Interview with Alfredo Lopez, Vice-President of National Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH)
July 9th, 2009
First, tell me your name and position with the organization and how you have been involved in the national front [of popular resistance].
I am a Garifuna Honduran citizen. My name is Alfredo López, Vice-President of the National Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH). Well, we are here inTegucigalpa, immersed in the process of re-establishment of the constitutional order of the country.
And how long have you been in Tegucigalpa, Alfredo?
Today is our 12th day in Tegucigalpa. The next day, right after the coup we took up this work. We stepped up to this work because we consider it our historic responsibility, first as citizens, second as members of a culturally distinct people that have our own customs and culture and that is right now threatened by these same powerful groups that have carried out the coup d'etat to the citizen president of the country.
Alfredo, can you tell me what was the level of support for Zelaya before the coup?
Without any doubt president Zelaya has had the support of the popular masses, of the people. Before the coup he already had a huge industrial amount of support from the population, above all from the rural peasant population. In practice he projected himself specifically, above all with the working masses and the peasant masses of the country, by having raised the minimum wage by more than 50% in some places and with some of the laws that they were promoting in the rural areas that without any doubt have benefited the peasantry. And that catapulted the popularity of the President before the coup.
So you say he had a pretty deep level of support amongst the population?
What has been the reaction of the Garifuna communities in the face of this coup d'etat?
What has been the reaction of the Garifuna communities in the face of this coup d'etat?
The reaction of the Garifuna communities has not been suitable for the simple reason that the coup-makers, the de facto government, has very well calculated and mesaured its actions and after the coup have shut down all types of communication. The cable signal in the communities has been shut down and only the local TV stations are left which are normally part of the coup-makers system, which is why only the population only has access to the official information and this has created an environment of fear and terror by the communities to be able to participate in the protests, above all in the central district. And ever since in the regions there has been fear of participation due to the repression that is taking place in our country.
And outside the capital, what actions have been
carried out by the Popular Front?
There are highway takeovers, there are sit-ins. For example tomorrow we are planning the complete paralization of the country because the workers central since the beginning of the coup has declared an indefinite strike. There are no classes in the public schools, just in the private ones and today traffic was paralized in the South Highway. The country is practically shut down. So these are the concrete actions that there are in this moment.
Nonetheless there are conversations that are happening at the highest level in San José, Costa Rica. There is a meeting between the coup president and a commision of president Zelaya in San José, Costa Rica.
And what are the expectations of the meetings between Zelaya and Micheletti?
The expectations... up till now the positions are very conflicting because the fascist government of Micheletti says that it only accepts the return of President Zelaya to face judicial charges. And President Zelaya's position is that they won't negotiate but that first he should return to his position to finish the last 6 months of governing that is left. So as you can see, they are very diametrical positions. But since the negotiations are just starting we think that it will have to keep advancing with the themes on which the comissions agree and leave the harder themes till the end of the negotiations. Because of that, up till now there are no advances.
Nonetheless the pressures continue. Today there was a sit-in in the North American embassy by a group of North American Jesuit priests, demanding that the abassador leave the country, demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Honduras, demanding the closing of the School of the Americas where all the military coup-makers come out of… where they train all of the Latin American coup-makers
. And yeah, there are different situations taking place, meanwhile the support for the marches in Tegucigalpa is more massive each time and we don't know what will end up happening, but the rejection of the fascist government of Micheletti is growing here in Tegucigalpa and we have been a part of the resistence here.
And what has been the reaction of the authorities in the face of this movement to re-establish democracy?
Well, the authorities were pretty agressive, but after the airport journey, where 2 people died and 6 people were wounded, now we have seen the police less hostile. They just make themselves present at the protests. There not as... well the pressure is having an effect. They are making a presence at the protests but they aren't as agressive with the population. That implies that apparently there is a lack of willingness by the authorities to keep repressing the population. The more they repress the more the people come out to the marches. Nonetheless, there haven't been concrete advances.
We don't see advances that could be quantified, and that coul indicate to us when we will be able to stop the resistance and when we'll be able to leave Tegucigalpa. Because of that we are still in an environment of uncertainty. Apparently the authorities are deconcentrated and don't know what to do with the problem that they themselves have created.
As a final point Alfredo, can you tell me what is the purpose of the Constitutional Assembly? Why is it so rejected by the authorities?
First we as popular resistance here in Tegucigalpa have been the Constitutional Assembly. After it was rejected so much by the powerful, now it is part of our highest aspiration as a people because this implies that there will be the opportunity for the changes that the people have yearned for in this country, which is why there won't be any solution to this conflict without instaling the Constitutional Assembly.
Why? Because we believe that as peoples we have rights that require more equity in the country, and that necessarily implies that they respect our property, that they recognize the pluri-cultural and multilingual character of our country, the differences among peoples, languages and other situations like the autonomy of the people that is implicit in that new constitution we are dreaming of. There is also the aspect of radio and electronic communication. We as the poor and as the people have the right to have our own radio and television frequencies, why not?
It shouldn't just be the rule of law for the rich, just for commercial communication. It isn't possible in the middle of the 21st century! We should have equal rights, or even if they're not equal, at least the rights should be thought about by all Hondurans. Not just for the minority that has taken power, that has kidnapped everything for itself. So we believe that we have to create this opening so that the blood spilled by our comrades is not in vain.
And we also want to inform that today the father of the young University student who was taken down by bullets of the Honduran army was detained. So the escalation of repression continues. That is why we aren't willing to retire without being able to achieve the objective, which is the installation of the Constitutional Assembly that doubtless won't resolve the problems of the country but that will at least create an opening so we can start the path to development.
Thank you very much, Alfredo. Do you want to share something else before the interview is over?
No, that's it, just want to tahnk you and the international community that will see this note. Tell you that we as a Third World country also deserve the right to aspire and demand that they respect our dignity as an autoctonous people in our country that is being tremendously pressured and that these same group of powerful people who have orquestrated the coup d'etat in our country are the same groups that have tried and continue trying to put down our demands and roll over us dis-respecting our rights that belong to us as people. That is why it is important that they realize what is happening in this country and that the struggle is not in vain, that the people are perfectly within our rights as article 3 of the constitution says: Nobody owes obedience to an illegal coup government. Because of that we need to complain today so that we can make our rights as a people prevail.