Saturday, November 7, 2009

Berta Cáceres: "We only have one option. It is to struggle. It is to continue the resistance. It is to march towards the re-founding of the country."

Berta Cáceres Speech in Gracias, Lempira on 11/1/2009, with call from President Zelaya

What follows is a transcription of a speech by indigenous leader Berta Cáceres of Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) and National Front of Resistance Against the Coup to a meeting of the resistance from Gracias, Lempira on 11/1/09 - With live call during the speech from President Manuel Zelaya

Good morning to everyone. At 127 days of heroic resistance of the Honduran people, we want to tell you that at this delicate juncture of the country's situation, the message of the Front [National Front of Popular Resistance against the Coup d'Eta] is that we shouldn't have a triumphalist attitude. We should also be realists. It is true, we could say that the backdrop of the agreement in and of itself is a proposal to reinstate President Zelaya. That is a hard reverse for the coup-makers. And it is a triumph for the Honduran people and for the whole struggle including for international solidarity who has been accompanying what is happening in Honduras.

But we have also said that upon re-establishing President Zelaya, upon reinstating him, it is also true that he is not going to enter the government with real power. I think we are all aware of that. We have an entire “institutional system” that is in the hands of the oligarchic power of this country. The public ministry, the supreme court, the attorney general, the supreme electoral council, the armed forces, the police, a congress that is mostly coup-backers. So the President enters with a tremendous limit to his ability to maneuver in favor of the Honduran people. We know that inside, in his heart, his strength continues but that these agreements we should understand were elaborated by an imperial policy which was the same one that caused the coup d'etat in Honduras. And I want to talk to you about that, brothers and sisters, because we can't see the situation in the country in a segment of this historical moment of the country. We should see it in its general context - the causes of the coup. What was the cause of the coup? Because in that sense the oligarchy, the coup-makers, continue their strategy.

We all know that the primary objective of the coup d'etat was to guarantee the continuation of a project of domination. That in essence is the reason for the coup d'etat. And also to strike against the project of integration of the Latin American and Caribbean people such as the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA).

Since the first moment he takes possession, President Zelaya says he won't give out any mining concessions. So here these men start condemning him. He rejects the acceptance speech the day that he takes power that was sent to him by Carlos Flores Facussé [one of the richest businessmen in Honduras], already written. President Zelaya throws it aside. Carlos Flores Facussé is one of the men who decides the destiny of this country. Then President Zelaya incorporates Honduras into PetroCaribe and in addition to that, submits to public licensing the national and international business and commerce of gas. In the first year that made Texaco, Esso and Shell lose more than $200 million. Brothers and sisters we should never forget the names of the coup-makers, whether they are transnational corporations, businessmen, or congressmen who serve the corrupt hackneyed political class who the Honduran people are tired of. And now we see that they submit to the interests of the oligarchy.

President Zelaya that year incorporates Honduras into ALBA, that's the next thing. He also approves the Educators' Statute, which the so-called “letter of intentions” which is the prescription of impositions of the International Monetary Fund, said shouldn't be approved. The President approves it. He does it against the International Monetary Fund. In addition to that he raises the minimum wage 60% compared to the cost of living. Another element, he vetoes or throws in the trash an inquisition decree that violates the rights of women – the decree of the prohibition of birth control pills. These same coup-makers who now act outraged talking about morals, in a clear violation of the rights of women and of our self-determination, as if others need to make decisions for our bodies, advocate this medieval decree, which the President rejects and in addition gives scientific arguments for which he is vetoing it. Now the thug Micheletti through executive decrees has gone back to prohibiting birth control pills. President Zelaya had carried out this struggle alongside feminist and women's organizations.

Another element, President Zelaya announces the necessity of the Soto Cano military base, known as Palmerola, beginning to function for civil use, and even though it was just a part of the base, he advocated its use towards that end. You know what funds he was going to use to do that? He was going to use funds from ALBA to convert that part of Palmerola for civilian use. All the strengthening of cooperation that he did amongst Honduras, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador in other words with the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, makes the U.S. uncomfortable. It makes them uncomfortable. And they paint him, and we have the evidence, that they begin to paint President Zelaya as a dangerous man who is getting cozy with Chávez, with communism, etc, etc. All the demonizing that they have done to President Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian revolutionary process, that demonizing that comes from an international counter-revolutionary Cuban and Venezuelan ultra-right, who have financed this dictatorship. It is strengthened last year when in Honduras a man who is a herald of death and who the Central American people know well, John Dimitri Negraponte, comes to Honduras. John Dimitri Negraponte last year, besides coming to announce some crumbs for buying logistical support for the army and the police, which is what he offered to Mel, also came and met in secret – and nobody knew the purpose – with Micheletti and with Carlos Flores Facussé and with other important coup-makers from amongst those ten families of the oligarchy, we don't even have to list them because you all know who they are, I hope we all know who they are.

So brothers and sisters, when Mel announces a consultation that opens the possibility that the Honduran people for the first time would have the human right to be consulted, that opens the possibility of a national constitutional assembly and that is the limit that the rancid oligarchy of this country can handle. But in addition, remember, they are thinking this through in the middle of the global crisis of capitalism. Capitalism in order to exists needs to expand its markets and one of the ways of doing this is pillaging the riches and the strategic resources of our peoples, something which becomes complicated when the people rise up and struggle for their self-determination like in South America. That's why they have a systematic international media campaign against the entire process of South America. And they feel the fear of losing the air and military base they have always had. Do you know how many years the U.S. has been militarily occupying that base in Honduras? Does anybody know? 100 years brothers and sisters. We are coming up on 100 years.

We should never again forget who are these coup-makers and why coup d'etats happen. Another element that worries them about President Zelaya is his enormous leadership and ability to convene. No Honduran President in the fourth year of government had 69% sympathy, that had never been seen - and that was before the coup.

So brothers and sisters, what is the scenario we are faced with now? The U.S. at first designed a strategy with the oligarchy and the coup-makers – this same Shannon [State Department representative in Honduras at the time of this speech to negotiate an agreement] was here a week before the coup, meeting with the coup-makers. He told them to wait, to not resort to a coup yet but to maneuver with other strategies, with the supreme court, trying to demonize and spread lies about the acts of President Zelaya. Thomas Shannon himself was meeting with the coup-makers. The next stage was repression and militarization to put down the resistance. But they made a mistake, brothers and sisters, they made a mistake because they thought that the Honduran resistance would last four days and today it has now been 127 days of heroic resistance of the Honduran people.


Brothers and sisters, no country of the world would have sat down to talk about Honduras, no international mechanism neither the OAS nor the UN nor anybody would have sat down to talk about Honduras if it hadn't been for the struggle of the Honduran people, if we hadn't challenged the power of arms, if we hadn't made real the chant which we have made our own, that “they are afraid of us because we are not afraid.” That, brothers and sisters, is what has gotten the international community to sit down and talk about Honduras, otherwise nobody at those places would even know where our country is on the map.

This recent advance, which is mild if you ask me, is not thanks to the high-ups in the Pentagon, it's not thanks to the U.S. who now wants to look like heroes and redeemers of the situation in our country, it is thanks to the resistance of the Honduran people. It is because we, as men and women, have fought, without stopping even though they have killed 25 brothers and sisters, even though there have been more than 4,000 illegal detentions – statistics from three weeks ago. We have had brothers an sisters tortured, gassed, persecuted, followed and all the things you all have said here. But that strategy failed, because the U.S. now understands that they will never terrorize or paralyze our people.

So they start another maneuver which is this dialogue. The U.S. find themselves obliged, because they couldn't do it through repression, through an insane dictatorship they couldn't bend the Honduran people so they put their bets on the dialogue. Because we can't be deceived brothers and sisters, remember who Oscar Arias is. Oscar Arias played a nefarious role during the 80's in the armed conflicts in Central America. We should be clear who they are. So now with the dialogue, this agreement in the background represents and opens the possibility of the reinstatement of the President but in no place in the text does it state that President Zelaya must be reinstated. Nowhere brothers and sisters! And the coup-makers can maneuver and they will be in that campaign of wanting to undermine the strength of the resistance.

Now we need to be very careful with this. The coup-makers might use, for example, point two about the renunciation of the convocation of a national constitutional assembly – which is an objective of the resistance, the Honduran people have put it forth as an objective of this struggle – which says that he has to abstain from making calls for the convoking of a national constitutional assembly directly or indirectly. To give an example of the types of maneuvers that these coup-makers might make, let's imagine that the President is reinstated and the people are asking what comes after the elections. The coup-makers could interpret that if the President says, “I call on the people to vote for the UD, for Cesar Ham or for Carlos H. Reyes, let's say, of whom both have in their program the proposal for the installation of a popular and democratic national constitutional assembly, they could then accuse the president of violating this agreement because it says that he can't speak of that directly or indirectly.

[A phone call comes in from President Zelaya from the Brazillian embassy]

President Zelaya: Hello.

BC: Yes President we are here, you're speaking with Berta Cáceres, we are here, go ahead, we're listening.

PZ: Ah, Berta, how are you, how great to hear you. Who else is there so I can say hi to everyone?

BC: Yes, here a whole people is meeting from various municipalities of Lempira and Bishop Monseñor Luis Alfonso is also here as well as all of the leadership of the department of Lempira and they want to hear from you about the dialogue, the agreements, your call to resistance, to even the bases of the Liberal Party who are against the coup as well as the other forces and then ask questions possibly.

PZ: Well, I have an appointment right now with the mass of Father Andrés Tamayo but a few brief words along those lines. First, to Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos I must recognize that he has earned the heart of the Honduran people for his positions. Same to the resistance, to the resistance of Lempira and all other departments, I want to tell you that I as a Honduran citizen feel pride before the rest of the world because of your defense of democracy and seeing the birth from this Honduran people a brave people that has demonstrated its capacity. From now on nobody, absolutely nobody, will abuse this people because they know of its firm defense of its rights and interests. This is the highest glory in the world.

Now I want to make a few brief comments about what is happening. The agreement is another triumph for us, just as was my arrival to Honduras, a triumpt for us. Just as has been the position of the international community. But with the agreement this struggle has not concluded and this agreement hasn't even been approved by the Congress yet. The spirit of the agreement is national reconciliation once the congress retracts its position of the 28th of June. From now forward I am asking it that with all respect it repeal the decree that approved Micheletti and took me out. I am asking it with respect because it is a power of the state, though it's true that it participated in every hour. Good is protecting us, the international community is accompanying us and we will make the glory of the Honduran people a new victory for democracy in the world. Thank you brothers and sisters and regards.

[End call]

BC: Well what could be heard more or less clearly from the call is that we can't lower our level of organization of struggle because they have signed this, he is clear that even with this agreement itself he isn't even definitely going to be seated there until he is in the presidential house and after that we have to continue struggling.

As I was saying about the state previous to June 28th, if we put ourselves in the mindset of the coup-makers, what wa the state of mind before the 28th? How did they view President Zelaya? They demonized him, they said we was crazy because of health problems, they were able to invent a false renunciation that the majority of the congresspeople endorsed. They said he was taking us to unconstitutionality, violating the constitution, etc, etc, this whole campaign that they had invented. So these are the traps that the coup-makers can put up.

We should understand that this struggle doesn't end with the reinstatement of President Zelaya.

And on the other side they are preparing another strategy. What is the strategy the coup-makers will use and that they are preparing? It is electoral fraud. Electoral fraud, brothers and sisters. Inflating statistics, they have their preferences, the U.S. and the coup-makers. I always talk about the U.S. because we shouldn't lose track of their role in the coup d'etat. Look at where those five military generals came out of – the School of the Americas. And the financing that has come through the C.I.A., through the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute who have financed the Democratic Civil Union... So sisters and brothers, we need to be clear, and this is my opinion, that this agreement benefits the coup-makers more.

Now, as the President said his restitution is extremely important. In other words it is a pain for them, for the coup-makers, and it is a triumph for the Honduran people but we need to be conscious that this benefits the coup makers most.

So brothers and sisters what we have to be clear about is that in a scenario of restitution the resistance has to take a position regarding the elections. And we need to identify the political and electoral forces or institutions who are in the resistance, who are really in the resistance. I have realized because I have been in Tegucigalpa almost this whole time I've practically had to live there and there are a lot of people who call the President and say, “We are in resistance, here we are supporting the people,” but you realize that they're not there, brothers and sisters, that's it's pure nonsense! And the people know, you know, nobody will deceive you, you who have been frying up under the sun and looking like toasted iguanas. Here, we know who we are and there's no need for b.s.. And those people need to be exposed, because in their practice they are very similar to the coup-makers.

So brothers and sisters in that scenario that the President is reinstated and here I am speaking as a member of the team that is part of the independent people's candidacy of Carlos H. Reyes, because we have had meetings amongst the independent candidacy, the Democratic Unification Party, the part of the PINU party who is against the coup and the liberals against the coup, and we have decided that we should take a very mature step to carry forth a sole proposal as a presidential candidacy and this will be further defined and debated this week. Because if not, the same history will repeat brothers and sisters. This is something asked for by the resistance front, a all to us as political and electoral forces to create a coalition, a proposal that comes out as a consensus on one presidential candidate and a combo of congresspeople whether they are liberals against the coup, PINU, UD, as long as they are in the resistance that they are against the coup d'etat and that they have a position in favor of the national constitutional assembly, because the congress, brothers and sisters, is strategic. It is strategic. And we have to join forces not just the social ones because the social forces are also political because they make transformations, we need to push forward a process of joining political and social forces in favor of the installation of a national constitutional assembly. And also at the level of mayors. Basically the elections, if we participate, if they reinstate the President, would have to be between the resistance and the coup-makers, as simple as that brothers and sisters.

What would happen if we made a single call with the people? If there is fraud we have to denounce it and we have to struggle like they struggled in Mexico against Felipe Calderón, we should continue struggling. But what is strategic, is as much for having one presidential candidacy of the political and electoral forces of the resistance and of the national front of resistance as seeing the strategic importance of the national congress brothers and sisters. Because this struggle doesn't end with the reinstatement of Mel, it begins and he knows it. We know the President shares this belief. Now he won't be able to say it openly but we know that he shares it and he has been very respectful - and I am telling you this as someone who has been in the national leadership of the resistance - he has been very respectful of the decisions of the resistance.

What comes next brothers and sisters? We need to raise – not tomorrow, but today – we need to raise our level of organization, of mobilization, of articulation, of coordination using all tools possible. Like what? Popular education and communication because the great media monopoly will continue in the hands of Ferrari, of Carlos Flores, of Canhuati, etc, etc.. So today more than ever we need to take advantage of this historic opportunity and consolidate the social force of the resistance and demand of the international community, of the United Nations and the Organization of American States that they recognize the resistance as a political reference point of popular forces in Honduras, just like the Sandinista Front was recognized in its time, just as the FMLN was recognized in its time. In this context we are demanding that they recognize us as well. Because we will not going to just be spectators or observers of negotiations, we are the principle protagonists brothers and sisters.


We have to be decisive actors. Look, Fidel Castro said from the beginning, that the Honduran people will definitively have to create its own destiny. And that is wise brothers and sisters. That is very wise. It is a great truth. We don't need to wait and have others come to decide for us, negotiate for us, dialogue for us, right?

We need to prepare. We may want to believe that after the restitution of Mel by Christmas we'll be eating a chicken, having fun, dancing, relaxing - but the hardest struggle comes after that. You know why? Because if the oligarchy, because of the actions to benefit the people that President Zelaya carried out, and and the growth of the political consciousness of the Honduran people in favor of a more just, more humane society worried the right, imperialism, the oligarchy, they are going to worry more when they see the installation of a people's national constitutional assembly become a reality.

That's what we should really prepare for. What should we do? We should have the capacity for collective construction, for debate, for collective analysis which we may not have had a culture of in this country but since the 28th of June we have been developing. You hear debate in the market, in the taxi, in the bus, in the barrio. I've been to those marginal barrios in Tegucigalpa, to those neighborhoods at night, and you see and listen to the strength with which people propose that national constitutional assembly. We should learn to define, to build collectively the nature, the concepts, the content of that national constitutional assembly. We shouldn't wait any longer. We should do it.

What are those contents? To take back our sovereignty, the self-determination of this country. To take back out mining and metallic resources that are in the hands of U.S. and Canadian transnationals, 30,000 square kilometers given away in concessions should be recovered in a national constitutional assembly. The subject of water, which is life, where these wretches have put forth a general waters law that privatizes even rain water, brothers and sisters. Who would have thought of that? This isn't a story, it says it there. It says they will privatize the hydric resources under ground, above ground, wetlands, the rivers. It's not possible? What for? For them to give them to Miguel Facusse, to Freddy Nasser... We need to recuperate that.

Look, not one time are women mentioned in the constitution. How is that possible? How in a society where they talk of democracy and justice could the woman not even be mentioned? We are more than half of the population. In these large mobilizations, more than half of us are women. We are women and we are not there as decorations, that is a lie, that we are the weak sex is a fairytale brothers and sisters. We are here here because we believe that we don't just need to take down forms of domination from capitalism but also patriarchy. That is another form of domination as is racism. It has to be taken down. We want our economic, political, social and cultural rights and rights to reproductive and sexual health to be recognized, they are human rights.


In addition to that brothers and sisters take out the U.S. bases. Why do they need to be there? To prepare coups? Who in honduras believes them when they say that they didn't know that Mel was in that airplane that landed in Palmerola? Please.

Audience member: They said the ambassador didn't know!

BC: That they didn't know. Imagine, they said it publicly that they didn't know that Mel was in that airplane there before they took him to Costa Rica, please, not even a leaf moves there without permission from the U.S.. Brothers and sisters, themes like the minimum wage, like the cultural and land rights of black and indigenous peoples. The theme of the youth.

Member of the audience: And of the army.

The theme of the army. Exactly. What do people say now in the streets? What do they say about the armed forces?

Member of the audience: That they have to go!

That they disappear, people want them to disappear. Why do we need military commanders that are only good for coups and for taking care of the interests of the U.S.? For beating and repressing.

Member of the audience: And stealing. And supporting narcos. And robbing cars!

General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez can't remain in impunity. He's a car thief from the “13's” gang. This country has become a narco-politics country. What are we going to do about these themes?

Member of the audience: And the members of the police are narco-trafficers.

Exactly. And what do you think of recuperating [nearby community and historic home of indigenous anti-colonial leader Lempira] Congolón from [transnational cellphone company] Tigo. I don't think that any person from here from Lempira who has been in the resistance is going to want to see threatened that historic monument that is part of the rebelliousness of the resistance, because the resistance of the Honduran people didn't begin the 28th of June. It began more than 500 years ago brothers and sisters. More than 500 years ago.


So do you think that those oligarchs aren't scared of the Honduran people having the power to decide about these great themes? Do you think they're not scared? This is what worries them. That is why their reaction will be even harder, even stronger, because we are going to threaten their interests. The interests of Miguel Facusse, who has kicked out our brothers the fisherman from Zacate Grande. The Coyolito Club that have become owners of this country.

Members of the audience: They own 22 of 27 beaches!

Of 27 beaches Miguel Facussé has 22 and he's also president of the Ecologists Foundation. Can you imagine? They have kicked out Garífuna communities!

Member of the audience: And he was awarded!

They are shareholders of the huge tourist industry in this country, they are owners of all of that, and the World Bank gave them an environmentalist award. Can you believe it?

Member of the audience: Bring them down!

So brothers and sisters this is the reality of this country. Who are we going to bring to that congress brothers and sisters? Do you know what Micheletti is doing now? He is paying the congress people millions to vote against this. Our brother Carlos H. Reyes just communicated this to me, he's in Choluteca beginning to denounce this. The pay-off of the congress people already started. The best paid are the ones that are up for re-election, because if they vote against it the people aren't just going to sit by. They will punish them. I don't know in what ways but the people are incredibly creative.

Member of the audience: Completely wise!

So brothers and sisters, if there is a scenario, because with the coup-makers nothing is ever for sure, where they don't reinstate the President, then this country will approach a tremendous situation. Greater repression and violence, maybe even a civil war, which the people don't want, and then more isolation, etc, etc.. In all of these scenarios brothers and sisters, we only have one option. In all of them. In whichever one that happens. It is to struggle. It is to continue in the resistance. It is to march towards the re-founding of this country. Look, Morazán was something else. He talked about a lot of things that we are seeing come true now. Our path has to be that – the re-founding of the country to be more just, more humane, more equitable, with a constitution of the people. Mel said it, that re-founding the country doesn't just mean having a national constitutional assembly, no, it means in practice taking down all the forms of domination that the Honduran people have been under. That is re-founding the country. Taking down and removing those oligarchs and replacing them with the Honduran people, that is it and that is what we have to struggle for. Brothers and sisters in the name of the Front I am telling you, let's continue to strengthen our organization, let's not let down our guard, our capacity. The worst thing that could happen would be for them to cut off our initiatives, the creativity of the people and that strength that we have. That is the worst that could happen, let's not lose this historic opportunity and let's put light a fire like our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean say. We have to march through this process of emancipation and liberation that we as a Honduran people need and that millions of people have screamed out for, and I say millions because just in Tegucigalpa the 15th of September there were 800,000 people. And there have been mobilizations throughout the whole country.

So I want us to close out with a chant. A chant we need to give meaning to because the dictatorship doesn't end, the coup-makers don't leave power when Mel is reinstated, they will continue having it because everything is in their hands, even the Supreme Electoral Council, the army that will give us so much pain to see carrying the ballot boxes and returning them to Tegucigalpa. How are we going to feel when we see that? Imagine it. What will we feel, how hard will it be to see that? So let's stand up and say a chant because we can't stop screaming. We can't stop struggling.

Advancing, advancing, defeating the dictatorship!

Advancing, advancing, defeating the dictatorship!

Long live the resistance of the Honduran people!

They are afraid of us because we are not afraid!

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