Masses resist Honduran coup

By LeiLani Dowell

NYC FIST

After a week of showing solidarity with the people of Honduras on the streets and gaining insightful information on what has transpired during the 105 days since a right-wing coup, the 12 people composing the U.S. Delegation in Solidarity with the Honduran Resistance returned to the U.S. in the wee hours of Oct. 12.

Delegation members met with members of various sectors—teachers, youth and students, women, human rights organizations, churches, artists and more—that have come together in a united front against the coup and for constitutional reform. Representatives expressed pride and determination to continue in the struggle, while also acknowledging that the situation is grave.

Honduras continues to be in a dangerous crisis—one fueled by the repressive tactics of the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti, which has used U.S. arms to attack the daily protests that occur throughout the country. The resistance movement there is powerful and organized; at the same time, it faces an increasingly desperate regime that has experienced international condemnation. The life of the legitimate president, Manuel Zelaya, is at high risk.

The situation demands the attention and solidarity of activists around the world. The following are excerpts from daily reports to the delegation’s blog (hondurasdelegation.wordpress.com).

DAY ONE

The U.S. Delegation in Solidarity with the Honduran Resistance had a very successful first day in Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ capital, culminating in a confrontation with the police and military at the Brazilian embassy. Our spirits are high from our ability to solidarize ourselves with the Honduran people.

Tegucigalpa is one of the many areas where a large resistance movement is fighting back against an illegal, right-wing, de facto government that installed itself after kidnapping democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya on June 28.

Today, 12 activists from the U.S.—including teachers, youth, women, labor delegates, community leaders, Honduran immigrants and religious figures—were warmly greeted by members of the National Resistance Front against the Coup at the airport in Tegucigalpa.

We met with a representative of Cofadeh, an organization formed to support families of the disappeared in the 1980s. Cofadeh has recently been working to bring justice against the atrocities being committed by Micheletti’s regime.

We went to the Brazilian embassy, where President Zelaya has been in refuge since he returned to Honduras on Sept. 21. The area was surrounded by police; we were told that it would be impossible to get inside the embassy to meet with him.

A delegation from the Organization of American States had also arrived today, and the police and military forces had been scaled back in order to put a good face on the regime, which has been repressing the people. However, at the hotel, a member of the resistance received a call that heavy repression was going on at the Brazilian embassy; we were advised not to go there.

We learned that Micheletti had supposedly lifted a ban on individual liberties that he had imposed the week before. However, when we asked the police why we were not allowed to exercise our civil liberties, the police laughed and told us that they didn’t recognize the lifting of the ban.

Holding our banner, which reads, “U.S. Delegation in Solidarity with the Honduran Resistance—No to the Coup!” we formed a line in front of the police, facing off with them. When they pushed us almost into the street, we turned our backs to them and faced the passing traffic, generating massive honking, thumbs up and fists in the air by drivers passing by. Delegation members were interviewed by the press, and we got out our message of solidarity and demands for respect of Honduran self-determination.

Our delegation was joined by a truck and car caravan of resistance fighters, including a large number of women with two self-identified resistance fighters, young women aged 8 and 16. Flags waved from the backs of trucks and militant chants could be heard everywhere.

Members of the resistance saw our banner and came over to offer heartfelt thanks. The police faced off with us for hours. Many protesters believed that if a U.S. delegation had not been there, another round of repression would have ensued—attacks with tear gas, beatings and more. In fact, as the crowd was dispersing a truck arrived filled with members of the army; they began to surround protesters, wielding huge batons.

There will be protests all week. The OAS delegation is supposed to be here for another day; many are wondering whether the repression will increase once they have left.

DAY TWO

Urgent: We just heard there is an emergency occurring at the Brazilian embassy. Tonight two scaffolds were erected with additional police and army snipers. The repressive forces have set up speakers and are sending out commands and terrifying the people. The National Resistance Front has sent out an emergency e-mail notice.

• • •

Early on day two, we traveled to the bottlers’ union’s offices; it has become somewhat of a resistance movement headquarters. This morning, members of the many varied yet unified sectors of the resistance—Indigenous, campesinos (farmers), labor unions, women, religious figures, artists, writers, doctors, engineers, youth and more—were meeting to be debriefed about the political situation and to plan next steps.

The level of organization was impressive and exciting. Reports were given on negotiations with the Organization of American States, where the resistance movement has a seat at the table; on widespread state-inflicted injuries around the country; and other pertinent information.

Today’s protest was a march from the pedagogical university to the Clarion Hotel, where the OAS delegation was staying. The situation quickly became tense, with trucks of heavily armed, face-masked police and army forces arriving to surround protesters. We attended the march and carried our banner, which identified us as being from the U.S. Protestors stopped and clapped for us as we arrived; one woman directed members of the press to us.

Once again, we saw women on the frontlines of the struggle; one diminutive but clearly fierce woman was introduced to us as “la abuela de la resistencia”—the grandmother of the resistance.

With the presence of international media, a U.S. delegation, and the OAS representatives, the government’s armed forces once again held off from attacking the crowd. However, whether or not the attacks occur, it is clear that the resistance has no intention of backing off. One main chant is “Nos tienen miedos porque no tenemos miedos” (They fear us because we are not afraid).

We returned to the bottlers’ union for a meeting with anti-coup religious leaders. The large churches, and particularly the Catholic church, have been supportive of the illegal Micheletti regime. But smaller churches have taken up the mantle of liberation theology and dedicated themselves, as one sister said, not just to theory, but to practice—in the streets with the people.

We met with Carlos H. Reyes, who was an independent presidential candidate before the coup d’état. He explained the nuances of the street struggle to us—how the struggle is increasingly a struggle between the classes and how the masses are rapidly becoming politicized in the midst of this situation.

We have decided that tomorrow we will visit the U.S. embassy, even though they dodged our calls all day.

The resistance here is amazing, and inspiring, and most of all, unstoppable.

DAY THREE

We met today with students and youth and the international committee of the National Resistance Front. We also met with a Los Angeles delegation, and discussed coordinating future efforts. Some in our delegation got into the U.S. embassy and met with a representative to present our evidence and demands.

The police and military have resumed their repressive tactics against protesters. People who demonstrated today showed us the injuries they had sustained at the hands of these forces. One man had a large bruise across his upper arm, where he had been hit with a baton. Another had a large rash from an allergic reaction to the gas. One protester had collected dozens of tear gas canisters and rubber bullets in just one day.

We learned that there was a kidnapping attempt on a leader of one of the student organizations today. A friend helped her escape, but the student leader’s hand was fractured in the process.

Members of our delegation spoke by phone to Xiomara Zelaya, spouse of President Manuel Zelaya, who is also seeking refuge at the Brazilian embassy.

Things remain tense; however, the movement remains strong, organized and dedicated. As the repression intensifies, it seems that the movement becomes more sophisticated and organized. Students and workers are talking about how to take the struggle forward. Everybody talks about how class consciousness has been raised since the day Zelaya was kidnapped—a qualitative shift in the minds of the people.

Something big is happening in Honduras.

DAY FOUR

Tonight, our last night in Honduras, as a World Cup qualifying game is taking place here between Honduras and the U.S., another alert has been raised. We’ve received reports that more scaffolding has been put up around the embassy tonight, with more snipers.

Today’s news reports another Micheletti regime decree stating, “The frequencies of radio or television stations may be canceled if they transmit messages that incite national hate and the destruction of public property.” It allows officials to monitor and control broadcasts that “attack national security.” (Associated Press, Oct. 10)

The two main resistance stations, Canal 36 and Radio Globo, were shut down by the Micheletti regime when President Zelaya returned to the country; this new decree is yet another attempt to silence the resistance movement.

We had a number of inspiring meetings today: with feminists and other women in the resistance movement; with young students at a school for revolutionary theory; and with Juan Barahona, the National Resistance Front representative at the OAS negotiations.

The day’s highlight was the protest we attended in one of the barrios just outside of Tegucigalpa. The protest was smaller than those in Tegucigalpa but no less militant. The police showed up in massive numbers, with their large shields, gas masks and batons. However, the ultimate form of defiance to the police occurred when the music was cranked up, and people sang, laughed and danced in the streets.

When we gave our hugs goodbye, it was with love and sadness that we had to leave our new comrades in the struggle.

It’s clear that the resistance movement is highly organized, politically nuanced and united. The struggle in Honduras is for more than the restitution of President Zelaya; it’s for a new society, one that provides for all and not just the few.

While nobody predicted which way the struggle will go, the feeling of confidence that they would succeed was overwhelming. In a situation that many described as a laboratory, a practice ground for the U.S. and the corporations to commit coups against other left-leaning Latin America governments, the price of failure is far too great.

The Honduran people need and deserve the support of people in the U.S. and around the world.

¡Viva la resistencia hondureña!

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