ILC Interview with Honduran Labor & Resistance Leader Carlos H. Reyes:
[Note: Following is an interview conducted by the ILC International Newsletter with Carlos H. Reyes, general secretary of the Beverage Industry Workers Union (STIBYS), leader of the Bloque Popular and member of the Coordinating Committee for the National Front Against the Coup. The interview took place on Monday, July 27, 2009 -- three days before Brother Reyes was badly beaten at a peaceful march of striking public-sector workers demanding the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of President Manuel Zelaya. At this writing, Brother Reyes is still hospitalized. -- A.B.]
ILC: On Sunday [July 26] there was an attack on the union headquarters. What happened?
Reyes: The assembly of the National Front had finished 15 minutes before the attack occurred. The participants had gathered for a memorial to the young man, Pedro Muñoz, who was killed by the Honduran army on the border with Nicaragua. There were no victims from the attack on our headquarters.
ILC: Was this a warning to your union and to the Front?
Reyes: No question about it.
ILC: Who makes up the Front, and what are its objectives?
Reyes: The resistance is composed of popular organizations from around the country. To begin with, there are three union federations: the CUTH, the CTH and the CGT. There are organizations of campesinos, students, women, and indigenous peoples. There are also churches and human rights groups. There is the Party for Democratic Unification (UD), a small party on the left, as well as a section of the Liberal Party that supports Zelaya. The main objective of the Front is to ensure the return to institutional legality, the reinstatement of President Mel Zelaya, and the continuation of the process toward the Constituent Assembly.
ILC: What did the assembly of the Front decide on July 26?
Reyes: We decided to continue the resistance movement, issue a new call for a national work stoppage on Thursday and Friday, July 30 and 31, and continue with the sit-ins and highway roadblocks.
ILC; What is your position on the Arias Plan? (1)
Reyes: Our position has been crystal clear from the beginning. We are against this so-called mediation. We cannot accept the recognition of a de-facto government established by a coup d'etat. This is a military dictatorship. We reaffirm our demand for the immediate and unconditional return of institutional legality and the continuation of the process toward a Constituent Assembly.
We are also opposed to the two-track position of the U.S. administration. On one hand, Obama condemns the coup but on the other hand the U.S. military-industrial complex supports it. Besides, it is clear that the Honduran dictatorship is not willing to accept the Arias Plan.
ILC: What is the present situation on the border with Nicaragua?
Reyes: Thousands of people mobilized to the border to escort their present back to the capital, but they were blocked by the army, which had cordoned off entire regions and instituted a state of siege. Hundreds of activists were detained, and there has already been the first assassination -- that of compañero Pedro Muñoz. The situation is intolerable.
ILC; How did this entire struggle begin? What prompted it?
Reyes: At the root of it all is the undemocratic 1982 Constitution, which allowed the large businessmen and the multinationals to monopolize all the power. (2) It promoted "free trade" and sweatshop pass-though industries, which have destroyed the national production of our country and our jobs. They, the oligarchy, are the ones who have benefited from the 1982 Constitution and who organized the June 28 coup to preserve their interests.
ILC: What should the international labor movement do on your behalf?
Reyes: We need the broadest possible solidarity from the international labor movement. Through you, we call on all the workers' organizations worldwide to organize the most powerful solidarity effort with our resistance movement.
Our union, the Beverage Industry Workers Union (STIBYS), has issued an appeal to the International Union of Food Workers (IUF). We especially call on the dockworkers and their unions to block the ports and boycott all cargo bound for Honduras. And we call on you to demand of your governments that they act decisively to promote the return of institutional legality in our country, just as the main international institutions have demanded.
(1) Seven-point "mediation" plan put together by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias at the behest of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary that would permit Zelaya to return to Honduras but on the condition that he form a "national unity government" with the coup plotters and that he explicitly renounce the effort to promote a Constitution Assembly and a new constitution.
(2) The 1982 Constitution in Honduras, the country's 15th Constitution, was drafted by a 71-member "Constituent Assembly" selected by the brutal and pro-oligarchy military junta headed by Policarpio Paz García. It is so undemocratic that even the U.S. State Department report on human rights in 1992 had to acknowledge that there are no safeguards in the document that protect basic democratic and human rights. The demand to draft a new Constitution in the interest of the workers and peasants of Honduras has been a long-held demand of the workers' and popular movement in that country.