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Issue # 1417      1 July 2009

Right-wing coup in Honduras

Army members kidnap president

In a coup d’éta the President of Hondurus Manuel Zelaya has been kidnapped by members of the army disguised with balaclavas. He has been taken into exile in Costa Rica from where he has stated he is still the legitimate president and has called on the US not to recognise the right wing appointee. News had spread last week that the actions of reactionary forces in Honduras indicated there could be a coup when the army refused to distribute ballots for a national referendum that was to be held on June 28. News has emerged that the ambassadors of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela have been kidnapped along with the Foreign Minister of Honduras. The opposition leader has been made president.

Governments of Central and South America, including Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico, Bolivia and Guatemala responded immediately, condemning the coup. US President Obama called it “disturbing”.

A positive referendum result would have provided for a “fourth ballot box” at the November elections to elect a national constituent assembly to be set up with the mandate to draft a new constitution with popular characteristics and to craft an electoral system based on direct voter participation in place of the representative democracy the country has now.

Many union and farmer groups supported the referendum action which Zelaya said was aimed at reforming policies that have excluded the nearly three-quarters of Hondurans who live in poverty.

Following the army’s refusal to distribute ballots the President led a crowd of supporters to a military base to seize the ballot boxes which he then handed out to supporters, state employees and police to set up the 15,000 survey stations at schools and community buildings across the country. Zelaya has said he considered the refusal of the army to distribute the ballots to be part of a technical coup.

Zelaya’s supporters demand the voice of the people must be heard. In the words of one supporter “It’s only a vote to allow the public to cast ballots directly and decide the future of the government, why is that bad?” This movement towards reform has enraged the local bourgeoisie that with US backing tries to prevent the right of the people to exercise their right to a new constitution.

Attempts by the US backed forces to get rid of the progressive government in Honduras must be rejected by the international community which must show its solidarity with the elected government of Manuel Zelaya and the people of Honduras.

The Communist Party of Australia condemns this act of violence that aims to derail the right to self determination for the people of Honduras. The coup is reminiscent of a similar action against the Venezuelan Chavez government in 2002.

These actions are part of successive attempts staged over a number of years against popular and progressive governments in Latin America. The strategic objective is to put extra pressure on Socialist Cuba, the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela and the governments of Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador and maintain imperialist interests in the region.

Since the 1821 independence from Spain, the Central American provinces have been in the hands of the oligarchies who own the land and resources, using successive governments and state apparatus to benefit from the natural resources, selling off the country to foreign interests mainly those from the United States of America.

In recent times Latin American countries with progressive governments have successfully enacted new constitutions giving greater constitutional powers to popular sectors in society. The current government in Honduras has shown also a will to progressively walk away from traditional power circles that walk hand in glove with the US.

In the 1980’s Honduras nicknamed the “Pentagon Republic” hosted the United States anti-Sandinista Contra force during the war against the contras in Nicaragua. The US conducted military exercises involving thousands of United States troops and National Guardsmen and Honduras received almost US$1.6 billion in United States assistance. Honduras had on its soil 14 US military basis to back the US in their efforts to stop the attempts by the Sandinistas to peacefully develop a fairer society.

With the end to the Contra conflict in Nicaragua and a peace accord in El Salvador, Honduras’s relations with the United States have changed considerably with aid levels and military assistance falling. However the United States remains an important trading partner and an important source of foreign investment and this interest continues to be protected by the Honduran oligarchy.

Next article Editorial – Rees government shoots itself in the foot

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