One year ago, on June 28, 2009, Honduran President Manuel
Zelaya was awakened by gunfire. A coup was carried out by
US-trained military officers, including graduates of the infamous US Army
School of the Americas (WHINSEC) in Georgia. President Zelaya was illegally taken to Costa Rica.
Democracy in Honduras ended as a de facto government of the
rich and powerful seized control. A sham election backed by the US
confirmed the leadership of the coup powers. The US and powerful lobbyists
continue to roam the hemisphere trying to convince other Latin American
countries to normalize relations with the coup government.
The media has ignored the revival of US hard power in the Americas and the widespread resistance which challenges
A pro-democracy movement, the Frente
Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP) formed
in the coup’s aftermath. Despite horrendous repression, it has organized
the anger and passion of a multitude of mass-based popular movements -
landless workers, farmers, women, LGBTQ folks, unions, youth and others
- and spread a palpable energy of possibility and hope throughout the
These forces of democracy have been subjected to police killings,
arbitrary detentions, beatings, rape and other sexual abuse of women and
girls, torture and harassment of journalists, judges and activists. Prominent
LGBTQ activists, labor organizers, campesinos
and youth working with the resistance have been assassinated. Leaders
have been driven into exile.
Four judges, including the president of Honduran Judges for
Democracy, were fired in May 2010 for criticizing the illegality of the
coup. Two of them went on a widely-supported hunger strike in the nation’s
capital. Judges who participated in public demonstrations in favor of
the de facto government remain in power.
In 2010 alone, seven journalists have been murdered. Many
others have been threatened. Reporters without Borders
the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.
Why was there a coup? Honduras was planning to hold a June 28 poll on
whether or not a referendum for forming a constituent assembly to rewrite
the constitution should be on the November ballot. Many among the poor
correctly view the current constitution as favoring corporations and wealthy
landowners. As a result of the constitutional preference for the rich
and powerful, Honduras
has one of the largest wealth gaps between the rich and poor in Latin
Washington and the Honduran elite were also angered that
President Zelaya signed an agreement to join
the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). ALBA is a regional trade agreement that
provides an alternative to the free trade agreements such as CAFTA that
have been pushed by Washington yet opposed by many
popular movements through the Americas.
Zelaya’s proposal to transform Soto Cano
Air Base, historically important to the US
military, into a much-needed civilian airport was unpopular in Washington as was his lack of support for the privatization
of the telecommunications industry.
Forces in the US provided critical support for the coup. As
members of the resistance have explained, coups do not happen in Latin
America without the support of those with power in the US. Right wing ideologues and shell NGOs based
out of Washington played a critical
role in the coup and since. A leadership vacuum in the Obama Administration
has led to extreme right-wing ideologues directing US policy there. These
people are hell bent on stopping the growing populist movements throughout
Latin America from gaining more influence and power. Some, such as Otto
Reich and Roger Noriega, have moved from positions in the State Department
and United Nations into private lobbying firms or conservative think tanks.
Others, such as Robert Carmona-Borjas, who was
granted asylum in the US
after his involvement in the attempted coup against Hugo Chavez, are working
for so-called NGOs that use vague missions such as “anti-corruption” to
mask the foreign policy work they do.
In the past year, the business elite in Honduras have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars
on Washington-based lobbying and PR firms to get the U.S. Democratic and Republican parties in line.
For example, the Asociación Hondureña de Maquiladoras (Honduran
Association of Maquiladoras) hired the Cormac Group to lobby the US government regarding “foreign relations” just
days after the coup. Close Clinton confidant Lanny Davis lobbied for
the coup powers in DC. A delegation of Republican Senators travelled to
in the fall to support the coup government and organized for wider Congressional
support upon their return.
Despite initially condemning the coup, the Obama Administration
has completely shifted its position. It provided critical, life-giving
approval to the widely denounced elections that were boycotted by much
of the Honduran population. The military that was killing people in the
streets was also guarding the ballot boxes. Major candidates such as Carlos
H. Reyes, now a leader of the resistance, refused to run. The Carter Center, the United Nations, and other
respected election observers refused to observe. The FNRP called on people
to stay home.
The Organization of American States suspended Honduras and has continued to resist efforts of
Secretary of State Clinton to pressure them into readmitting Honduras. However, the US pushed for and was able to secure the formation
of a high-level OAS panel to “study” the re-entry of Honduras at its recent meeting in Peru. We may well start to
see the international community beginning to normalize relations with
this illegitimate government.
As it stands now the coup government of Honduras’ biggest ally is the United States.
A year after the coup, US activists and pro-democracy supporters
need to increase their knowledge about what is going on with our neighbors
and stand in solidarity with the resistance. For democracy to mean anything,
it has to mean that plans for a national referendum to rewrite a Constitution
to better serve a nation’s people should not be met with a US-supported
Once again the US
is on the wrong side in Latin America.
Once again, the US government is undermining democracy and actively
supporting a government that is murdering its own people.
Once again, the US has sided with anti-democracy forces and is
trying to bully the world into rubber-stamp approval of our mistakes.
Moving forward from this unfortunate anniversary, one thing
is certain - the people’s movement in Honduras is only growing. The resistance has gone
ahead with organizing for a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution.
Today there will be massive demonstrations throughout Honduras. We must stand with
this dramatic and powerful social movement and challenge our own government
to support the forces of democracy, not destroy them.
CCR will be hosting the NYC premiere of a film about the
Resistance on July 7, 7pm at Tribeca Cinemas
in lower Manhattan. It will also
premiere in DC and Berkeley.
For more information about the Honduran resistance, please
see their website (and click on the “English” tab): http://www.resistenciahonduras.net/
BlackCommentator.com Columnists Bill Quigley and Laura Raymond
work at the Center for
Constitutional Rights, where Bill is Director. Click
here to contact Mr. Quigley and The Center for Constitutional Rights.