Thursday, June 30, 2016

7 Years of Dictatorship and Coup

Near dawn on June 28 2009 the Honduran military shot its way into the Presidential residency of Manuel Zelaya and kidnapped the elected president of Honduras, forcing him out of the country and setting Honduras down the path that continues today. 

June 28, 2016 Tegucigalpa
Seven year later on June 28, 2016 and the dictatorship intensifies. The commemorations of its 7th year take place in the midst of intensified criminalization of the social movements, the reappearance of death squads, and threats, disappearances and murder of activists in impunity. Meanwhile Juan Orlando Hernandez consolidates control of not only the Executive branch and ministries but also the Congress, the Supreme Court and other judicial entities, the Electoral Tribunal and all the expanded military and repressive forces in the country. 
The La Voz de los de Abajo fact finding and accompaniment mission, accompanied the mobilization for the coup anniversary in Tegucigalpa; there were other mobilizations around the country.  

La Voz accompanying CNTC on June 28, 2016
We met with Bertha Oliva of the human rights organization COFADEH who reiterated to us her view (also published in El Libertador newspaper on June 28) that Honduras has not recovered from the collapse caused by the overthrow of Manuel Zelaya’s government and that the institutional break down in the country has benefited the cupola of power and those running the country while the crimes against the opposition continue and are unpunished. The leaders and members of the indigenous Lenca organization COPINH and of the campesino organization the CNTC stressed that the big landowners, Congressional powers like the Vice President of the Congress, Gladys Aurora, and the Honduran and multinational corporations have all benefited from the last seven years of land grabbing concessions for mining and hydroelectric power and African palm production. 

Students mobilize June 27 at the University
(Photo from Honduras Tierra Libre)
The students and teachers in the country continue to be threatened, arrested and disappeared for opposing the privatization of education and the destruction of university democracy and autonomy. The government is shutting down oppositional media like TV Globo and journalists continue to be threatened and murdered. 

June 28 Tegucigalpa
On top of this, the population in general, especially the poor - who are a majority of the population are finding it more difficult everyday to put food on the table because of increases in costs and cuts in employment.  One young family man who works as a driver told us that just two months ago his family electricity bill was a little more than 700 Lempira a month ($35) and he had a full 30 days to pay it; the most recent bill was 1200 Lempira ($60) and the time to pay has been reduced to 15 days. We heard from people from Tegucigalpa and many other regions that Juan Orlando and his National Party continue to exploit the very poor very cynically with the “solidarity sacks” (bolsas solidarias); officials hand out small bags of basic food necessities ( a few ounces of salt, a pound of beans and rice) IF the recipient signs a National Party petition saying they favor allowing re-election. The list goes on and on - the number of outrages that we were told during our one week mission would fill many pages. 
June 28, 2016 Tegucigalpa
The resistance movement is debating strategy and tactics. While the social movements, reeling from the violence against them and the assassination of Berta Caceres, look to build regional struggles like the fight against the toll roads and to build national momentum from the grassroots struggles, part of the resistance looks toward a new electoral cycle with the hope of building and strengthening electoral opposition to put the brakes on the out of control and violent neoliberal assault. As well, part of the movement looks to do both.

Press interviews Mel Zelaya
at the march  
Juan Orlando has maneuvered to change the constitutional ban on re-elections for the Presidency and while everyone in the resistance opposes Juan Orlando’s re-election,  part of the LIBRE party is enthusiastic for the possibility of Manuel Zelaya being able to run for election again because they see that would make a real electoral opening for the people possible; others are vocal that the changing of the constitution without popular consultation along with running the risk of Juan Orlando consolidating himself in permanent power is unacceptable.  This controversy was apparent at the June 28th mobilization in Tegucigalpa where there were slogans being spray painted on the walls saying “We need Mel” and “We need Mel for President” at the same time that there were people chanting “No to re-elections”.  Zelaya was one of the speakers at the short rally and concert at the end of the mobilization. 
June 28, 2016 Tegucigalpa 

The mobilization in Tegucigalpa was full of life and spirit although smaller than some previous marches, but there had already been nearly daily protests of the students who are engaged in a fierce struggle with the Rector of the National Autonomous University system Julietta Castellanos and Juan Orlando, and the national teachers’ unions were preparing for an emergency mobilization on June 30th in what looks like renewed vigor in their fight over privatization, lay-offs and repression focused on their demand for a salary increase after the government announced very small increases. 

Nestor Aleman of COPEMH speaks
at Progreso rally
Finally,  with the murder of Berta Careers still so painfully present and the US election spotlighting Hillary Clinton, we found everyone eager to talk about the role of the US in the coup and its continuation and expansion by President Obama’s Secretary of State at the time, Ms.  Clinton and the role of US training and funding of military and police forces implicated in Berta’s murder. The new law introduced in the US Congress - The Berta Careers Human Rights Law- aimed at cutting US aid if human rights conditions are not met by the Honduran government has gotten wide press coverage in Honduras, including an article published in the main pro-government newspaper La Prensa on June 28th (from an EFE news agency article)  pointing at Chicago organizations, La Voz de los de Abajo and Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) for working to get support for cutting the aid. 

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