Before the dawn of June 28 in Honduras, some 200 heavily armed soldiers of the Honduran army stormed the residence of elected President Jose Manuel Zelaya, took him at gunpoint and drove him to an airplane that flew him to Costa Rica. A few hours later, the National Congress comprised of the country’s oligarchs quickly installed erstwhile Speaker of the House Don Roberto Micheletti Bain as “interim president” who read a bogus letter of resignation allegedly signed by Zelaya himself. Later in the day, the military arrested members of Zelaya’s cabinet, detained the ambassadors of Venezuela and Cuba, began hunting down leaders of progressive mass organizations and imposed a nationwide curfew.
This brazen takeover by the top brass of the Honduran Armed Forces and the country’s traditional oligarchs has outraged the Honduran people who have now taken to the streets to reject the putschists. Unions, students, women and other social sectors have launched a general strike, setting up barricades and defying the curfew imposed by the Micheletti government. The army, headed by US-trained General Romeo Vasquez, has responded with increasing violence which has so far resulted in at least two deaths, over a hundred injured and hundreds more imprisoned.
The international community has roundly condemned the coup d’état and the escalating violence of the army in Honduras. The General Assembly of the United Nations has unanimously denounced the military takeover and demands the restoration of Zelaya to the Honduran Presidency. But the de facto Micheletti government, with the support of the Army, the National Congress, the Supreme Court and local mass media, continues to defy the Honduran people and international opinion.The coup d’état in Honduras is a desperate attempt by ultra-rightist forces within the traditional pro-US Honduran elite to stem the rising tide of change swelling from below.
Zelaya himself shares the same roots as the landed and bourgeois comprador oligarchs that have ruled Honduras since Central America gained independence from Spain. He belongs to the same political party as Micheletti. He won the presidency in the 2005 elections on a conservative platform. He took over the reins of a government committed to US-promoted neoliberal policies that have kept the Honduran economy dependent on banana, coffee, and shrimp exports; foreign investments in maquiladora sweatshops; dollar remittances from US-based Honduran migrants; and US military and civilian “aid”.
But this long-standing neocolonial relationship with the US has began to be challenged by the advance of mass movements against neoliberal globalization and US imperialist intervention in the region. Increasing people’s protests in recent years has prompted the Zelaya government to raise the minimum wage of workers and teachers’ salaries, and increase spending in health care and education. Aside from these modest measures, the Zelaya government signed an energy partnership deal with Venezuela, and then last year joined the emergent regional trade bloc, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas or ALBA, which seeks to build regional cooperation and aims to curb US imperialist dominance in the hemisphere. He has also established closer ties with Cuba and was the first Honduran Head of State to visit the island in 50 years.
The final betrayal in the eyes of ultra-rightist forces in the ruling elite was Zelaya’s determination to push through with a referendum that could have paved the way for the convening of a constituent assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution. Micheletti et al claim that Zelaya wants to change the constitution in order to remain in power beyond his term-limit. But more than anything else, the oligarchs feared that this would be used by the mass movements — who have openly campaigned for the holding of a referendum – to agitate and mobilize for more substantial reforms in the country’s political, economic and cultural institutions that would threaten their entrenched interests.
The generals who led the military coup most likely expected US imperialist support for their effort. The Honduran army is virtually an appendage of the US Pentagon. General Romeo Vasquez, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who led the putsch and General Luis Javier Prince Suazo, commander of the Air Force, are both graduates of the notorious School of the Americas, now named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in Fort Benning, USA. The Honduran army is financed by the US which uses the country as a staging area for US military intervention in Central America. Honduras is host to the Soto Cano US Military Base where the US military trained and directed the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, infamous for the atrocities they committed in their war against the Sandinista government in the 1980s.
The US Southern Command conducts more than 50 joint operations with the Honduran Army every year. The US has sent over US$18.41 million worth of weapons and defense articles to this country of 7.3 million people over the last ten years through its foreign military sales program. In addition, the US State Department, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) also channel tens of millions of dollars to the principal political parties, political organizations and select “civil society organizations” in Honduras, including those who have openly backed the coup. With such strong and intimate ties between US imperialism and the Honduran political and military establishment, it is highly unlikely that the coup plotters would have moved without expecting at least tacit support from Washington.
Indeed, the initial response from the White House after the coup was a tepid appeal to “all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter” and did not repudiate the claims of the Micheletti government that they had restored constitutional order in Honduras. Only after the Organization of American States, the Rio Group (comprising most of Latin America) and the UN General Assembly all called for the “immediate and unconditional return” of Zelaya did President Obama categorically state that the US considers the coup illegal and that Zelaya remains the legitimate President of Honduras.
The International League of Peoples’ Struggles is in solidarity with the people of Honduras in their valiant resistance to the ultra-rightist forces of the Honduran ruling class who have usurped power and are now using untrammeled violence to suppress the people. The people of Honduras must intensifying Mass struggling, strength and to wide the people movement to attacks the imperialists and their ultra-reactionary lackeys. They must take advantage of the current crisis of the Honduran ruling system to build truly social movement.
We call on all people’s movement forces throughout the region and the world to manifest their opposition to this coup d’état and the illegitimate Micheletti regime. We call on all member organizations of the ILPS and other people’s organizations to mobilize in solidarity with the people of Honduras by sending messages and organizing demonstrations at Honduran embassies as well as US embassies and US military bases.
We call on progressive organizations and mass movements in Latin America and elsewhere to take notice of and guard against the vulnerabilities of reformist regimes and the treachery of pro-US and ultra-rightist forces. We encourage the people of Honduras and Latin America to develop their people’s movement for genuine national and social liberation.
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
08 July 2009