Saturday 1 January 2000

Honduras: Deal signed for Zelaya’s return, but struggle continue

by Stuart Munckton Green Left Weekly, Australia After more than 120 days of mass resistance by the poor majority against a coup regime that overthrew elected President Manuel Zelaya [pictured right], the regime has finally signed an agreement for Zelaya’s reinstatement. On October 30, Zelaya and the coup regime signed an agreement opening the way for the elected president to take office once more. However, the key demand of the mass resistance for a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution is excluded by the deal until Zelaya leaves office in late January. The National Resistance Front against the Coup (FNRG) is pledging to continue its campaign of protests around this demand and it is unclear whether it will continue with a planned boycott of the November 29 elections. Only one month away, preparations and campaigning for these presidential and Congressional elections have occurred in the context of brutal repression and the silencing of anti-coup media. This makes a free and fair vote almost certainly impossible. Although the victory is only partial and involves significant compromises, it is an example of people’s power forcing its will on one of the most extreme right-wing oligarchies in the region. Mass resistance has stopped plans to consolidate a savage dictatorship that gives free reign to the rich. The agreement still needs to be ratified by the Congress. Zelaya and his supporters appear confident this will happen, although nothing can be guaranteed. Already, aides to coup regime leader Roberto Micheletti have said Congress may not vote until after the November 19 poll and cast doubt on whether Congress would vote for Zelaya’s return. The regime can be expected to drag its feet on implementing the agreement for as long as possible — and continue using repression against Zelaya supporters. The ongoing street protests, road blockades, occupations and strikes led by the FNRG since the military kidnapped and exiled Zelaya on June 28 have brought the country, and its fragile economy, to a standstill. The poor view Zelaya as “their” president for introducing some pro-people reforms and trying to organise a democratic process to create a new constitution. The Honduran oligarchy and US corporate interests hate Zelaya for the same reason. Zelaya had also sided with the anti-imperialist alliance led by the revolutionary governments of Venezuela and Cuba, joining the solidarity-based Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) trading bloc. The inability of the coup regime to crush the resistance and stabilise the country appears to have led to US pressure on the regime to accept a negotiated solution as the only way out of the crisis. The mass resistance was able to prevent the regime consolidating, but its inability to overthrow the dictatorship was in no small part due to the refusal of the US government to cut all aid and military ties. The regime was otherwise totally isolated internationally. The agreement signed reflects the relationship of forces. It represents significant compromises by both sides, neither of which was able to decisively defeat the other. By signing the agreement, the regime is forced to acknowledge Zelaya’s removal was not constitutionally valid, as it claimed, but a coup. It held off on agreeing to Zelaya’s return until the very last minute. The agreement also commits Zelaya to form a government of “national reconciliation” involving the coup plotters. It remains unclear what the make-up of such a government will be, and how much power will rest with Zelaya. The agreement also places a referendum on a constituent assembly off the table until Zelaya leaves office. The agreement also leaves open the question of bringing those responsible for crimes during the coup to justice. Thousands of people have been illegally detained by the coup regime, and dozens have been disappeared or killed. The FNRG said death squads linked to the regime are targeting coup opponents. The agreement specifically does not grant amnesty for crimes committed. However, it only promises to establish a “truth commission”. Now that an agreement has been reached, the Honduran elite are hoping to ease the nation’s international isolation by having the November 29 poll recognised as legitimate. Given the conditions under which it has been prepared, the poll is likely to be a victory for right-wing forces. However, regardless of the poll outcome, Honduras is a different country from that before the coup. A powerful mass movement with deep roots among the oppressed has been built. This movement has given no indication it intends to stop. On October 30, the FNRG released a statement declaring: “We celebrate the upcoming restoration of President Manuel Zelaya Rosales as a popular victory over the narrow interests of the coup oligarchy. “This victory has been obtained through four months of struggle and sacrifice by the people who, in spite of the savage repression unleashed by the repressive forces of the state in the hands of the dominant class, have been able to resist and grow in their levels of consciousness and organisation and turn themselves into an irrepressible social force.” It said the agreement represents “the explicit acceptance that in Honduras there was a coup d’etat that should be dismantled ... to guarantee a democratic framework in which the people can exercise their right to transform society”. Pledging to continue the push for a constituent assembly, it said: “We will continue struggling in the streets, until we achieve the re-founding of our society to convert it into one that is just, egalitarian and truly democratic.”

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