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Issue #1458      9 June 2010

Honduras coup reverberations continue

The 2009 coup in the Central American nation of Honduras continues to reverberate four months after a new president, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo of the right-wing National Party, took power. Killings and conflict continue within the country and international pressure still keeps Lobo from achieving full legitimacy in the eyes of Latin America.

The coup on June 28, 2009, ousted the legally elected president, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, and replaced him with a junta headed by millionaire businessmen Roberto Micheletti. The coup was followed by resistance by labour, social, women’s, gay and indigenous organisations and activists. At least a hundred Zelaya supporters were killed in the aftermath of the coup. The purpose of the coup was to halt and reverse progressive policies carried out by Zelaya’s government, including the expansion of the rights of workers, peasants, women and others, and especially to stop the increasingly cordial ties between Honduras and left-wing governments such as those of Venezuela and Cuba.

The coup was strongly supported, both materially and economically, by the right wing in the US. The Obama administration at first denounced the coup, but is accused by Zelaya and others of waffling and lack of firmness in backing up those denunciations.

On September 22, 2009, Zelaya managed to return surreptitiously to the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, where he ended up besieged in the embassy of Brazil, one of the majority of Latin American countries which continued to recognise him as the legitimate president. In spite of international and internal objections and a partial boycott by Zelaya supporters, the Micheletti regime carried out the scheduled national elections on November 29, with Lobo and his National Party the victors.

Since then, Lobo, supported by the United States, has been working to get his regime recognised by the international community. But the pro-Zelaya forces, grouped into the National Front of the Honduran Resistance, with support from countries such as Venezuela and Ecuador who strongly opposed the coup, have tried to use Lobo’s need for this legitimisation as leverage to get concessions from the government.

As Zelaya’s normal term in office ended on January 29, the return of Zelaya to power is no longer a demand. But the former president, although invited to return by Lobo, has been threatened with arrest and jail if he does return. Besides allowing Zelaya to return safely as a citizen with full rights, the resistance is calling for a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the constitution to allow a larger role for the mass of the people in government, and for an end to repression that continues to be directed against all who opposed the coup and stand for progressive change.

And death squad type repression continues. On May 27, labour activist Douglas Gomez, of the Union of Beverage and Allied Workers, which has been key in resistance to the coup, was attacked and beaten in the union’s office in the northern city of San Pedro Sula. Neither Gomez nor the office was robbed of anything, which suggests that government claims that such incidents result from Honduras’ high crime rate is false.

On May 18, Olayo Hernandez Sorto, a member of the anti-coup Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH in Spanish) in the town of Pueblo Viejo, in Intibuca province, was murdered by parties unknown. He was shot three times and slashed on the head, probably by a machete blow. Olayo is one of several anti-coup activists slain since Lobo took power. At least seven journalists have also been killed under suspicious circumstances. There have also been threatening moves by landowners to oust peasant farmers who have occupied their former properties.

The resistance is continuing to come up with new actions. One is a hunger strike by judges who were fired for opposing the coup. Now there is a similar strike by educational administrators who claim that the Lobo government has replaced them with people affiliated with Lobo’s National Party. Marches and demonstrations also continue.

At the international level, a large number of Latin American countries said they would boycott a scheduled summit of Latin American and European countries if Lobo was allowed to attend; Lobo himself withdrew from the get-together.

People’s World 

Next article – Alarcon criticizes media silence on Cuban Five

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