Honduras: Mass resistance to military coup grows

Source: Green Left Weekly

Mass resistance to the illegal military coup that overthrew elected Honduran President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya on June 28 is continuing to grow.

The coup in the Central American nation, carried out by the military and backed by the elite, has been almost universally condemned.

While formally opposing the take-over, the US government has pushed “negotiations” between the illegal coup regime and the legitimate president with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias as the facilitator.

However, talks have gone nowhere as Zelaya refuses to negotiate anything less than his return to office.

Resistance on the streets

On July 15, while in Guatemala at the invitation of President Alvaro Colon, Zelaya called on the people to stay in the streets. “It’s the only place that they have not been able to take away from us.

“I have not surrendered and I am not going to. I am going to return to the country as soon as possible … The right to insurrection is a constitutional right.”

The coup regime has tried desperately to silence all critical media and imposed a nighttime curfew. Security forces have violently peaceful protesters and arrested a large number of activists. Two protesters were killed on July 5 and two activists and members of the left-wing Democratic Unification Party (UD) have been assassinated by unknown gunmen.

The protests, including ongoing strikes and road blockades, continue to escalate as broader sections of the population join the resistance.

On Bastille Day, July 14, tens of thousands of workers, students, farmers, and indigenous people massed in front of the US Embassy in the capital Tegucigalpa.

They came from all over the country in response to a call from the National Front to Resist the Coup d’Etat (FNRG).

July 14 was the 16th straight day of mass demonstrations, strikes, school and workplace occupations, and road blocks in defiance of the military regime.

About 1000 delegates from a rank-and-file convention of the Liberal Party, to which both Zelaya and the illegitimate president installed by the coup Roberto Micheletti both belong, joined the rally.

Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro played a prominent role in the mobilisation.

The demonstrations and strikes are not spontaneous. They are led by the mass organisations of campesinos (peasants), indigenous people, students, Afro-Hondurans, trade unions, teachers, journalists, professional associations, religious groups and human rights groups. Dozens of organisations make up the FNRG.

These movements are well connected internationally through labour, campesino and human rights networks. They have been influenced by previous struggles in the region, especially the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua during the 1980s.

The emergence of the anti-imperialist bloc of nations, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA, which Zelaya joined to the anger of the US and Honduran elite) has inspired and assisted the Honduran mass movements. The advances for the oppressed in Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and El Salvador also provide inspiration and lessons.


An “anonymous” appeal from a Honduran activist reflected the militant mood on the streets: “This year President Mel Zelaya took back our sovereignty over the US military base at Palmerola, converting it to an international civilian airport …

“If we add this to the historic San Pedro Sula OAS [Organisation of American States] decision to revoke the expulsion of Cuba, and our decision to affiliate to ALBA and Petrocaribe [a Venezuelan initiative to provide Caribbean nations with cheap oil and invest in state-owned energy industries], we will understand why sectors of the dominant rulers and their US allies are at the core of this anti-patriotic plot.”

The Inter-Press Service said on July 13 the FNRG planned to escalate the protests in anticipation of a new attempt by Zelaya to return to Honduras. Zelaya tried to fly into Tegucigalpa on July 5, but the military blockaded the runway.

Visibly exhausted UD Congressperson Marvin Ponce told IPS: “As of this week we are going to take more radical action … we are going to propose a nationwide general strike as well as more radical actions. If what it takes is civil war, then that’s what we’ll do.

“The people owe Honduras a revolution, and if the legitimate president, Manuel Zelaya, is not reinstated, there will be a confrontation between social classes. What I can say is that the days of peaceful resistance, like we have had until now, are numbered.”

Unions from across Central America have decided to close their nations’ borders to Honduras in solidarity with the anti-coup struggle. On July 16, unions staged solidarity protests on Honduras’s Nicaraguan, Guatemalan and Salvadoran borders.

Hondurans have a long and rich history of struggle. The two-month long mass mobilisations in May-June 1954 are within living memory. This popular movement helped win the vote for women and opened the door in the following years to the reforms of the Ramon Villeda Morales government.

The people won gains in labour legislation, agrarian reform and social security.

Villeda Morales was overthrown in a military coup in 1963 to prevent his likely victory in scheduled elections. Like the measures implemented by Zelaya, including a 60% increase in the minimum wage, the reforms of Villeda Morales upset the elite, which responded with a coup.

The reforms implemented by Zelaya since he was elected in 2005 are in response to growing pressure from the grassroots, as his government faced dozens of major protests and industrial disputes.

As Zelaya began to respond to the demands of the mass movement, the mass movement responded to his actions positively, identifying with Zelaya’s political current while raising their own demands.

Some observers of the coup and the mass protests said the army high command and the US embassy, which conspired with the coup plotters, miscalculated. It is argued they underestimated the scope of mass support for Zelaya (and democracy) and the response of Latin American governments and people.

The latter is probably true. However, it is likely the coup was staged mainly because the Honduran elite and the US feared the convergence of Zelaya’s current and the mass movement threatened to unleash an irreversible mass-based anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist process similar to Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution.

The political maturity of the FRNG is reflected in its ability to resist savage repression, and maintain street and workplace protests. At least two big demonstrations since the coup have involved hundreds of thousands of people.

Popular participation

The FNRG has managed to unite people across gender, ethnic, age and class lines. The resistance has provoked fissures in the enemy camp and support for the coup has begun to break down.

The FNRG’s common demand for a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution responds to a general striving for popular participation in governing.

Nothing could be more threatening to the oligarchy.

Zelaya and his closest collaborators are well aware of the decisive role the mass movement has played and must continue to play if the coup is to be reversed and political and social changes are to be made possible.

The “Zelaya delegation” (read Honduran government) to the San Jose talks hosted by Arias included representatives of union, campesino, indigenous and Afro-Honduran organisations.

It is not possible to know how long the mass resistance can endure the ongoing repression, combined with the need to make a living.

Farmers will soon have to return to their fields to sow crops. The poorest sectors and the working class will suffer the worst effects of the economic sanctions implemented by the rest of Latin America to isolate the coup regime.

The US attempt to divert the struggle into phoney negotiations in Costa Rica to gain time to consolidate the coup can disorient grassroots sectors, especially since many are cut off from news of international reactions to their plight.

Honduran foreign minister in the Zelaya government, Patricia Rodas, referred to this risk when speaking about the futility of the talks so far: “We have to review this process and see if we have not fallen into a trap; while we have been in meetings, they have been killing people in Honduras.”

There is growing agreement between the Zelaya national leadership and the resistance movement that the struggle’s main arena is the streets, schools, and workplaces.

If this course is deepened, the hour of Jose Francisco Morazan, the 19th century Honduran national hero who implemented important pro-people reforms, may well have sounded.