What the Coup Left Us
The elections and the new government have resolved nothing;
they’ve only helped deepen the crisis caused by the year-old coup.
President Lobo doesn’t hold real power and while those who always have
are pushing for solutions, they don’t respond to a society shaken by the coup.
We need a debate to hammer out a new social pact
and a new Constitution that reflects it.
Does the Resistance Front have a role?
Ismael Moreno, SJ
President Porfirio Lobo Sosa’s government platform contains all the same destabilizing dynamics present in the June 28, 2009, coup d’état. Despite the government’s efforts to make it look different and Lobo’s attempt to disassociate himself from the coup, there has been only continuity.
Who holds the real power?All indications point toward greater instability. The reported plot to throw Lobo out of office, which the President himself revealed before he left for South Africa to give his support to the national team in the Soccer World Cup, was an alarming sign. More than ever before, real power has moved out of the presidential offices and it is evident that the shrunken quota left to the executive branch is insufficient to negotiate the country’s fundamental decisions. Rather than a hub, the State has become a reference point for power that’s slipped away to other settings.
In the most acute stage in the conflict in the Aguán region, it was business magnate Miguel Facussé who ordered the Police, Army, Navy and even Air Force to the area. Business representatives and peasant organizations were negotiating and Miguel Facussé wanted them to know who held the power.
Real power nowadays resides in business and political sectors and they exercise it with informal mechanisms and organizations, capitalizing the State’s formal institutionality in their favor. Today’s main political and economic decisions don’t go through political parties or business associations and even less through national government institutions. A decisive consequence of the coup was to reduce the already precarious state structure to rubble. Giving the seal of approval to the real powers behind the coup allowed them to exercise power over society with violence and death, the only convincing instruments in today’s instability.
An accident with Micheletti’s stampThe executive, legislative and judicial branches, which are said to formally make up a rule of law, are used by each power group to serve its own feudal needs, converting them into small governments with significant autonomy..
An example of this is what happened on June 5 just before 5 in the morning: a traffic accident in the city of El Progreso,
in northern Honduras’ Sula Valley, left one dead and three seriously injured. It was one of many accidents that occur due to a lack of road signs. The difference in this case was that the perpetrator of the accident was visibly very drunk, had just left an exclusive bar, was driving too fast and, even before causing the accident, had driven through two stop signs. This evidence notwithstanding, the law established that the driver hadn’t caused the accident, that the vehicle—state-owned, as it happens—was just making its rounds and that the dead and injured were victims of their own irresponsibility.
The accident went unpunished and will be forgotten. The victims’ relatives have no voice. And no one can assert a truth other than the official one because the police, elected officials and judges—i.e. the executive, legislative and judicial branches—have already pronounced their final verdict. The reason? The motorist who caused the accident was Aldo Micheletti, son of Roberto Micheletti, who still has enough power to guarantee his lifelong impunity and that of his family and close associates.
Why do they kill journalists?The explanation is similar for the killing of nine social communicators in a short period of time, which is unusual even compared to other dangerous places, such as Colombia or the Middle East.
These murders don’t have a common pattern of striking back at the anti-coup resistance movement. They are explained by the whim of diverse powers, each with the ability to make decisions with high levels of autonomy. In today’s context in Honduras, there’s no power to control these decisions made at various local levels.
Any news disseminated by any newscaster is subjected to the arbitrary scrutiny of powers that are in fact above or outside the law and formal public control yet can sanction what the media say. They are the ones that mete out justice based on might makes right. And there is no middle ground: you pay with your life. This is what is strictly called lack of governability. And there are no signs that Honduras’ small group of political and business elites are looking for a way out of this by using their traditional control of the State and the economy.
After several months of coping with this erratic course, with all these dispersed powers, and with violence the only method of resolving conflicts, the elections and the new government haven’t solved the crisis caused by the coup: They have instead only helped sink the country deeper.
What do the US and Europe The US government and those of the European Union countries have decided to cast their lot with President Lobo Sosa’s regime. “He’s all we have,” admitted one European ambassador. They are demanding assurances from President Lobo that the Truth Commission will complete its work and that there be minimum conditions for the respect of human rights. They are also demanding the return of deposed president Zelaya.
want from President Lobo?
The US government has gone even further. It is seeking to consolidate President Lobo’s regime and stabilize the political situation. It ‘s betting on a moderate transition to help consolidate its Latin American project of “authoritarian democracies” that will guarantee corporate investments and counter the bloc of countries led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
President Lobo can’t do itEven with these blank checks, President Lobo’s regime can’t respond to US and European requirements because it’s trapped in its own contradictions. His government needs international recognition and knows that the only way to get it is to comply with US and European demands, but its deep internal weakness can’t withstand the pressure from the real power sectors, the coup stalwarts who backed Lobo’s rise to the presidency.
These sectors demand that he make no concessions that would question their control over the country. While President Lobo tries to gain recognition and the US and European governments do what they can to move forward with their commitment to him, the floorboards are being sawed away every day by these few families who can’t see beyond their own gains and, despite their small mindedness, can count on the backing of the continent’s extremist Right.
Based on its current erratic course, it looks like the country has no recourse but violence. A web of violence seems to be running through the whole society, but without ties of national authority to sustain that society. Thus the social costs in death and destruction will keep growing and the consequences will be incalculable.
Trapped in a dangerous crossroadsToday’s violent events are minor compared to what could happen if the country follows the present course. All signs indicate a setback in the bipartite political model and that the country is on the threshold of a new political period. This model, supported by a small group of wealthy families, not only can’t resolve the fundamental issues of inequality and nongovernability but in the present context will further ensnare the country by producing more violence and inequity.
Honduras is trapped in the most dangerous crossroads of its modern history. The dilemma confronting Honduran society today is between nongovernability and destruction. As we’re already experiencing the consequences of this exclusionary elite model, we must opt for another path. Our historical task is to design it. We call it the “New Social Pact,” and we outlined it in a prior edition of envio.
One of its components is to build a new political and social subject that leads to and promotes participatory democracy. This subject will fight for our national endowment of natural resources and land; for human dignity that guarantees human, social, ethnic, gender and organizing rights; and to transform the legal and institutional systems, starting with a New Constituent National Assembly that represents the whole nation and drafts a Constitution that expresses this new social pact for the 21st century.
All these transformations embodying the path that will save the nation from the abyss can only be propelled by a political and social subject that in today’s context hasn’t yet reached the needed cohesion and leadership capability. This is without question one of the greatest challenges facing the diverse social sectors that reject the destructive business and political elites’ proposal. To deal with this challenge a proactive, constructive debate must begin.
The resistance front: In the present debate, the grassroots sectors that resisted the coup are faced with a National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) whose identity can still be defined by the three positions we described during the coup period before former President Mel Zelaya’s definitive exclusion from the electoral process.
The first position is that the FNRP is basically a conveyor belt for the Liberal followers of former President Mel Zelaya, who seek to convert the entire force of the resistance movement into a factor that will help them recover the Liberal Party, run a candidate and win at the ballot boxes. This way they would retake government and continue the changes left undone when the coup occurred.
The second position is that the FNRP should become a political party, distinct from the five that already exist. It would pull together all sectors opposed to the coup, including Liberal and National Party members disenchanted with their leaders. This new party would run in the next elections and win, according to their scenario.
The third position is that the FNRP become a broad-based social movement. Its political force would come from its movement identity with the ability to bring together diverse forces rather than from its party identity. Parties or national party currents could even fit into this movement but only if they were not under the control of specific individuals. The option to participate in the electoral process would be important but not the only or even most decisive one. Independent candidates or those from alliances with the Leftist parties—should any come into existence—could participate, but the broad-based political movement would not jeopardize its independence or autonomy.
The debate we needIn the present context of the oligarchy’s political and economic debacle, one of the grassroots movement’s main political worries is whether or not the capacity and the subjective conditions exist to begin an open, constructive, positive, transparent, frank and tolerant debate among the diverse sectors that make up or feel represented in the FNRP. Such a debate ought to lead it to become a national organizational body able to capitalize on the crisis and turn it into an opportunity that opens doors for a participatory democratic period in the coming decades.
The country’s grassroots sectors have their own limitations. They tend to be carried away by slogans and live trapped by unrealistic enthusiasm and continual, unceasing mobilizing actions, as if the political force would mechanically lead to magical solutions through these very slogans and actions. The convulsive post-coup events greatly accentuated these tendencies. And of course there is also the polarization and intolerance among the diverse grassroots sectors that are part of the FNRP.
To get out of the The lack of a strategic vision and the very limited tolerance and depth of analysis to adequately understand historical reality—there’s a lot of reading of old simple-minded pamphlets—have accentuated the lack of trust, put-downs and aversion to analysis and debate. The expression “golpista” (coup supporter) is used to reject any statement or position that doesn’t come from one of the slogans or that comes from the Manichean coup/Zelaya scheme. At this juncture, calm, debate, analysis, search for clarity, tolerance towards diversity and the building of political thought are critical to defining the path towards constructing true popular power that fills the void the oligarchic groups no longer successfully occupy. However, he who yells the loudest or insults “the enemies” the most believes he has more right to lead.
coup vs. Zelaya scheme
We need a new social pactConstructing this political and social subject is an essential objective given the current lack of governability. The political conditions and the correlation of forces within the power groups that have led the State and the country’s life show signs of what appears to be an irreversible collapse. Although the oligarchic sectors are trying hard to find solutions to the crisis, all their proposals are based on the logic of tinkering with the social pact from the early eighties, without recognizing that this proposal is not viable in a society convulsed by the coup.
High-level business and political leaders are trying to make changes but without changing the logic of accumulation, which generates inequalities and violence. They have neither the capacity nor the political willingness to be open to a new logic that might mean sacrificing privileges, rethinking the accumulation model, and searching, together with the rest of the citizenry, for new options for the good of all.
The objective conditions are ready for a change of course. But who will lead this new tack? Do the grassroots sectors have enough political, ideological, cultural and ethnic maturity to guide a process of “refounding,” as those within the Resistance Movement call it, or the forging of a new social pact, as we have been calling it in our analysis?
With debate and no prejudiceThere are ten suggestions that grassroots leaders and participants will have to keep seriously in mind if they take on this monumental challenge:
in Tegucigalpa and beyond
1. Get into a debate mindset, accepting that in this search no one has the whole truth and no one is completely wrong.
2. Curb the prejudices, put-downs
and name calling that have caused us irreparable damage in the history of the Left and the popular Honduran movement, leaving wounds that are still open after all these years.
3. Think national. Those living and organizing in Tegucigalpa can’t appropriate the right to run the process and make decisions in the name of the whole popular movement or resistance movement. The grassroots organizations of other areas in the country must not be absent from the capital, which is where the nerve center of politics is and where the political actions developed throughout the country are discussed and agreed upon.
4. Avoid exclusionary practices that appear vanguardist, flashy, high-handed or disparaging of certain sectors of society. Inclusion, horizontal and complementary participation help build trust and a constructive atmosphere.
5. Respect diversity. Grassroots organizations aren’t more relevant or worthy because they’re older or have offered up more martyrs to the cause. Nor should NGOs that finance gatherings or mobilizations have the right to impose their agendas. Unions aren’t the vanguard of the struggle nor can community organizations be seen only as “fill,” useful just to bring people out to street protests. Professional organizations shouldn’t be ignored because their members aren’t laborers and make better salaries. Every woman and man has something to contribute, from whatever specificity they bring to the table. All are part of the diversity of thought, age, composition, gender and culture.
6. Plurality and diversity of thought can only enrich the struggle. We can’t judge a person “pure” or revolutionary just because they repeat and follow slogans and don’t deviate from the mold or correct line that some leaders have established. No one should be excluded, belittled or denied a place for expressing dissent. Unity of thought and “pure” theoretical conceptions no longer have a place in today’s development of ideas and 21st-century culture.
7. Avoid political party interference and control, whatever its ideological orientation. Of course their leaders can participate in the debate, as long as they haven’t participated in known public acts that betrayed the country’s sovereignty, been part of the turning over of our natural resources or land to foreign businesses or participated in clear acts of corruption with public funds. We must also avoid the interference of leaders from the religious and business sectors. Again, we shouldn’t deny them participation, but include them always in the same way we include others as long as they’re not clearly connected with political party leaders responsible for the present crisis.
8. Seek support and testimonies from individuals and organizations abroad to enrich our debate, as long as they don’t try to impose or mechanically transfer their own specific process to the Honduran reality.
9. Be open to input from intellectuals. Investigative input on the economy, sociology, history, anthropology and other branches of intellectual endeavor is necessary for the struggle and for drawing up proposals. Conversely, these contributions aren’t truths or dogmas to follow. Intellectuals shouldn’t look down on the struggle and the contributions of popular leaders any more than these leaders should look down on the theoretical contributions of intellectuals. We need “organic intellectuals” as Gramsci called them in the struggles of the 20th century.
10. Contributions from young women and men are essential. In all fields, today’s leaders should become “bridges” to youth with new ideas and new leadership. It is a revolutionary factor to help the political and social subject be led by a new generation committed to transforming or “refounding” Honduras.
A revolution is exactly what we need today, when the small group of elites that brought about the coup is losing its ability to maintain its “pact” to lead from above and only for those above in this post-coup era.
Ismael Moreno is the envio correspondent in Honduras.