Honduras Resistance Deepens,
With Working Class at the Helm
International Labor Solidarity
Needed Urgently to Defeat the Coup
The Honduran people -- with the working class and their trade unions playing an increasing leadership role -- are on the move. Their revolutionary upsurge is shaking the fragile edifice of corporate-dominated politics across the continent and creating frictions within the U.S. ruling establishment itself.
As we go to press, a week-long nationwide general strike of teachers and public sector workers is under way. It is a political strike to press for the resistance movement's three central demands: (1) the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of Manuel Zelaya as the sole and legitimate president of Honduras, (2) a referendum on convening a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution, and (3) the immediate punishment of all the perpetrators of the June 28 coup for their crimes against the people.
Up till now, there had been three two-day strikes (all on Thursdays and Fridays) called by the three main trade union federations in Honduras, all of which are part of the National Front Against the Coup. All the main decisions regarding what to do next in the struggle are made by a weekly Delegates Assembly of the Front, which is held at the hall of the Beverage Industry Workers Union (STIBYS). The Delegates Assembly -- which brings together more than 800 mandated representatives from unions and popular organizations throughout Honduras -- has become the nerve center and coordinating body of the resistance movement.
The recent strike has been more widely followed than the previous two-day strikes. In addition to the teachers and State office workers, the workers and students at the National Autonomous University of Honduras hit the bricks, as did the workers at the National Agrarian Institute, the electrical workers of the Empresa Nacional de Energía, some private-sector workers, and the workers at the National Weather Service.
Also, on August 11, tens of thousands of people converged from all corners of the country into Honduras' two main cities -- Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. Most of the participants in this National March of Popular Resistance had left their villages and towns on August 6, the day that the unlimited general strike began, in response to the call from the National Front Against the Coup. Most of the marchers pledged to remain in these two cities throughout the week to participate in the planned demonstrations, roadblocks and plant/campus occupations.
In Tegucigalpa, a mass march of 20,000 people -- with union banners displayed prominently -- buoyed people's determination to continue the struggle. One of the chants throughout the march was, "No Somos Cuatro Gatos!" -- or, we are not just a small handful of people (literally we are not four cats) -- a reply to the Micheletti media machine, which keeps trying to convince the world that 45 days after the coup things have "returned to normal," with only a handful of discontents -- four cats -- stirring up trouble.
It is now public knowledge that a wing of the Republican Party helped in one form or another to prepare the June 28 coup that overthrew democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya -- with hawks like John Negroponte, Otto Reich and current U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens in the forefront of this effort. Meetings between Llorens and the high military command took place throughout the entire week leading up to the coup.
The mass public outrage that swept the Americas in the aftermath of the coup compelled the Organization of American States (OAS) to call for the "immediate and unconditional reinstatement of Zelaya as the legitimate president of Honduras." Having military coups break out in a continent marked by growing revolutionary upheavals -- especially after President Barack Obama's public pledge to "turn the page" on the era of military dictatorship of past decades -- posed a serious risk to the overall position of U.S. imperialism in the region. Obama and all the heads of state in the Western Hemisphere voted in favor of the OAS resolution.
No sooner had those votes been taken, however, than the U.S. State Department, under Hillary Clinton, set out to subvert the OAS resolution by drafting a script for a "mediated settlement" in Honduras that legitimized the perpetrators of the June 28 coup. One week later, Clinton anointed a credible regional leader to serve as the mediator for this U.S.-initiated plan: President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. (Two of Clinton's associates, Lanny Davis and Bennet Ratcliff are, in fact, running strategy for the coup government.)
The Arias Plan calls for the return of Zelaya to Honduras BUT only if he accepts to form a "government of national reconciliation" with the perpetrators of the coup, if he renounces his effort to poll the Honduran people on convening a Constituent Assembly that would draft a new Constitution, and if he drops his call to bring the coup leadership to trial for their crimes.
Zelaya accepted this plan, while emphasizing that the central question for him was point no. 1 of the seven points -- that is, his immediate return to Honduras. But the de-facto government of Roberto Micheletti -- better known in Honduras as "Pinocheletti" -- rejected the Arias Plan and even went so far as to deny visas to a delegation from the OAS sent to discuss the plan. The top military brass no doubt fear that a return of Zelaya, no matter how conditioned and politically hamstrung, would be seized upon by millions of mobilized people in Honduras and throughout the region as a blow to the de-facto government.
This rejection of the Arias Plan by Micheletti has posed a conundrum for Washington -- and for Obama, in particular. Getting Zelaya on board with the Arias Plan did not do the trick. The National Front Against the Coup, which is the voice of the fighting resistance movement, categorically rejected the Arias Plan, as did many governments in the Americas, following the lead of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. There is widespread awareness in Honduras that the U.S. government -- one wing of which was implicated in the coup -- has no right to violate the Honduran people's right to self-determination by imposing unacceptable conditions for the return of Zelaya.
This did not, however, prevent U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens from personally requesting over the weekend of August 8-9 that the National Front Against the Coup get on board with the Arias Plan "as the sole means of preventing more violence and ensuring a peaceful outcome" (aporrea.org). No doubt Llorens was hoping to find at least one taker within the Front leadership who could be bought off and wielded to show that there is now a "reasonable" wing of the movement that approves a negotiated settlement with Micheletti.
But here, too, Llorens was rebuffed. On August 11, the National Front issued a new declaration rejecting Llorens' overtures and reaffirming the call for the unconditional and immediate reinstatement of Zelaya as president and the convening of a Constituent Assembly to draft a Constitution that would replace the 1982 Constitution, drafted by a previous military dictatorship to protect the oligarchy and enshrine the monopoly of political power in the two parties of the ruling class: the Liberals and Conservatives.
Stalling and buying time for the de-facto regime, with the hope that the movement would slowly wither on the vine, has been another tactic deployed by U.S. imperialism. The desired goal is to weather the storm until November 2009, when new presidential elections will be held. But not only has the resistance movement not ebbed, it has grown by the day. And now the National Front Against the Coup has issued a statement announcing that if Zelaya is not properly reinstated as the sole legitimate president of Honduras, they will call for a boycott of the coup-organized November elections.
Yet another option is to begin the wholesale repression of the resistance movement. But this, too, is backfiring. On August 6, for example, the National Guard attacked a peaceful demonstration in Tegucigalpa, killing one teacher: Roger Abraham Vallejo. The following day, the mass protests were more than twice the size. And with all the international attention focused on Honduras, such repression cannot go under the radar -- nor can it be easily justified. After all, Obama is still on record calling for the return of Zelaya to Honduras.
International Labor Solidarity Needed Urgently
The growing class confrontation in Honduras requires the immediate, visible and effective solidarity of the international workers' movement, particularly of the international trade union movement. The workers, peasants, youth and indigenous people of Honduran are putting their lives on the line in this struggle for democracy, workers' rights, and economic and social justice. They need the active support of working people the world over, particularly in the United States, to help them carry forth and win their struggle.
In response to the "Appeal from the National Front Against the Coup to Working People the World Over," the 9-million-member Unified Workers Central (CUT) of Brazil voted on August 7 to call for Continental Days of Mobilizations on August 10-14 in solidarity with the people of Honduras. This appeal has been heeded widely across the continent, with mass demonstrations in most major cities demanding that their respective governments sever all diplomatic ties with the military regime in Honduras and insist on the implementation of the initial OAS resolution.
In the United States, we have perhaps the most critical role to play. An August 8 solidarity message from the Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice to the Honduran trade union movement lays out our tasks in the United States in precise terms:
"We are painfully aware that the U.S. government, by its refusal to cut off all aid and arms to the Honduran military and coup plotters, becomes complicit in this attack on the constitutional order and democratic rights of the people of Honduras. Words by the Obama administration that are not matched by strong actions to cut off all funds and guns to the conspirators are empty gestures.
"We demand that our government cut off all aid and arms to and all commerce with the perpetrators of this criminal coup and the oligarchs, corporations and other forces that conspire with them directly or collude with them by their silence. The coup would not last a week if the U.S. did this, froze all the assets of the plotters and called upon the international community to do the same. Corporations that continue to do business in Honduras should be barred from doing business in the United States.
"President Zelaya must be returned to office in Honduras immediately and without conditions. The conspirators against him should be arrested and brought to trial for their crimes against the people. We pledge to support you in any way we can until such time as the president, the constitutional order and democracy are restored in Honduras. The working class and labor movement of Honduras shall prevail. You shall consign the forces of darkness and reaction to the past."
Indeed. With the aid of the international labor movement, beginning with that of the U.S. labor movement, the Honduran working class and labor movement of Honduras can and shall prevail!
Why the Deep Aspiration to a Constituent Assembly
[Note: Following are excerpts from an article by internationally recognized Honduran writer Helen Umaña. The article appeared under the title "The Fear of a Two-Letter Word," referring to a "Sí" vote -- Spanish for "Yes" -- in the June 28 non-binding opinion poll on whether or not a Constituent Assembly should be convened to draft a new Constitution. The excerpts have been translated by The Organizer.]
On June 28, I had hoped to cast my ballot for a "Sí" -- or "yes" -- vote on the "fourth ballot box," or "Cuarta Urna." Like so many others, I saw this referendum on convening a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution as a path for a change that would collectively benefit the historically marginalized sectors of our society: the peasants, workers, and ethnic minorities. ...
It was finally time to modify a Constitution whose deficiencies are glaring, with the endorsement of a majority of our citizens and following a full public discussion.
To state, as the perpetrators of the coup have done (only to be echoed by a servile media), that what Mel [President Manuel Zelaya] wanted to accomplish with this "fourth ballot" was to secure his re-election on November 29, 2009, is without a doubt the greatest lie and distortion in the political history of our country. The hypothetical Constitution -- as it depended on whether the people would vote "Sí" -- would not have been drafted and approved until newly elected deputies had convened as a National Constituent Assembly to undertake this task. And this could not have taken place until next year, well after Mel had left office.
When I first learned of the coup, I was sickened. The powers that be had resorted to military force, with the assistance, or at the very least the tacit approval, of the empire to the North, to abort what could have been a journey to a more just and equitable society, to deal a death blow to the possibility of realizing our long-held dream: that we could begin the building a new society where the most urgent needs of the population -- food, healthcare, education, housing, jobs -- could be met.
The very idea that the people could be consulted about something of this import, and that a new Constitution could be drafted to remedy the grave injustices enshrined in the current magna carta, was met with great enthusiasm by the people.
Never before had our humble but proud people -- those who live in shantytowns or on the edges of precipices in forgotten canyons -- been told they could express themselves on such a significant issue. Never before.
The coup was the awkward response by the ruling elite, by the twin parties of the landowners and oligarchs, to this human wave that was becoming conscious of its true interests. ... But the last word hasn't been said. Not by a long shot.