September 23, 2009

The battle over Honduras, with Obama, as usual, talking left and dancing to the music of the right

Manual Zelaya, the president of Honduras, deposed by a military coup with the blessing of the Honduras oligarchy and its rotten supreme court, is back in the country, having snicked into the Brazilian Embassy after a trek through the mountains. Zelaya started his political career is a kind of Ross Perot, but that is now water under the bridge as he has become the symbol of popular sovereignty and rejection of the oligarchic rule of Honduras. Obama could learn from Zelaya what it means to stand tall.

But taller still stand the people of Honduras:

As all this goes on, the Honduran National Front Against the Coup is consolidating the movement for a return to constitutional order and a constitutional assembly. It decided to boycott the elections and candidates are being met by angry demonstrations throughout the country.

Through a combination of spontaneous local organizing and an explicit decision from the Front, organizing efforts have spread from the capital city of Tegucigalpa into the departments. A rotating national committee with regional representatives was formed. On the Atlantic coast, the city of La Ceiba has been particularly active. Groups have formed to defend teachers arrested for suspending classes two days a week to participate in the resistance in La Ceiba, El Paraiso and other parts of the country. New women's organizations have also formed to join the resistance to the coup in western Honduras, and poor neighborhoods in Tegucigalpa have created their own organizations to coordinate community actions.

The National Agrarian Institute has been in the hands of anti-coup organizations since June 28 and demonstrations have paralyzed other government institutions for periods of time since the coup. A lively debate exists on how to step up the pressure through these actions while maintaining the commitment to non-violence and avoiding situations that could lead to violent repression and conflict. The defense of human rights is an on-going pillar of the movement, as demonstrators face increasing repression and arbitrary arrests. (Laura Carlsen, HufPo)

The coup government is responding to the escalating resistance with escalating brutality. The Brazilian Embassy is under siege, a curfew has been imposed and the army attacked the people gathered to welcome the President, apparently killing two protesters and wounding scores. Reports of brutality abound. Brazil moved for an emergency meeting of the security council, upstaging Obama's first address to the UN. Latin America is firmly united against the coup, and most of world agrees. Mo country has recognized the coup. (I have mistakenly claimed that Israel alone so far recognized the coup government. While common interests suggest that there are some ties between the golpistas and Israel, e.g. their lead lobbyist in Washington is also the lawyer of the Israel Project, there seem to be no basis for the claim of official recognition.)

But there is one country that has gone out of its way to help the coup leaders last so long. That is the government of the U.S. Officially, aid was cut and support for the restoration of Zelaya expressed. The White house did not recognize the coup and threatens not to recognize the elections. Yet although Zelaya visited Washington six times, Obama has never given him a meeting. The State Department has yet to condemn the massive repression unleashed against the people, and the numerous human right abuses, including the killing of non-violent protesters. Instead, Hillary Clinton repeatedly called for "calm," effectively asking the protesters to stop protesting and thus let the coup stand. More importantly, although the flow of US funds to Honduras have been squeezed, it has not stopped. As Bill Conroy writes,
...since the earliest days of the coup regime in Honduras, the U.S. has done little more than repackage and rebroadcast the same aid cuts to appease the media and to complement its rhetorical position of being against the coup. But behind the scenes, the economic effect of the aid cuts has been little more than symbolic posturing. (Narconews)
Moreover, the IMF and the IDB, institutions that do Washington bidding, approved loans to Honduras both in preparation for the coup and immediately after it, giving the golpistas a lifeline without which they could have survived so far.

The Obama administration is talking through both sides of its mouth. There is much to rejoice here. The very fact that the White House does not support the coup and is slowly ratcheting up the pressure in response to international pressure is an example of how far the U.S empire has fallen in terms of hegemonic power. As part of the necessary repackaging of the U.S. as a smiling and avuncular Uncle Sam, the kind of uncle that you might call occasionally to baby sit your kids (and not fear them drowned in the bathtub), Obama is forced to follow rather than lead the governments of Latin America. Yet the administration is doing its bit to buy the Honduras oligarchy the time needed to defeat the popular revolt and maintain its power. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to work.

Now, if you read the Washington Post, you know that the reason why Obama cannot stand for what is right in Honduras the way he has been pushing Netanyahu hard on freezing settlements is the powerful Honduras Lobby. No, wait, I made this up.

But with the teachers on strike, protests continuing without respite, the National Front boycotting the elections, the people radicalized and learning to rise up and isolation deepening, there is a chance that the Honduras oligarchy will be the next domino to fall. (as always, there is also chance for counter-revolution and betrayal. )

Here is an interesting item and interview. The the first minutes can be sent to your representative so they have an idea what political courage means. (There are a few troubling statements by the interviewed journalist, note e.g. 5:02 on the timeline, about which it would be useful to know more, but might be another example, as was the case with the riots in Iran, how ethnic tensions will continue to be used to divide and defeat solidarity.)



Here some more interesting reporting from the latest events:


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