimum wage
of workers and teachers’ salaries, and increase spending in health care and
education.  Aside from these modest measures, the Zelaya government signed
an energy partnership deal with Venezuela, and then last year joined the
emergent regional trade bloc, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas or
ALBA, which seeks to build regional cooperation and aims to curb US
imperialist dominance in the hemisphere.  He has also established closer
ties with Cuba and was the first Honduran Head of State to visit the island
in 50 years.

The final betrayal in the eyes of ultra-rightist forces in the ruling elite
was Zelaya’s determination to push through with a referendum that could have
paved the way for the convening of a constituent assembly tasked with
drafting a new constitution.  Micheletti et al claim that Zelaya wants to
change the constitution in order to remain in power beyond his term-limit.
But more than anything else, the oligarchs feared that this would be used by
the mass movements — who have openly campaigned for the holding of a
referendum – to agitate and mobilize for more substantial reforms in the
country’s political, economic and cultural institutions that would threaten
their entrenched interests.

The generals who led the military coup most likely expected US imperialist
support for their effort.  The Honduran army is virtually an appendage of
the US Pentagon.  General Romeo Vasquez, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
who led the putsch and General Luis Javier Prince Suazo, commander of the
Air Force, are both graduates of the notorious School of the Americas, now
named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in
Fort Benning, USA.  The Honduran army is financed by the US which uses the
country as a staging area for US military intervention in Central America.
Honduras is host to the Soto Cano US Military Base where the US military
trained and directed the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, infamous for the
atrocities they committed in their war against the Sandinista government in
the 1980s.

The US Southern Command conducts more than 50 joint operations with the
Honduran Army every year. The US has sent over US$18.41 million worth of
weapons and defense articles to this country of 7.3 million people over the
last ten years through its foreign military sales program.  In addition, the
US State Department, the United States Agency for International Development
(USAID),  and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) also channel tens
of millions of dollars to the principal political parties, political
organizations and select “civil society organizations” in Honduras,
including those who have openly backed the coup.  With such strong and
intimate ties between US imperialism and the Honduran political and military
establishment, it is highly unlikely that the coup plotters would have moved
without expecting at least tacit support from Washington.

Indeed, the initial response from the White House after the coup was a tepid
appeal to “all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic
norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic
Charter” and did not repudiate the claims of the Micheletti government that
they had restored constitutional order in Honduras. Only after the
Organization of American States, the Rio Group (comprising most of Latin
America) and the UN General Assembly all called for the “immediate and
unconditional return” of Zelaya did President Obama categorically state that
the US considers the coup illegal and that Zelaya remains the legitimate
President of Honduras.

The International League of Peoples’ Struggles is in solidarity with the
people of Honduras in their valiant resistance to the ultra-rightist forces
of the Honduran ruling class who have usurped power and are now using
untrammeled violence to suppress the people.  The people of Honduras must
recognize that leaders  who take a progressive stance but are not yet the
product of the revolutionary process are vulnerable to attacks by the
imperialists and their ultra-reactionary lackeys. They must take advantage
of the current crisis of the Honduran ruling system to build truly
revolutionary forces for national and social liberation.

We call on all progressive and revolutionary forces throughout the region
and the world to manifest their opposition to this coup d’état and the
illegitimate Micheletti regime.  We call on all member organizations of the
ILPS and other people’s organizations to mobilize in solidarity with the
people of Honduras by sending messages and organizing demonstrations at
Honduran embassies as well as US embassies and US military bases.

We call on progressive organizations and mass movements in Latin America and
elsewhere to take notice of and guard against the vulnerabilities of
reformist regimes and the treachery of pro-US and ultra-rightist forces. We
encourage the people of Honduras and Latin America to develop their
revolutionary movement for genuine national and social liberation.#

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