Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"This is an insurrection" - Honduran journalist Sandra Maribel Sánchez

This is an insurrection
Interview with Sandra Maribel Sánchez
Introduction and interview: Melissa Cardoza
Translation: Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle
Photo: Chris Jeske during La Voz de los de Abajo human rights delegation
For those who don’t know her, Sandra is a journalist who has worked political beats for decades and for very challenging outlets for someone of her profession. Her columns and opinions question and influence. They share characteristics that are scarce in Honduran media: responsibility, ethics, veracity and tenacity.

What is going on today, December 19th, 2017 in Honduras?
What is happening is that the formal institutional framework is a hollow shell, which recognizes Juan Orlando Hernández as President of Honduras at the same time there is a majority expression by the people in the streets resisting that statement and the possibility of this man staying in power. This is because people feel violated, abused, robbed by the Honduran authorities and also by those organizations that send observation missions. The people know who they voted for and that’s what they talk about in their barrios, their communities, in the public spaces.

With all of the evidence that has come to light about the process it is evident that Nasralla won the elections, and even people who didn’t believe in him, in this moment they are defending the will of the people who voted for him and their struggle against the fraud. Here they have stolen everything from us, education, healthcare, highways, but the people feel that this is their limit, this has them mobilized and it has the businessmen afraid. Those who supported Juan Orlando threw gas on the fire and now they ask for everything to be resovled with dialogue. They are the ones who created the conditions for this to happen.

I have hope that out of this the possiblity of dialogue will arise, but not the one they call for, but rather a National Constitutional Assembly where all actors can be on a level playing field and where we reach a true social pact. Because the 1982 constitution was a pact between political and military elites, the people had no voice in it. Now the people like never before have the level of consciousness needed to pursue that end and they are willing to do anything. I cannot help but be a little afraid, but insurrection is a right that the constitution guarantees, and that is where there is an opening for people not to have to live under governments imposed through force, and that is what is happening in the country. The electoral tribunal can prounounce him President, but he is being imposed through force, he is imposing himself through force, through the military police and the army. They build that police force to act as a political police exactly as it is behaving, and they gave the military a lot of rewards in exchange for their loyalty.

The tribunal declaring him winner is irrelevant to everybody. What the people are afraid of is the participation of the military, because they aren’t just going after those they think commit crimes when they protest, they are going to people’s homes, launching tear gas, attacking little boys and girls, the elderly, without any regard, that is what they were trained for. We are at that moment. The people who had taken no position to this point are now raising their heads and joining the expressions of the majority that are taking place in the country.

What is the most striking thing that you see in the streets, in these times?
Photo/  foto: Chris Jeske
The people say that if they haven’t killed you through hunger, they will still kill you after the dictator is installed, that they have no doubt that if he consolidates his power he will have them killed. Terrible- one young man said it just like that, that what might change is the moment he dies, but that this government will kill him, because its military targets are the poorest barrios. That is where they are most vicious,  because that is where the people from whom this government has stolen everything live. That’s the dimension of people’s determination.

And women?

Photo/foto: Chris Jeske
On the front line. Everywhere I have gone they have been there. The cameras go to places to take pictures where there are fires or striking images, but women’s attitude is incredible. They have tremendous strength confronting tear gas, and they go right up to where the police are, even though they have their helmets and sheilds, their gas masks, they don’t care. The women go with their children because they have to watch out for them, and they go out with them. It isn’t because they are irresponsible like some say. They are in ther barrios, their homes. The women go out with them to save them. In my whole professional life, in my personal life, I have never seen people so willing to be in the street, any government with the least amount of sense would have to see what is happening and act based on that criteria.

What is sustaining the dictator for this to be able to happen?
The true rulers of this country. Although they are wavering because they are losing a lot. We’ve been told that in Trujillo the ships that get to the port to pick up bananas go back empty because on the roads between Colón and Atlántida there around 320 banana shipments that have not been able to get through. This is happening in many places. Look, yesm there are people that commit crimes, that are looting and breaking windows, but that is part of the fury in people. The media try to conflate the gang members with the people who are in the streets, but even the gang members are the product of the system. They are the product of the deprivation that the system subjects them to. They are Hondurans, and they live here. You and I have may have been able to go to school, pay for a house, go out to get food and take care of things, but there are people here who have none of that. It is impossible to wrap your mind around how a family of six could survive on a salary of $340 / month [Honduras’s minimum wage].

And the embassy?
That’s another major actor, not just the U.S. one that always holds us down, but all of them because the European Union is playing a role, which at the beginning seemed separate from that of the U.S.. But it was an illusion, the chief of the mission who supposedly is a progressive woman said some strong things at one moment that generated certain confidence and expectations, but then since that they have not questioned the status quo. There is a level of collusion between those embassies, they see the country on fire and people killed and don’t even really care.

With regard to the latest from the OAS secretary, who we have no reason to trust, at least they offer a proposal for a way out. But these guys are dead set on staying in power. There is known scientific evidence that there was fraud, but in the face of scientific evidence they close their eyes and deny the political reality. I think that Almagro in the short term wants to justify intervention in Venezuela and he needs to clean up his image, and the gringos themselves may have given him the go-ahead, but we have seen statements from the State Department that say that the Opposition Alliance has five days to submit objections to a tribunal that lacks legitimacy. In this country neither the healthcare system nor the educational system are functioning, the police exist to attack the population not protect it, here a minority makes the political and economic decisions and they want us to believe in that set of institutions, to rely on them to take our objections to these processes. That can’t be.

I have faith that the people who took to the streets in 2009, who spent over 150 days in the streets resisting the coup and due to bad decisions by some politicians did not end up with a constitutional assembly, may now be able to get one. I think of that as just a tool to build a social pact, it isn’t the final objective, but I hope that the pressure on this man achieves at least that. Despite the millions that have been spent on tear gas they have not been able to defeat the population, yesterday in Villanueva they ran out of tear gas, of the barrels full of tear gas bombs they were carrying. The smoke was rising from in between houses, the white gas of their bombs. What kind of government is that?
This is an insurrection, and which way it goes I am convinced is influenced by the Alliance leadership, because some saw in them a path towards some light, but it goes beyond that; it is in the communities where orgaznied people amongst themselves are discussing what they are going to do and testing leadership, observing it and monitoring it.

That is wonderful.
Photo: Chris Jeske during La Voz de los de Abajo human rights delegation


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