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una farsa, una pantomima

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
una farsa, una pantomima

Yesterday, when my plane landed in Tegucigalpa, the announcement telling us to keep our seat belts on until the plane had stopped moving was concluded with, “welcome to Honduras: a country of peace and democracy.” Several people laughed derisively. A day later, I can certainly see why.

The city is simmering; every wall, fence, building, statue, errant piece of siding, abandoned machine, and even the ground we walk on is covered in graffiti. The debates and discussions are playing out before our very eyes, in a quick taxi ride across the city.





This morning, university students at Universidad Nacionale Autonoma de Honduras (UNAH) occupied the campus, blocked the gates and forced all classes to be cancelled – a daring statement against the placement of a polling station in the farce at their gates. The scene was peaceful by mid-afternoon, but the students were told that if they tried to stop the election station from going up, the military would be called in. A student at one of the gates made it clear that they were not going anywhere.

Last night, one of their companeros was ‘disappeared,’ last seen leaving a rally at about 8:00 pm. His situation is not unique. We spoke with Bertha Oliva, founder and director of the Committee of the Families of the Disappeared and Detained in Honduras (COFADEH) whose rundown of the daily atrocities in golpista Honduras was devastating. Three people, two of them children, were detained last night in a raid on a warehouse where Resistance organizers were storing water and other materials for the marches. Yesterday, the body of a retired teacher who was kidnapped by police a day earlier, was found in the very neighbourhood where armed forces Gen. Romeo Vasquez Velasquez lives. The man had been receiving death threats for his involvement in the Resistance and his assassination sends a clear message to the many other Resistance leaders who receive daily threats on their lives.

Any notion that there is rule of law (outside of martial law) in Honduras has long been put to rest. When Maritza Arita Herrera, a judge in Tegucigalpa, ruled in favour of three students who were being tried for ‘crimes’ connected to the Resistance, she was relieved of her post and publicly shamed – all of the major media outlets blasted her for supporting “terrorists.” She was put on forced vacation and eventually moved from criminal to civil court, despite having a perfect record as a judge – never a single appeal on her record. This afternoon, her husband was relieved on his post too. Jari Dixon Herrera was a public prosecutor in Tugicigalpa for over a decade, and there were no controversies around his work in the courts. He told me today that he was fired for his participation in the Resistance marches. “I never missed a day in court, but still made time to join the red marches. For that, I was relieved on my duties.”

He, too, has been the subject of much ridicule in the Honduran press. I met Felix Molina this morning, a veteran journalist in Honduras who has worked with many of the local radio stations including Radio Progreso and Radio Globo – two of the few stations that can be counted on to provide legitimate news since the coup (when they haven’t been shut down by the state.) Molina explains why most of the media in Tegucigalpa is so powerfully pro-coup: it is almost entirely owned by five families, all of whom are part of the oligarchy that the coup represents.

The story they tell is one that is repeated ad nauseam, especially in North America. That Zelaya was breaking the constitution, that what happened on June 28th was not a coup, that the resistance is a small group of terrorists linked to Zelaya and that the elections are the solution to the political crisis. But the alternative media has been giving a voice to the people who do not buy this story – which Molina estimates as nearly 70% of the population. “As a journalist for over 20 years in this country, I will stand by the number 70% - that is how many people are against the coup, even after all of the lies.”

But the cost of giving the people a voice has been high. Radio Progreso and Radio Globo have both been shut down completely for 30-day periods. When not shut down, they face constant harassment; equipment is stolen or sabotaged, directors are threatened, signals are interfered with, legal cases are brought against them, advertisers from the oligarchy pull out their ads, and so on. Canal 36, the only TV station brave enough to speak out against the coup, was closed down for good the other day, after their signal was hijacked and used to transmit porn films. Radio Globo has been threatened that it will be cut off permanently if it is caught “inspiring hatred, affecting Honduran democracy or sympathizing with Zelaya.”

In this context, it is hard to take seriously the idea that the event on Sunday can be called a legitimate election. The golpistas are declaring “una fiesta democratica.” Felix Molina tells us that, in the streets, it is called “una farsa, una pantomima.” That may be true, but what is not a pantomime is the violence that is being perpetrated - and the even-greater violence that is being threatened. COFADEH reports that tanks are being amassed in the north of the country to mobilize for Sunday’s events. The regime has killed 30 people already and terrorized countless others. More tanks is the last thing this fiesta needs.

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