Saturday, November 25, 2017

"They are instilling fear so that we won’t go out to vote" - Leader of Honduras's largest peasant organization, CNTC

Honduras goes to elections on Sunday, with an opposition alliance hoping to unseat President Juan Orlando Hernandez, the first Honduran president to ever run for re-election. The Honduran Constitution explicitly bans re-election, and this ban was the stated justification for the 2009 coup d’état against populist President Manuel Zelaya, who at the time was attempting to carry out a non-binding referendum on convening a constitutional assembly. The right-wing U.S. ally Hernandez, who was in the congress at the time of the coup and became its president the year after in 2010, led an effort to remove four Supreme Court justices in 2012 for the first time in Honduran history and replace them with close allies. Since his election as
president amidst a wave of repression and widespread allegations of fraud in 2013, Hernandez has consolidated his power over every branch of government, getting the supreme electoral council to allow him to run in the National Party primaries last year and the allies he placed in the supreme court to decide the constitution’s clear prohibition on Presidential re-election would not apply to him.

La Voz de los de Abajo is in Honduras leading an international human rights observation delegation that is bearing witness to the climate of fear, repression and human rights violations that have led up to and surround the elections. All week we will be uploading interviews with key actors in Honduran social movements providing analysis and a variety of perspectives on the current political conjuncture. The interview that follows is with Franklin Almendares, General Coordinator of the largest peasant organization in Honduras, the Central Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo (National Center for Rural Workers).

How do you define this moment, this conjuncture facing Honduras as a country and the social movements in particular?

We are living through a very difficult situation in the country. This has been the most difficult of these past few years. Looking at the national context, we have increasing costs for foods and education, the privatization of healthcare, the lack of jobs and security, and more taxes every day making it harder for the Honduran people to earn a living.

On the other hand, the social movements have been really hit hard in this last period, over this last year, with the creation of new laws, laws that are damaging to the social movements, making it impossible to mobilize or to protest or speak out. This law is dividing the social movement. It is a strategy of the system. This government that we currently have, we would say it is categorically a fascist government, a dictatorial government that doesn’t respect the law, that doesn’t respect human rights. It’s a government that essentially wants to make the population disappear, the largest segment of the population, meaning the 54% who are low-income.

Facing this situation is hard. And in the lead-up to the elections on November 26th, there is an environment of fear. The people are afraid because through the media they have carried out campaigns, they have disparaged the candidates of the opposition, and sewn an environment of fear. But on the other hand, we have hope that we will win, that we will defeat the dictator, and that after the 26th we will have a new Honduras if we, the [opposition] alliance, win.

You and I were together the day of the last elections, when this government came to power, and we saw with our own eyes the way that this government, this regime entered on a wave of repression, and assassinations, with the killing of one sister inparticular. You were telling me earlier that there was another killing in the same community later. Can you talk a little about what the people have lived through, in that specific case but also if there have been other similar cases, and how the people are responding in the face of the attempt to sew fear.

Well, four years ago, it was a similar environment. There was repression, a lot of intervention from the police and people in power trying to destabilize the elections and get the results they wanted, to win. But this year, four years later, it is even heavier, because this regime has gained a lot of power. Economic power, political power, accompanied by the police and military, but also, the major powers of the state- the congress, the supreme court, the attorney general, so they have more power. We feel that four years later it is harder, and more dangerous, because they have more police, more money and they have done things during these four years that are completely illegal and that the people oppose.

So it is a complicated environment. And we have to go to vote, conscious that a lot of things can… the repression will be there. This is the first time in history that the city is being monitored by helicopters with cameras, drones, machine guns. They are raiding homes. It is a terrible and difficult situation, and we are just a few hours away from the elections.

There were people killed during the last elections and there have continued to be deaths through these four years, to instill fear. In the last electoral cycle our sister Ámparo was killed, then a month later Wilmer, another brother from the same community. The community was practically left without leaders because they were the leaders, the people driving the struggles in that area.

And throughout these years people have continued to fall. HenryCárcamo, Berta Cáceres, many sisters and brothers, José Gonzalo Castillo Chávez, a leader of LIBRE in La Paz was just killed, a few hours before the elections. It is an environment where they are instilling fear so that we won’t go out to vote and then they will declare themselves winner and say they are the solution.

Can you tell a little about the case of the young man they just killed in Colón?

Henry Cárcamo was a leader in the Alliance, a peasant leader in the Aguán, part of the Movimiento Campesino del Aguán (peasant movement of the Aguán), and an active member of the CNTC… It’s a way of lowering people’s spirits there in that area, for the people of the MCA movement. The Dinant Corporation’s security guards killed him. The Dinant Corporation is the company of the now-deceased Miguel Facussé. We feel like after he died he got even worse. It’s like he was reincarnated in his guards, in his family and they have gone after the peasants of that area even more viciously.

We have more than 300 youth that are in the struggle who are called the Tumbador Martyrs, and those youth are being repressed by the Dinant security guards in coordination with elements of the Honduran army. There are two squadrons, Xatruch I and Xatruch II who are protecting the ranches of the rich in the Aguán instead of protecting the people who most need protection.

In the U.S. we are fighting for the Berta Cáceres Act for Human Rights in Honduras to cut off military and police funding to Honduras. What do you think of that initiative and in general what are you calling on people from the international solidarity movement to do, especially there in the belly of the beast?

Well, it’s an excellent initiative, we can’t have financing for these armed groups who basically have just become hit-men, the personal guards to the rich and the businessmen of this country. For us it would be good that they take away that financing. Here in Honduras, they increased the armed forces budget and part of that money comes from the U.S., but they took away from healthcare and education.

As for international solidarity, Honduras is a country that needs international accompaniment, for people to spread the word about what is going on here. Here they don’t respect life, they don’t respect the law, they don’t respect the right to well-being, to a dignified life, to housing. They criminalize our struggle, the protests, so we ask for national and especially international organizations to help us get the word out, and to not be distant from or unfamiliar with what is going on in Honduras.

So we reiterate the call for accompaniment for organizations like the CNTC, and other organizations like the CNTC that are also struggling, and to carry out actions so that the whole world knows what is going on here.

And finally, now especially in the Trump era, in the U.S. we have seen many attacks. Attacks against immigrants, against black people, against workers… Any words of advice, support, or motivation for people in grassroots struggles there?

Our objective is for there to be justice and equity. One of the messages is a call to unity, a call to organize yourselves, to carry out collective actions, where each one of those sectors, the unions, the teachers, doctors, black people, etc, organize and fight for your rights. Only united can we achieve big results and I think that social struggles around the world are what are going to allow us to confront this neoliberal system, this patriarchal system, this capitalist system, which is worldwide. We’re not going to do it just in Honduras alone. If we do it in the United States and other countries around the world, we can unite a global struggle with that vision, of making structural changes so that in our societies we can have a dignified life and wellbeing.

1 comment:

babette37 said...

Thanks for providing coverage of the upcoming election.
Babette Grunow, Latin America Solidarity Committee-Milwaukee

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