Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

When a coup becomes a purge and books are dangerous

The de facto government has claimed its only goal was to remove the President from office in order to protect democracy. They promise to vacate their control when the next duly-elected president is inaugurated next January.

It would seem to follow that there would be little reason to make massive changes in the current government of the country. Actually, the de facto government immediately moved to replace all the cabinet ministers of the Zelaya government, including a clause in the forged resignation letter attributed to Zelaya tendering his resignation on their behalf. This perhaps they would defend by pointing to the uniform support of the ministers for the poll scheduled for June 28.

But the de facto government is going further. They interfered in the legitimate governance of municipalities, pursuing the elected Mayor of San Pedro Sula, Rodolfo Padilla Sunseri, originally for his participation in carrying out the poll there, and more recently, based on his not coming to work, which he has publicly noted is an action he is taking until his safety and security are guaranteed.

The de facto government is actually engaged in a campaign of replacement of national level officials whose only crime appears to have been to enact the policies of the Zelaya government.

One such person is Rebeca Becerra, who has now publicly protested her removal from the office of Director General of the Book and the Document in the Secretariat of Culture. In her complaint, she writes that this action will "retard the cultural processes undertaken" and characterizes it as an "attempt against culture".

What was so dangerous about Becerra's work? This involved the promotion of reading in a country with some of the highest levels of illiteracy in the Americas. Becerra is a recognized poet whose inclusion in the Zelaya government cannot be charged to cronyism, but was exemplary of the selection of people qualified for and passionate about their jobs.

Here is my transaltion of her own description of what she accomplished; I can testify personally to the advances she describes:

My job was to bring books to the poorest municipalities in Honduras, organizing libraries (20 libraries organized in less than two years) in towns where no functionary of the government has ever come; to bring the Bibliobús (promoting reading) to the barefoot children that cannot access a single book due to the poverty in which they live. My work was grounded in promoting a process of modernization in the National Library and Archives, a process of digitization that today is in danger because ignorance reigns in the country. Strengthening the National Agency of the ISBN and attending to the extent possible to the demands of the branch offices in my charge.

My task was based on putting to work people that slumbered in their jobs without producing anything for the country, to fire the corrupt that robbed the limited resources on which the secretariat counted. In managing resources for the branch offices. It was based on printing books, is printing books a crime? In aiding Honduran authors, male and female, by means of the purchase of their literary works to supply the National Network of Public Libraries. In worthily representing my country outside its borders. In making visible an operation that was on the point of death for lack of initiative, of vision, and of commitment.

My job was to aid people that came from distant parts of the country from public elementary and high schools to seek books to have to read to their students. People without resources, that arrived without food and that couldn't leave with empty hands. My feelings went further than my charge as a public servant, as far as offering part of my salary for activities and people.

Assisting artists with the production of posters, brochures, and the like. No one left the Dirección General del Libro y el Documento with empty hands. My work was my commitment to culture and to my homeland. I complied with honor and devotion, sacrificing my family, working overtime, Saturdays and Sundays and beyond exhaustion.

Thanks to those who accompanied me in this fight in favor of culture, to the coordinators and directors that believed in the guidelines; I exhort them to continue ahead, we must not allow this work to die, that has cost us such a great sacrifice. Thanks to those, men and women, in the Dirección General del Libro y el Documento, to the SCAD Union; to others, men and women, that I do not wish to mention because it sickens me, betraying this cultural process that was carried out in favor of the bibliographic and documentary patrimony of the nation, the evil you did is not to me nor to my family but to CULTURE and OUR PEOPLE.


RAJ said...

I have just received a letter of solidarity with Rebeca Becerra from the Honduran Union of Artists and Writers. It repudiates the actions of the de facto government's appointee to control the Ministry of Culture.

In translation, the letter says Rebeca Becerra

"has carried out her charge diligently, carrying out laudable work for national culture that dignifies the writers and artists of our country."

The authors further note that "in her role as a writer recognized at the level of Central America and Latin America, she has received various prizes for her poetry, constitutes part of the directors of our organization of writers and artists that has a wide membership of recognized prestige at a continent-wide level."

A separate communication from colleagues in Honduras explains who the functionary responsible for this dismissal is: Myrna Castro was a television personality on "Buenos dias Honduras", selected from the congress where as head of the congressional Commission on Culture and Arts, she cannot be credited with promoting any project in culture or the arts. Rather, she is said to have contributed to stalling the General Law on Archives, the Law on Indigenous Land Title, and the Law for Development of Culture and Arts. She is said to be initiating a "witch hunt" in the Ministry of Culture.

Abby Kelleyite said...

Thank you for this post. It is so difficult to get out word of the larger picture to the english-speaking world. And I must learn more about Becerra's poetry. Her efforts in education sound truly laudable and it is distressing to hear of purges that are receiving so little coverage in the mainstream media. It is difficult for a public unfamiliar with Honduran culture and politics to evaluate the news coming out of the country. It is even difficult for some of those with some such background as evidenced in the recent confusion over poll numbers coming out of Honduras. When people who are operating within their areas of expertise are so easily misled what hope have such as I who am operating way outside my areas of expertise? I try to seek out alternative sources of news and information such as this blog, to read closely, to share what I can. As Greg Weeks recently said: "There are still a lot of untold stories."
Honduras: the coup and the Church

Dan said...

Thanks for the information. I've posted my take on the situation here:

RAJ said...

Dan's post on Archaeopop gives me a chance to update the story. The rumored plan to install military offices in the Antigua Casa Presidencial has been officially disclaimed by the de facto regime's appointee to head the Ministry of Culture.