The Struggle in Honduras Continues

Shamus Cooke

On November 30th in Honduras, an election was held that nobody — except the U.S. and a few dependent nations — deemed credible. This is because the elections were held by a brutally repressive military-coup government, which, up until the day of elections, was busy jailing, torturing, and assassinating people who demanded the coup-makers leave.

The poor and working-class people in Honduras recognized that the elections were being organized to install a pro-U.S., pro-corporate President. In essence, the elections were meant to “legally” legitimize the military coup that overthrew the democratically elected President, Manuel Zelaya.

To show the world the true nature of the elections, a coalition of labor and community groups — the National Resistance Front — organized a boycott.

On election day the National Front boycott was met with 30,000-plus government troops, who beat and arrested people passing out anti-coup literature, violently broke up anti-coup demonstrations, and used threats of violence to intimidate people to vote.

The coup government told the world that turnout for the election was around 60 percent, while the National Front claims that 65-70 percent of Hondurans did not vote. The New York Times reported, accurately, that turnout was large in wealthier neighborhoods, while poorer areas showcased barren voting centers. Most Hondurans live around or below the poverty line, making abstention the likely winner of the election. Indeed, the National Front organized demonstrations celebrating their abstention victory.

Contrary to the comments of the coup government and the U.S., the elections do not signal a “return to democracy,” but instead, an increase in repression.

After the elections, Amnesty International stated:

“The crisis in Honduras does not end with the election results…there are dozens of people in Honduras still suffering the effects of the abuses carried out in the past five months. Failure to punish those responsible and to fix the malfunctioning system would open the door for more abuses in the future.”

This prediction has been proven true.

The coup government has acted more aggressively recently in targeting National Front activists, the most recent being the assassination of Walter Trochez, who was also a gay rights advocate.

Death squads have again reared their heads in Honduras to assist the dictatorship in terrorizing the opposition. After the election, 15 youths were assassinated in a single weekend in Honduras’ capital, Tegucigalpa. Police and the military have worked hand-in-hand with the death squads to target National Front activists.

Meanwhile, the rightful President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, remains a prisoner inside the Brazilian embassy, since if he leaves, his life will be in jeopardy. The coup president has stated that if Zelaya renounces the presidency, he will be allowed to safely leave Honduras. To his credit, Zelaya has refused to do this.

Finally, the coup government has announced its intentions to drop out of the fair-trade bloc ALBA, thus moving Honduras back into close economic orbit to the United States, and away from the cooperative approach to trade that several Latin American countries are benefiting from. This is but one indication as to the real motives of the coup.

But all news is not bad news in Honduras. The National Front is still very powerful, and they are determined to re-mold Honduras’ undemocratic constitution through a democratic Constituent Assembly, a demand that most Hondurans support.

To gain U.S. labor support, the National Front is sending labor leader Jose Baquedano on a west coast speaking tour. U.S. workers have a powerful interest to see that democracy is restored in Honduras.

Honduras, along with Haiti and Nicaragua, is used to depress the wages of all countries in the hemisphere, since corporations anywhere can always threaten to flee to these low wage nations. Military coups are a common tactic that the U.S. government employs in other countries to suppress wages, making the hemisphere more “business friendly.”

The more U.S. workers are educated about this dynamic, the less freely is the U.S. government able to act to repress working-class movements abroad.

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Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action. He can be reached at portland@workerscompass.org