This man is the last true democratically elected president Honduras has had. Five years ago, he was deposed in a violent military putsch, backed to the hilt by Washington. Manuel Zelaya was sent into exile, very much against his will, and even more so against the will of the Honduran people. Ever since then, there’s been a campaign to silence all critics of the US-imposed puppet régimes (there have been three so far) in the wake of the coup. Sham elections have not been enough to buy off the populace, and criticism has been growing. This year, things came to a head when child refugees from Central America, thousands of them, began arriving at the border with Mexico, unaccompanied by adults, but often in possession of their birth certificates and other documents identifying them and their countries of origin. Honduras is heavily represented among those lands, and if you wonder why, let the last real president of the land explain it all to you:
A short time after the fifth anniversary of the coup d’état that brought down his government, former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya spoke with Miradas al Sur about the current situation in Honduras and Latin America.
Manuel Zelaya only began to be affectionately called “Mel” by large parts of the population of Honduras in the second half of his mandate as president there. Until then, and for a good part of the peoples of Latin America, he had only been the progressive face of the Honduran Liberal Party, one of the traditional axes of power in the Central American country. But as of 2008, his way of wielding power began to turn toward the creation of a state closer to the humble folk, and more disposed toward solidarity with the popular sectors not only of his own land, but of all the Caribbean. Zelaya put conservative noses out of joint, and even those of his own comrades, upon confirming the leftward turn of his government, with a 60% minimum wage increase and an explicit turn toward 20th-century socialism. That same year, and hand in hand with Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, Honduras formally entered into Petrocaribe and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). “Petrocaribe is a commercial alliance. ALBA is an alliance of Latin American integration. I entered into both. Those countries who want to establish another system for a world which is still possible, must join ALBA. Not just Petrocaribe. That is more for business dealings,” Zelaya explained.
But while a good part of Latin America and the Caribbean was drawing closer to “Mel”, there were some in Honduras and the United States who grieved for politicians like Zelaya, and even more for those who preceded him. So it was that on June 28, 2009, the armed forces, backed by the supreme court of the nation, carried out a coup d’état which did away with the progressive profile of Honduras. “The result of the coup was that the security apparatus or the economic apparatus or the economic system began to be 99% directed by policies designed in Washington,” said the former president. “And, lamentably, they are policies of the most reactionary right-wing elements in the United States, very sectarian groups of the far right. After the coup, narcotrafficking and crime increased. The exploitation of the transnational mining firms is deepening, the privatization of all public services such as roadways, ports, telecommunications. They’ve even privatized things that belong to civil society and the state, such as collecting customs duties. And one of the most classic forms that the North American right has for controlling our countries is militarism. Now, here, soldiers have been substituted for the police. They’re substituting for the powers of the state in all matters and have given them extraordinary powers, as if we were living in a de facto dictatorial state. The separation of powers disappeared. There’s just one power of state, which the president wields over the military. If we review all the indicators of the land, we will find that everything has deteriorated from the coup to the present. The internal and external debt has quintupled. In five years, they’ve managed to indebt the country like it was in the 1960s, and it’s the largest debt in our history. The murder rate has converted us into the most violent country on the planet. We were a small and peaceful country. We are the poorest society in Latin America. We have always been at some level of poverty, but never like it is now. The president of Honduras is not Juan Orlando Hernández; he was imposed by way of a fraud. The presidnet of Honduras is named John Kerry, and his policies are those of the United States.”
Following his removal from office, and after several months in exile, Zelaya joined the National Front of Popular Resistance, which became the party of Freedom and Refoundation (LIBRE), over which he presides today. In November of 2013, LIBRE participated in the presidential elections with Xiomara Castro, Zelaya’s wife, as candidate, reaching second place and breaking up the historic bipartisanism of the National Party and the Liberals.
A few weeks ago, Zelaya himself denounced that he had been repressed, along with all his party, at the doors of the National Congress.
“That incident is just one more proof of the militarization of the land, and its absorption in neoliberal politics,” Zelaya pointed out. And with respect to this point, he emphasized that “we have to get back to calling it neoliberalism. Because neoliberalism in itself was the monetary and fiscal control of a society, but now it has advanced in military politics, in looting and exploitation, in diseases, epidemics, pestilence, death. Now it’s a neoliberalism of disaster which is being applied here. We were expelled from the congress at bayonet-point, and with tear gas, because one of the characteristics of the governments of force is that they don’t accept the opposition. For them, the opposition has to disappear, and for that reason, they have to limit our access to the media. There is an exaggerated media blockade today in Honduras. We have no option to defend ourselves practically in any media outlet. Everything is against us. But we ourselves have grown stronger. We are much stronger than before, especially because the popular consciousness has grown in recognizing what affects us. We understand that the United States won’t go away; what we need is to have honest, respectful relations with them. Which is what we don’t have right now, because those currently governing [in Honduras] are those who duck their heads and bow down to serve Washington’s orders.”
In effect, as well as having an enormous weight in Honduran internal politics, the United STates are now the centre of a very deep international debate which affects Central American societies. In the last months, the phenomenon of child migration toward the northern country has taken on a worrisome importance, to the point where the affected countries are trying to begin joint actions to deal with it. In June alone, it is estimated that 2,000 Salvadoran, Honduran and Mexican children crossed the border into the United States every week.
“The problem is that the great powers were born of migration, but don’t want to recognize the migrants of the 20th and 21st centuries,” said Zelaya. “They are products of migration, but they close themselves off in an anti-historical nationalism because emigrating is a right, not a crime. We all have that right because we were born in a world which is shared among all, in one human race. Those who managed to get to those nations are telling them to take their children. And now they’re hunting those children without pity. Now the powers are on display before the world. Because first they deny their parents the right to be legalized, and now they’re persecuting the children. Just as at the time when Jesus was born, they’re ordering them to kill all the children who were born then so that no messiah can emerge. Worse than the persecutions of the holocaust. They’re persecuting children, torturing them, denying them the right to reunite with their families. This is not a humanitarian crisis, it’s a humanitarian crime of the neoliberal model against the poor of Latin America and Africa.”
I have to admit that Mel Zelaya didn’t really appear on my radar until he joined the ALBA, which is the late Chavecito’s baby and which has been going from strength to strength even now, after his death. At first Mel seemed like just another too-conservative-for-my-liking leader, but when he began to demonstrate that his heart was in the right place and his feet were headed in a good direction, I was sold. Not only was Mel the last real president of Honduras, he was also unequivocally the best. Under him, the socioeconomic profile of that poor little country was beginning to rise. Poor people were getting access to social services that had been denied them before: doctors, schools, hospitals. Literacy was going up; poverty rates were beginning to fall. And all that, which should have been terrific news, was greeted by Washington in the kind of doomsday-prophet tones you’d expect in the advent of a Category 5 hurricane about to make landfall along the eastern seaboard.
Which, of course, the ALBA was. A hurricane of promise, hope and rapid improvement. A hurricane of mutual aid and regional autonomy. Countries that used to rely abjectly on foreign “aid” from the US and elsewhere began to stand up on their own feet, and walk unassisted. That was bad news for those who used to turn obscene profits from the poverty and dependency of those little Latin American lands. They were used to taking advantage of those poor, ill-educated, highly dependent folks — as cheap labor, cannon fodder for proxy wars, and houseboys to the empire. The fact that those same people were now becoming aware that they could be so much more than that did not sit well with Washington. Hence, the coup.
It gives me no satisfaction to see blowback arriving in the form it has taken. Child refugees are the most helpless and vulnerable of them all. Along the way, who knows how many have been robbed, raped, beaten and killed? The ones we hear about arriving in Texas and Arizona are the lucky ones, the ones that made it through in one piece.
Honduras is embroiled in a civil war, although the US media won’t report that. And the death squads that we thought had died out with the evil 1980s? They’re back with a vengeance. That’s why so many desperate Central American parents are sending their kids to the country which, in a massive and humorless irony, is the author of their misfortunes.
When will it all end? When democracy is restored in Honduras, of course. But for that to happen, first the sham “democracy” installed by Washington must be trashed and kicked to the curb. The last real president of the land has not finished his mandate, and the three impostors who were tapped to “replace” him know this full well.
So do the people of Honduras, and they are absolutely furious that their will has been trampled under the boots of a fascism that everyone except the “freedom-loving”, “democratic” country behind it is willing to call by its right name. Little wonder that they are willing to give up even their own children to place the problem back at the door of its source!