This is a report from someone in Honduras looking at events from the viewpoint of a supporter of the opposition to the coup. We will get quite different accounts from the mainstream media who have not been following events for the most part. Now the elections have been held with limited disruption and there will be vastly different claims about the turnout! However, the restrictions on campaigning and the law against recommending a boycott will not be mentioned nor the fact that not only the independent candidate for president withdrew but many others running for other positions. However, with the US accepting the results and some its allies, things will return to normal, and the repression of opposition groups can continue with continued lack of coverage by mainstream media. After all, it was not Ahmadinejad who was elected but a wealthy conservative rancher who will not betray his own class or the US investors in Honduras. Repression under those auspices is simply normal.
Honduras: everything is fine, haven't you heard?
posted by Tyler Shipley -It was a relatively quiet day in Tegucigalpa. Terror will do that.
Oh, there were people in the streets – protestors filled the square in front of the Congreso, for the 103rd consecutive day. Organizers in the Frente Popular de Resistencia met to determine what they would do about the pending pantomime elections. Leaders of the five main human rights groups in Honduras delivered an official denunciation of the coup elections to the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE). The Movimiento de Mujares Visitacion Padilla, a feminist organization associated with the Resistance, amassed a crowd of many dozens of courageous women to demonstrate outside a police station where one of their leaders had been detained overnight.
Merlin Equiqure, one of the founders of a feminist movement that has been on the front lines of the coup resistance in spite of a powerfully patriarchal social structure, remains under arrest tonight without the possibility of bail - why? Because she was caught with a can of spray paint. The paint was used – as photo evidence has clearly demonstrated – to decorate placards and props for a piece of street theatre the group put together for the international day against violence against women. Her organization, in collaboration with the growing feminist movement in Honduras, has been tirelessly denouncing the fact that women have been particularly victimized under the coup regime – a pamphlet from a related organization wrote, “we are victims of sexual abuse, they beat our breasts, hips, buttocks and vulva; they put batons in our crotch, they threaten us with rape and other types of sexual aggression in a clear demonstration of contempt of this society towards the body and the integrity of women.” Merlin’s group, named after a famous woman who struggled for women’s rights in the 1920s, is made up of over 6000 predominantly young women – some of the women I spoke to this morning were teenagers - demonstrating courage I could never dream of exhibiting myself. In a piece of tragic absurdity that brought me to tears, one of their community leaders is now facing a trumped up prison sentence where she will likely face the very same sexualized violence that she has been so tirelessly fought to expose and denounce.
But women’s bodies are not only being used by the golpistas as objects for desecration and humiliation in prison cells; they are simultaneously being used to woo the smug gringos who have breezed into town to ‘supervise’ the farce elections this weekend. A cocktail party was held this evening at the Mayan Hotel for the representatives of NDI and IRI (elections-observation organizations linked to the Democratic and Republican parties in the US, respectively) and other observers cobbled together from the far-reaches of the Latin American Right (including Armando Calderon Sol, former president of El Salvador.) As they toasted to the great strides that Honduras was making towards a stronger democratic republic, they were entertained by 14- and 15-year old Mayan girls, dancing in sexualized traditional dresses, much to the delight of the overwhelmingly male ‘champions of democracy.’
I suppose it is possible that the American elections observers believe that this farce is a legitimate election. If the individual I spoke to two days ago was any indication, they clearly have very little knowledge of Honduran history; normally, at this point in an election campaign, there truly would be a ‘fiesta.’ Supporters of the two primary parties would be waving red or blue flags, encouraging people to support their candidate, and arguing in taxis over who was best suited to run the country. This year, the flag vendors walking from car-to-car are ignored. This afternoon, Pepe Lobo, the election frontrunner, held a rally in the Colonia Kennedy and paid people 200 lempiras each to attend. Even with the financial incentive, it was a feeble rally. Perhaps it is because, as a taxi driver explained to me this morning, “in July, they were paying people 500 lempiras to attend the white marches. Then they dropped it to 300 and now it is 200. I can make more driving my taxi.”
In front of the Congreso, the daily protests continue but they, too, are smaller than usual. For a movement that once pulled hundreds of thousands of people to its demonstrations - the protests in Tegucigalpa were the largest sustained demonstrations Central America has ever seen - the fact that only a few hundred are still in front of Micheletti’s new office is a sign that the repression is working. If our daily conversations in taxis and stores and street corners are any indication, there are very few people who support the coup outside of those closely connected to the oligarchy, but this is a resistance that is exhausted and unnerved. Leaders keep getting detained or disappeared. Military watch our every move from rooftops. Rumours of tanks mobilizing for the weekend charade are convincing the peaceful and unarmed resistance that the massive marches of the past months may not be viable in this moment.
On a personal note, I find myself increasingly conscious of a certain inevitability about the way things will play out here, in the short term. Barring some unanticipated violent insurrection, Sunday’s pantomime will likely play itself out quietly – the Frente has strongly encouraged people to stay home and stay safe - and one of the oligarchs will be crowned President, albeit with a very low voter turnout. While it is obvious to most people here that the elections are a mockery of democracy and that Honduras has essentially become a dictatorship, it is equally obvious that the United States will recognize the results of this sham as legitimate. On that note, it is truly impossible to adequately describe the level of disrespect and derision with which the NDI and IRI ‘elections observers’ have shown to the people of Honduras.
A small but illustrative example: I stood this afternoon with some of those gringo observers in suits as they walked with their military escort into the TSE building, laughing in mockery at the gathering of the five most prominent human rights organizations in Honduras, whose meeting with TSE officials was delayed by 3 hours in order to accommodate the schedules of the U.S. observers. The observers refused to give interviews, laughed about the value of local money (“how many of these damn things do I need to get a decent cup of coffee”) and ridiculed the Resistance for not understanding that “no matter how it plays on TV, sometimes the bad guy really is the bad guy.”
They were referring, of course, to Manuel Zelaya, holed up in the Brazilian embassy. The fact that they focus the Resistance on him is proof-positive of their profound misunderstanding of the situation. Zelaya is but a figurehead – one who was generally viewed with suspicion and doubt in his three and a half years in office before the coup – for a movement that has its roots in trade unions, women’s organizations, student activism, human rights advocacy, campesino groups, indigenous struggles and countless other grassroots social movements that have been built up over many decades and have come together in the wake of this assault on their already-flawed democratic system.
What neither the arrogant gringos nor the foolish golpistas recognize is that nothing is fine in Honduras. No matter how emphatically Barack Obama can say ‘yes,’ Hondurans have already said ‘no.’ No to sham elections. No to violence against women. No to police and military repression. No to unrelenting poverty. No to North American imperialism and local comprador oligarchs. No to an unfair and easily manipulated constitution. No a la reforma – si a la revolucion. I came to Honduras to experience what seemed like the climax of a story – I have discovered that it is only the beginning of what will likely be a long and hard struggle for true justice, peace and democracy.
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