José Steinsleger, La Jornada
During the 2005 presidential elections, in plain daylight, the candidate Porfirio Lobo (National Party, conservative, government official) visited Washington’s ambassador in Honduras and proposed that the vote counting be monitored.
“I acted with restraint. There was a proven tendency toward a winner,” commented Charles Ford. Head bowed, the president of the National Congress left the embassy, accepting the facts: the liberal Manuel Zelaya, rancher and director of a private bank, would be the new leader of the poorest country on the continent after Haiti. A national liberal, “corrupt politicians,” … who cares?
Landmarks of the Honduran 20th century: in 1924 a United Fruit soldier, Vicente Tosta, was proclaimed provisional president aboard the U.S. warship Milwaukee; in 1944, a tyrant, Tiburcio Carías Andino, was proclaimed the “only candidate of the illustrious patriot” Franklin D. Roosevelt, and to make a long story short, in the 1980’s, politicians and military officers turned Honduras into a huge base of military aggression against the people of El Salvador and the Nicaraguan Sandinistas.
Then came the turn of the century, and things continued on as before. Although not exactly as before: 80 percent poverty, the “successes” of semi-slavery in the U.S. maquiladoras, record numbers of child sexual exploitation, and execution at close range of children and teenagers criminalized as “gang members”. Just between 1998 and 2005, the Casa Alianza de Tegucigalpa counted at least 2,720 murders of young Hondurans, between 12 and 22 years old.
At the same time, the Honduran people began to organize: marches and huge demonstrations against unemployment and miserable pay, tax protests against institutional corruption and a combative solidarity of the people, towns and lost communities who closed ranks with the Cuban doctors being harassed by the “professional schools.” Lobo, Zelaya. Branches of the same tree. For the election, Lobo hired Mark Klugmann (ex-advisor to the Republican president Ronald Reagan) and Zelaya signed up with Ted Devine, strategist for John Kerry’s campaign. Honduran businessmen remained calm. Filing its nails, “democracy” breathed a sigh of relief: what a great free trade treaty we’ve got with the United States!
And suddenly…the commander ordered…no, wait, no commanders. “Throughout the top and to the right,” Zelaya began to distance himself from the beautiful people. And he made the great mistake of asking himself why, if in the tourism brochures, Honduras is compared to Switzerland, the per capita income of a Honduran is $2,793 a year while for a Swiss it is $53,352.
Zelaya reached the obvious conclusion: seven million Swiss, seven million Hondurans. Honduras isn’t Switzerland. What if we were to make a socially integrated republic, in tune with the great Latin American integration projects underway?
Later, the president committed various acts of “high treason:” he traveled to Cuba, met with Fidel, and said “I come from the homeland of Francisco de Morazán.” He traveled to Venezuela, met with Chavez, and said: “I come from the birthplace of the Bolivarian constitutionalist José Cecilio del Valle.” For the umpteenth time, a speech that didn’t fit with the leftist manual: “I’m liberal, but socialist…”
The Honduran oligarchy and petty bourgeoisie could smell through this discourse alone, that it was heading down a one-way street. Zelaya quickened the pace: Honduras entered the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), signed oil contracts with Venezuela, faced down the entire party machine, raised the minimum wage, and deepened his alliance with popular sectors. In all, he did everything that Washington, Madrid and the hallowed Vargas Llosa and his type can’t stand.
Less than a month ago, at the historic meeting of foreign ministers at the OAS (in San Pedro Sula), the Honduran president said what no leader may say under the Empire’s nose: “We must not leave this meeting without repairing the infamy [committed] against a people.” (He was speaking of Cuba, naturally.)
The beginning of the end. At 6 p.m. on Friday, June 15th, in the Satélite neighborhood on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, the windshield of the car carrying Zelaya was shattered by gunfire. And yesterday, in the early morning, Zelaya was toppled by a coup d’etat. Just one day earlier, the genius who heads the OAS said to the Mexican newspaper Reforma, “Despite what may be seen (sic), today we have institutions. And although they are very fragile in places, a retreat of any kind is unthinkable.”
Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, translator and reviser are cited. This article is also available at Tlaxcala.