Since Honduran coup leaders ousted President Manuel Zelaya on June 28th at least six people have been killed and serious human rights violations against people opposing the de facto regime have been documented. (1) Vice President Alfredo LÃ³pez of the National Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) says threats against their members have increased during this period as a result of their participation in the National Front Against the Coup.
But, despite the repression, he believes that the last six weeks have also been invaluable for social organizing in the Central American country which served as staging.
Marches have been occurring daily in the city of Tegucigalpa since the de facto regime seized power. On Tuesday, numbers are anticipated to swell as marches from all over the country converge for a national day of action in the capital and the industrial city of San Pedro Sula. In Tegucigalpa, groups from the north, south, west and centre of Honduras will enter the city early morning after setting out on foot from their home areas on August 5th for a joint demonstration.
As LÃ³pez and I wait for the 44th march of the National Front Against the Coup to begin on Monday, we talk in the shade of a tree in the courtyard of the National Pedagogical University while a group of drummers from the OFRANEH delegation keep a steady beat behind us. LÃ³pez tells me that his organization represents 46 GarÃfuna communities living along Honduras’ northern Caribbean coast.
In recent years, his organization has been struggling against a mega-tourism project funded by the Inter-American Development Bank and backed by the powerful elite in Honduras together with private international interests. It is already displacing communities allegedly without proper compensation or consultation. As a result of their fight, the GarÃfuna have suffered ongoing human rights violations including killings, threats and efforts to divide their communities. They have presented several cases to the Inter American Human Rights Commission.(2)
LÃ³pez is concerned that these processes could be suspended while constitutional order is abandoned in Honduras and the country is politically isolated by the UN, OAS, and countries worldwide denouncing the overthrow. He adds that they have had to set aside important work in their communities in order to fight for Zelaya’s return as part of the National Front.
But he does not regret it.
â€œPerhaps, we wouldn’t have woken up from this lethargy in which we’ve always lived,â€ he says. Daily meetings and marches have brought diverse labour, arts, feminist, youth, indigenous, black and campesino organizations together in an unprecedented way, considers Lopez. And he believes the momentum will carry on well past the hoped for return of Zelaya.
An OAS delegation was anticipated to arrive on Tuesday and would have coincided with the day of national mobilization. They were expected to urge coup leaders to accept the agreement negotiated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. The San JosÃ© Accord would return President Manuel Zelaya to power, albeit with serious limitations that include setting aside the proposed discussion about a national constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution for the 18th time which sparked the coup. However, de facto leader Roberto Micheletti initially rejected the delegation and then announced Sunday that the OAS delegation could come if Secretary General JosÃ© Miguel Insulza acts only as an observer, claiming that he is impartial as a result of his role in suspending Honduras from the multilateral organization. As of late Monday, a new date for the visit had not been set.
The anti-coup resistance has been fighting for an unconditional return of the ousted leader and has criticized the talks in Costa Rica. But if Micheletti accepted the San JosÃ© Accord, they would consider Zelaya’s return a preliminary victory. JosÃ© Ã³
Someone calls through a loud speaker asking the thousands gathered to begin lining up for the march. It will weave through the streets of Tegucigalpa under a hot August sun for half the day and stop at the United Nations Office and conclude in the city centre near the Mayor’s Office. This daily process of meeting and marching, believes LÃ³pez, is what is preparing them for the next struggle to rewrite Honduras’ constitution that he hopes would recognize collective rights and open the door to a series of changes.
We don’t want a congress that makes decisions on our behalf without consulting us. We don’t want a Supreme Court that sells justice by the pound or by the kilo. We don’t want the jails to continue to be full of just poor people. We want the radio-electric frequency to be in the hands of rich and poor; that there be a legal regime for commercial radio and television and also for communities. We want a more equitable justice system,â€ he says and adds, â€œWe don’t want the riches that the rich have. They will still be rich, but they need to share power.â€
– Jennifer Moore is a Canadian independent journalist reporting from Honduras for ALAI/FEDAEPS.
1.â€International Observation Mission for the Human Rights Situation in Honduras: Preliminary Reportâ€ (english) http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/2040/68/
2. For further reading see www.rightsaction.org