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.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Credit where credit is due

Now that the exact language of what we now know is called the Tegucigalpa/San Jose Accord has been published, the English-language commentary will no doubt center on what the US did to make this happen.

But many observers who have been following the events carefully are reaching an agreement that there are two (or three) Honduran forces that should be given the credit for a framework for resolution being reached. And since it is likely that the short-attention-span English language media will lose sight of at least two of these Honduran forces, in keeping with our mission to forcefully represent Honduran voices whenever possible, we want to pause and give credit where credit is due to the people of Honduras and in particular, the Frente de Resistencia Popular.

From the very first day of the awful disruption of civil order, the unthinkable violation of a history of struggle to achieve representative democracy and, more recently, to transform that democracy into a truly participatory one, the Honduran people have not accepted the will of a small, powerful, wealthy elite that thought it could turn back the clock thirty years or more.

The cost to the people has been enormous. We will not try to enumerate the numbers of those injured, arrested, or even the dead-- acknowledged by the international community or not. The many reports by human rights groups provide a devastating chronicle of repression and its effects.

But the Honduran people fought on. And this fight united diverse groups representing workers, farmers, indigenous people, African-descendant people, women, students, crossing class, race, age, and social status lines. It went beyond those who had supported the Liberal party in the last presidential race, and incorporated people who simply would not accept a dictatorial Honduras resurrected from the past.

By July 4, a formal Frente de Resistencia Popular had formed and issued its first call to action. The mobilization of popular resistence took place without the kind of media attention that has given hope to the popular movement in Iran; indeed, as the months have unrolled, I have been struck by a different, more grim comparison: to the resistance in Myanmar, judged by political pragmatists to be hopeless, yet continuing today in conditions of more total oppression than most of us can conceive.

The Honduran Frente and the Honduran people deserve the greatest credit for continuing and improvising ever more creative forms of protest. Whether it was the artists organizing days of art and culture in resistance, the Garifuna marching to the strains of the traditional music appreciated across the country as a form of cultural patrimony beloved at one and the same time for its specificity to the history of this African-descendant group, the under-covered work by Lenca and other indigenous actors rejecting the de facto regime, or the women who called in to the radio stations that were the sole free media to report their insurgent action of walking in their own towns and neighborhoods when the regime forbade it; the Honduran people made it impossible for the international community to accept the status quo. And they now know how to organize, and they are not satisfied with the Accord, which for them simply promises to satisfy the first demand, the restoration of the elected government.

I began this post intending solely to celebrate the people, and the Frente. But then I realized that I needed to also acknowledge the ambivalent figure, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, as well. Throughout the months, English-language media have treated him as an object of ridicule. They found his frequent extravagant pronouncements of unenforceable deadlines misguided. While reporting the US State Department's unhelpful and repeated chiding of President Zelaya for being visible and vocal, the mainstream media failed to provide any real analysis of his political position or strategy. They made it seem almost inconceivable that this person ever held office, acting as if he were not, as he is, an experienced politician who, after all, won the Honduran presidential election through strategy and the deployment of local-- that is, Honduran-- knowledge. So when Zelaya managed to make his way back to the capital city, there were few among the media who gave him any credit other than for creating yet another spectacle. The media were especially impatient with what they clearly thought was a foolish move (again echoing the US State Department), getting himself trapped without an exit in the Brazilian embassy.

And yet: clearly, by being in Honduras, in Tegucigalpa, Zelaya changed the balance of events. In retrospect, the main problem with the attempt to negotiate the San Jose Accord may have been that taking place away from Honduras impeded the kind of informal contacts that clearly helped promote an agreement. Zelaya being in Tegucigalpa also increased the media presence there, which gave public demonstrations and their repression at least a chance of being witnessed. Tactically, the decision by the de facto regime to use measures against the Brazilian embassy itself, providing media angles that otherwise would not have existed, probably worked against the regime's interests-- and would not have happened had President Zelaya not taken refuge there to give an undeniable visibility to his stubborn refusal to accept the new order of things.

So, giving credit where credit is due, while my overarching appreciation goes to the people-- and the organized Frente de Resistencia-- we also need to pause and recognize that the Honduran government in exile, not just Zelaya but also all those who lost their positions on June 28 and yet continued to work to publicize the atrocity visited on their country-- made this happen. They may not be mentioned in the acknowledgments contained in Item #11, but they deserve to be.

1 comment:

Nell said...

Did that ever need saying! Thank you.