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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"I am until the end a soldier of the resistance": Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle

The invaluable Honduran blog mimalapalabra brings us an account of a new interview with Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle. Their commentary on the interview, by Mario Casasús on Telesur, is preceded by the following note:

Note, dear reader, where the balance of intelligence leans. To the right, or to the left? (Today everything has to do with the division of these two ideological tendencies). Toward Harvard or to the Mall? Who has more brains in their head, who goes every day to the beauty salon or who offers conferences in prestigious universities? What do you prefer, faithful reader of mimalapalabra, a good mirror that will decorate your office or a personal library to read? You can answer the questions asked above in the intimacy of your house, confide them to your family and friends or, in the best of cases, shout them out. (The allusions are obvious for those who know the interiority of our country.)

The allusions should be equally obvious to readers of this blog, if you have been paying attention to the contrast between the scholar, intellectual, and committed advocate of social justice, Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle, and the de facto regime's appointee to run his ministry. The interview with historian Pastor Fasquelle, currently visiting faculty at Harvard in anthropology and history, should be required reading for all students of this crisis.

In the course of this long interview, Pastor Fasquelle expresses his belief that the mobilization of popular resistance will produce lasting political change in the long run.

Apropos of discussion fomented by the previous post of an editorial of his in El Tiempo, it is interesting to note that he says here that

We have to increase the pressure to take away the social base from the coup and we have to assure the Interamerican promise to disown the whitewashing of the coup by means of an election controlled by the golpistas.

One of the extended answers he gives, sparked by a question about his editorial, "Yo acuso", is an analysis of the similarities and differences between the coup against Allende in Chile in 1973 and the present coup in Honduras, from his viewpoint as both an historian and a politician.

Pastor Fasquelle's discussion of the role of Honduran media in the coup is trenchant. He clarifies that the editorial openness of
El Tiempo newspaper, is due to the position of the owner, Jaime Rosenthal, against the coup, a position shared by his son, Yani Rosenthal.

Dr. Pastor Fasquelle reports an even more pessimistic economic outlook for the marginalized de facto regime than contained in other reports noted here and elsewhere:

I understand that they have serious fiscal difficulties and perhaps the resources to maintain the current State apparatus for less than one month.


Asked to comment on the situation of cultural properties in Honduras under the de facto regime, he credits the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia with managing to stave off the misuse of the Antigua Casa Presidencial, a conflict reported here. But he says he puts his greatest
"trust in the new civic consciousness of the value of patrimony" that was fostered under his leadership of the Ministry of Culture.

In response to a later question about the firing of Nathalie Roque, by the de facto regime's delegate to run his ministry, he says

That poor woman is a public calamity of the coup, a comic cause célèbre, the laughing stock of the community, for her irredentist ignorance, her administrative inability and her profound confusion. She fired all the technical cadres of the Ministry because she wanted to employ political activists from her campaign. Now the organic intellectuals of the coup itself are beginning to ask for her head. But since she has always been surrounded by delinquents she goes around trying to seek the fly in the ointment, trying to find crimes. The witch dedicated to the witchhunt. Not necessary to do anything against her. She has already done all that could be done against herself, with absolute efficiency.


A full translation follows:

[Q] The 22nd of June, in an interview with Proceso, you said "I have lived through three coups d'Etat in my country. In the two previous, the population did not provide any opposition at all. The following day, normalcy was absolute". Two months after the de facto regime is being cornered by the multitudinous demonstrations; how do you see the emergence of an organized civil society? is this the result of Citizen Power?

[A] For the majority of the intelligent people that I know this transformation of the collective consciousness is the most important. It is manifested in the conjuncture but reveals a structural break with the past. Honduras has been very conservative, a society fearful of change, but change is there. It has been, for example, bipartisan, where only the traditional parties have the capacity for national mobilization and the option of power. But now the political parties have not organized these demonstrations, they have formally opposed them and have tried instead to support the demonstrations of the white shirts, that have now vanished; it has been the social organizations, the UD, and a party faction with its own identity that have organized the effective resistance in the streets and highways. The Frente, supposes in effect not only the real potential to push back the coup, but also a sustainable base for the future social and political modernization of our society, as another type of organization.

Citizen Power could have contributed, at least as a framework or rhetoric. But it was more the option of President Zelaya to govern with the social organizations that was strategic as a trigger. And the cause is the deepest and most ancient, it is an evolution of social organization itself, which goes on incorporating new social actors: after the unions and the cooperatives, it has assimilated the indigenous organizations, and the independent professionals.

[Q] In the same interview with Homero Campa, you cautioned against the danger of an imminent civil war in Honduras; a month after that statement, has your perception changed? Does the de facto regime have its days numbered?

[A] I don't know how to count the days of the regime. The logic of brute power is an elemental logic. It does not need much. This regime has no interest in investment, nor in continuing the programs that have been implemented. I understand that they have serious fiscal difficulties and perhaps the resources to maintain the current State apparatus for less than one month. But they have the option of a radical cut, with excuses. The Interamerican right is moving with energy to obtain oxygen for them, at least even space to manoeuvre. The business people will continue firm as long as the freeze doesn't affect their commerce and their earnings. Meanwhile, they continue to have more to lose with a return.

What I do not see is that the people will be scared. The truth is they are not afraid. Although the levels of repression have risen as a strategy to intimidate, through the selective elimination and criminal prosecution of the demonstrators, despite all the movement of resistance continues growing. And in point of fact, the repression is provoking the middle class sectors that originally wanted to be neutral to sympathize with the resistance and oppose the coup. This puts in question the capacity of the regime for control. Now no one believes in the coup media and information continues to circulate by the Internet. As polarized and set as the conflict is, I continue to see the possibility of violence as a direct result of frustration. I don't like it, but I am a realist.

[Q] The Micheletti regime broke off diplomatic relations with Argentina, the ambassadors that backed the coup d'Etat were discontinued and expelled by their host countries; how was it living during the crisis and attempt to assault the Embassy in Mexico? Did you expect a unanimous reaction of international solidarity?

[A] The break with Argentina is one more foolishness of the coup. The ambassadors that took the side of Micheletti pertained to an old oligarchic tradition in the Foreign Ministry, redoubt of aged dinosaurs that pretend professionalism and register cynicism. The President had yielded to the pressures of this "tradition" and that of the capital Curia in the matter of appointments. Significantly, the present Foreign Minister of the coup, López Contreras, had previously been Foreign Minister for the military dictatorships, he is the husband of an ex-Vice President of the conservative party, relative and protégé of the ex-dictator López Arellano and of the Embassy, and the present Vice-minister is the messenger of the Cardinal and of Opus Dei in the Congress.

The recovery of the Embassy in Mexico-- whose heroine was Rosalinda Bueso-- was as if you will a minor incident that, nonetheless, was linked to a break and a clarification of the Mexican position in the conflict. It was a moment in which the directive seemed to vacillate in the face of the coup propaganda that attributed to the government of President Zelaya a radical "chavismo" and there was no lack of those who thought that they could play both sides, taking advantage of an interpretation that has been called the Estrada Doctrine. Institutionality prevailed. Mexico is serious. It has signed the OAS Declaration and subscribed to that of the UN, and of the Río Group; including having participated from the first moments in the meetings of the Central American Integration System that condemned the coup.

I never expected anything but the international reaction did not surprise me. The coup in effect is an atavism that puts institutionality at risk in all Latin America and threatens its attempts to seek a more independent definition. And Barack Obama has proclaimed a multilateral international policy.

[Q] We know that you completed a doctorate in the Colegio de México, and at one point three Cabinet Ministers coincided in the DF [Mexico's capital district]: the Finance minister, the Education minister, and you, representing the portfolio of Culture, Arts, and Sports, not to mention as well President Zelaya and Foreign Minister Rodas made an official state visit; to what do you attribute the presence of the ministers of Honduras and President Zelaya in Mexico? To the presidency pro tem of the Río Group?

[A] There is an old history of geographic and cultural proximity, of shared history and diffusion. Mexico has been a refuge for all Ibero-american dissidents, but more than any, the Central American. In regard to the trip of President Zelaya, it is clear that the battle is won on two fronts, the internal and the external. It is by means of this itinerant diplomacy of the President that the external front can be assured against the conspiracy of the right that moreover now has become familiar. We have to increase the pressure to take away the social base from the coup and we have to assure the Interamerican promise to disown the whitewashing of the coup by means of an election controlled by the golpistas. Mexico is an especially key partner because of its proximity to the US, so that it was a logical first stop in the President's pilgrimage that nonetheless has its limits.

[Q] Will you carry out diplomatic and cultural negotiations from your professorship at Harvard? Are you thinking of writing in the North American press about Honduran reality?

[A] I am already doing that when I replied to your interview and this is one of my commitments here. I have promised my President that I am at his disposal for diplomatic negotiations here. I am until the end a soldier of the resistance. I will continue publishing in Honduras some texts that escape censure. And to the extent that the US press is interested, I will be disposed to take the time to meet them. But I hope to bring prestige to my government and my country by completing my obligations and respecting my commitments in teaching at Harvard, which I take equally seriously, to teach social and cultural history of Latin America to young students that soon will be cadres, and that perhaps is an indispensable labor to seek lucidity over the long term. (I thank the David Rockefeller Center for Latin America and the Departments of History and Anthropology at Harvard that have given me such a pleasant refuge and are in agreement.) I have the shield of Honduras over my desk. Honduras is always here, in my wakefulness and in my sleep. I will miss it later.

[Q] In an interview with Telesur, the art critic Helen Umaña told me: "The prospect is bleak because cultural depredation could happen inadvertently… only the intervention of institutions of international prestige such as UNESCO can contain the predatory action"; has there been any recourse for the preservation of Honduran cultural heritage?

[A] I have requested this management from the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia that miraculously has survived the coup. But more than UNESCO, I trust in the new civic consciousness of the value of patrimony, fruit as well of a lucid administration, which was, for example, what prevented the [de facto] Minister of the coup from being able to carry out her announced intention of consigning the restored Old Presidential Palace-- in which we established a Center of Investigation-- to the reservists of the Armed Forces as a barracks, in preparation for the "Venezuelan invasion".

[Q] It was overwhelming to write "Yo acuso"; the then-Senator Neruda had written a discourse with that title during the first persecution of the communists in 1947 and the person in charge of the Pisagua Concentration Camp was Pinochet; years later he acted as loyal to President Allende; you said, "I accuse Romeo Vásquez Velásquez-- who impersonated a friend of the President and a disciplined soldier until the final hours of his legitimate mandate"; is history repeating itself? Why do we not remember the names and trajectories of the golpistas of yesterday?

[A] I am a historian. History does not repeat itself. It has names of its own and precise dates, unrrepeatable. But there are sociohistorical processes that are analogues, phenomena that can be catalogued. Fascism, for example, repeats, it is an almost predictable reaction to democratic modernization in the face of crisis. And is is always paranoid and repressive. The analogy with the Pinochet coup against Allende is therefore valid. There is a series of common denominators: a president with a will to transformation, with a wide social base, a private industry disposed to support the coup to preserve its privilege, a collaborationist political class and an interposed military caste.

There is also a different element: Obama. It could be a determinant difference so that Honduras will not have to suffer so much. And another, a Honduras that continues being rural and dispersed, and a much weaker military apparatus. And a third: the history of Chile also awoke an internationalism of human rights that had no equal force in 1973. And a fourth; my President did not die in La Moneda. He travels all over the continent in a small plane that has been loaned him, raising a stir, and communicates with his people. In regard to the title of "Yo acuso", it is classic, nineteenth century. France. Balzac. Significantly, no one published "Yo acuso" in Honduras. They didn't dare.

[Q] The de facto bureaucrat that usurped the Ministry of Culture, fired Nathalie Roque, then the director of the National Newspaper Archive who denounced the past delinquency of Romeo Vásquez Velásquez and the other golpistas; is remembering history a crime? What relief will you have in your capacity as Cabinet Minister when democracy returns?

[A] That poor woman is a public calamity of the coup, a comic cause célèbre, the laughing stock of the community, for her irredentist ignorance, her administrative inability and her profound confusion. She fired all the technical cadres of the Ministry because she wanted to employ political activists from her campaign. Now the organic intellectuals of the coup itself are beginning to ask for her head. But since she has always been surrounded by delinquents she goes around trying to seek the fly in the ointment, trying to find crimes. The witch dedicated to the witchhunt. Not necessary to do anything against her. She has already done all that could be done against herself, with absolute efficiency.

[Q] In August of 2001, you analyzed: "The Honduran case, press, citizen, and power", the variables were different, above all the bad management of the economy and the "83% 'popularity' of Sr. Flores", thanks to "the full and close collaboration of the media…minimizing possible objections"; what index of popularity will the golpistas have in the press and in history? The question because El Heraldo is a coup pillar, and the Tribune is property of the same Sr. Flores…

[A] Mario, you are an enlightened interviewer. The Honduran press manipulated by the Association of Owners of Communication Media, "all five of them"*, and all or almost all golpistas, is a problem of fundamental importance for Honduras of our time and the immediate future. The coup would have been impossible without the media manipulation and is sustained in part because this manipulation continues obscuring and supplanting the national reality with propaganda. And this press is the link par excellence between the coup businessmen and the regime. As in everything, there are exceptions. Although not all his relatives, the newspaper and television owner Jaime Rosenthal rebelled against the golpistas and his son, the youth leader Yani [Rosenthal], despite the costs that it represents for his businesses because of the reprisals of the government and the other businessmen, has declared himself against the coup. Nonetheless, Carlos Flores continues in command of the illicit association of the manipulators, together with J. Canahuati, and dominate almost all the important media.

But history has never submitted to what the media of communication say. What do you think the German media said about Hitler during the Third Reich? Modern and critical history (unlike medieval chronicle) precisely is designed as a discipline to dismantle and strip propaganda. Today even the middle class that is a natural clientele of the manipulated media has started to doubt its press, because they go farm they exaggerate without modesty. The people in the street shout in the demonstrations "Out with the coup press!" and another, which I like a lot, in these multitudinous marches "We are not four, we are not one hundred, sold-out press, count us well!" I have no doubt what history is going to say about the coup. Do you?

[Q] Finally, what message would you like to send to all the poets, writers, artists, actors and intellectuals who next Sunday will perform a Concert from the resistance in Tegucigalpa?

[A] I am proud of the brotherhood and the community of the thinking men and women and creators of my country. Like others of Latin America in the recent past they have reacted with heroism, with imagination, with sensitivity and with professionalism. They go to the marches and they make art to display. It is not only this coming Sunday, but since hours after the coup, and in a continued fashion, in Honduran cities, they sing against the coup in the street, they dance and they write poetry and theater and sociological and political essays against the coup, they convey the chronicle of the infamies of the coup, they paint against the coup, on the walls and on paper. This speaks of a new and unified civic maturity of the citizenry, although always diverse, of the guilds of artists and academics. The mealy-mouthed and the traitors are so few that it isn't worth the trouble to make a list. Hopefully I can contribute something like leavening. This lucid conscience is at the base the only proof that the work of the last thirty years has not been in vain, that there is no such backlash as those others want, and the clearest signal that we are going to prevail.

*phrase reported in English

2 comments:

Doug said...

Raj-

What do you make of the comunicado put out by the congress on the 18th concerning voter participation in the November elections? Are they that worried this far out or is this just a preemptory move? 

Thanks.

RAJ said...

See my next post...