Sunday, January 26, 2014

Report from Honduras - January 26, 2014

A representative of La Voz de los de Abajo is in Honduras to accompany the campesino movement during the new trial of political prisoner, Jose Isabel “Chabelo” Morales. The trial begins on Monday, January 27th and will be accompanied by campesino organizations from all over the country. 

Sunday - January 26, 2014 - by V. Cervantes

Arriving in San Pedro Sula in the late evening the Saturday before the inauguration, the airport is quiet but with more national police presence than I have seen on recent trips. At least in discussions with people here in the Sula Valley there is considerable fear and uncertainty as they face the incoming “President” and his program for militarization and repression. In Tegucigalpa  Saturday, Honduran Women’s Day, the police blocked of streets to cut off a woman’s march organized by the human rights group, Visitación Padilla.
January 25th Woman's Day - Foto from Dina Meza

On January 27th Juan Orlando Hernandez takes power as "President of Honduras" after the highly contested and widely condemned as fraudulent elections of November 2013. But the truth is that Juan “Robando” as he often called has been powerful in Honduras, setting legislative agendas and getting fascist laws passed, for the past four years - as the head of the National Congress since January 2010. Since the November elections, the “lame-duck” congress controlled by Hernandez and the National Party has rushed to push more of the neoliberal, anti-popular and anti-democratic agenda through even before his inauguration on the 27th.  According to the trade union organization, The Unitary Confederation of Honduran Workers (CUTH) in a press release on January 25th calling for protests on January 27th, in just three weeks after the elections, “the pro-coup Honduran Congress illegally approved 119 new laws and gave 87 new contracts to private companies.” This is more legislation than it passed in all of 2013. (see press release in english here) 

These laws include a steep increase in sales tax that will raise the cost of many basic foods and items.  The Congress has also rushed to make appointments to important government positions that were not due to be filled for 6 months. 

Why the rush?  The November elections broke the back of the traditional two-party stranglehold on Honduran politics. LIBRE (Partido de Libertad y Refundacion), the political party born out of the resistance to the 2009 coup d’etat fought a hard, broadly based campaign that without the fraud would have put their candidate, Xiomara Castro Zelaya into the Presidency. Despite the fraud and violence against LIBRE candidates, 37 LIBRE candidates were elected to the National congress. Another 15 candidates from a new center, or perhaps center-right,  Anti-Corruption Party (PAC) were also elected to Congress. The PAC has joined LIBRE in denouncing the electoral fraud and the actions of the Hernandez congress this past month. This means that for the first time the far right National Party and the Liberal Party will be facing as many as 50 or more opposition votes on at least some proposals.  Even though it remains to be seen how strongly the opposition block will unite and how much  the LIBRE Party will be able to push on the most important social issues, it is still the first time the National and Liberal Party’s two-headed monster is facing a numerous, organized congressional opposition. 
Protest at Congress - January 23rd
foto from the FNRP
Hernandez, strongly backed by the U.S. government and its embassy in Honduras, has gone on the offensive in the press against LIBRE, even asserting that LIBRE members are tied to organized crime, presumably to justify the use of military, police and intelligence services against them. In a show of what kind of tactics can be expected in the new Congress, the executive committee of the Congress was elected in a special session of the incoming Congress, but the National and Liberal Party congressmen running the podium refused to allow any of the opposition elected officials to speak, or to introduce their own candidates for the committee, despite a vigorous protest by LIBRE and PAC members.  In protest LIBRE has announced that its elected officials will not participate in the inauguration on the 27th and there was a large protest at the Congress building on January 23 by LIBRE and FNRP activists. Major protests are planned for inauguration day tomorrow amidst reports of militarization in Tegucigalpa and the region near the capital.  The FNRP held a press conference today in Tegucigalpa as part of the preparation for the protests. The FNRP had its first general assembly since the electoral campaigns began last week on January 18th and decided to build the FNRP as an expression of the social movements.

At the same time the militarization of the police, immigration, and law enforcement in general continues reinforcing the analysis of many activists that the country is facing even harder times and tougher challenges than it has in the past four years since the coup.

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