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
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 calls
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,
has one of the largest wealth gaps between the rich and
poor in Latin America.
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 regarding Honduras
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
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 Honduras
in the fall to support the coup government and organized
for wider Congressional support upon their return.
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 in Honduras
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 military coup.
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
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
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.