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Honduras: everything is fine, haven't you heard?

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
military watch us from the rooftops of the TSE building as human rights groups arrive to denounce the elections as an illegal sham
military watch us from the rooftops of the TSE building as human rights groups arrive to denounce the elections as an illegal sham

It was a relatively quiet day in Tegucigalpa. Terror will do that.

Oh, there were people in the streets – protestors filled the square in front of the Congreso, for the 103rd consecutive day. Organizers in the Frente Popular de Resistencia met to determine what they would do about the pending pantomime elections. Leaders of the five main human rights groups in Honduras delivered an official denunciation of the coup elections to the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE). The Movimiento de Mujares Visitacion Padilla, a feminist organization associated with the Resistance, amassed a crowd of many dozens of courageous women to demonstrate outside a police station where one of their leaders had been detained overnight.

Merlin Equiqure, one of the founders of a feminist movement that has been on the front lines of the coup resistance in spite of a powerfully patriarchal social structure, remains under arrest tonight without the possibility of bail - why? Because she was caught with a can of spray paint. The paint was used – as photo evidence has clearly demonstrated – to decorate placards and props for a piece of street theatre the group put together for the international day against violence against women. Her organization, in collaboration with the growing feminist movement in Honduras, has been tirelessly denouncing the fact that women have been particularly victimized under the coup regime – a pamphlet from a related organization wrote, “we are victims of sexual abuse, they beat our breasts, hips, buttocks and vulva; they put batons in our crotch, they threaten us with rape and other types of sexual aggression in a clear demonstration of contempt of this society towards the body and the integrity of women.” Merlin’s group, named after a famous woman who struggled for women’s rights in the 1920s, is made up of over 6000 predominantly young women – some of the women I spoke to this morning were teenagers - demonstrating courage I could never dream of exhibiting myself. In a piece of tragic absurdity that brought me to tears, one of their community leaders is now facing a trumped up prison sentence where she will likely face the very same sexualized violence that she has been so tirelessly fought to expose and denounce.

But women’s bodies are not only being used by the golpistas as objects for desecration and humiliation in prison cells; they are simultaneously being used to woo the smug gringos who have breezed into town to ‘supervise’ the farce elections this weekend. A cocktail party was held this evening at the Mayan Hotel for the representatives of NDI and IRI (elections-observation organizations linked to the Democratic and Republican parties in the US, respectively) and other observers cobbled together from the far-reaches of the Latin American Right (including Armando Calderon Sol, former president of El Salvador.) As they toasted to the great strides that Honduras was making towards a stronger democratic republic, they were entertained by 14- and 15-year old Mayan girls, dancing in sexualized traditional dresses, much to the delight of the overwhelmingly male ‘champions of democracy.’

I suppose it is possible that the American elections observers believe that this farce is a legitimate election. If the individual I spoke to two days ago was any indication, they clearly have very little knowledge of Honduran history; normally, at this point in an election campaign, there truly would be a ‘fiesta.’ Supporters of the two primary parties would be waving red or blue flags, encouraging people to support their candidate, and arguing in taxis over who was best suited to run the country. This year, the flag vendors walking from car-to-car are ignored. This afternoon, Pepe Lobo, the election frontrunner, held a rally in the Colonia Kennedy and paid people 200 lempiras each to attend. Even with the financial incentive, it was a feeble rally. Perhaps it is because, as a taxi driver explained to me this morning, “in July, they were paying people 500 lempiras to attend the white marches. Then they dropped it to 300 and now it is 200. I can make more driving my taxi.”

In front of the Congreso, the daily protests continue but they, too, are smaller than usual. For a movement that once pulled hundreds of thousands of people to its demonstrations - the protests in Tegucigalpa were the largest sustained demonstrations Central America has ever seen - the fact that only a few hundred are still in front of Micheletti’s new office is a sign that the repression is working. If our daily conversations in taxis and stores and street corners are any indication, there are very few people who support the coup outside of those closely connected to the oligarchy, but this is a resistance that is exhausted and unnerved. Leaders keep getting detained or disappeared. Military watch our every move from rooftops. Rumours of tanks mobilizing for the weekend charade are convincing the peaceful and unarmed resistance that the massive marches of the past months may not be viable in this moment.

On a personal note, I find myself increasingly conscious of a certain inevitability about the way things will play out here, in the short term. Barring some unanticipated violent insurrection, Sunday’s pantomime will likely play itself out quietly – the Frente has strongly encouraged people to stay home and stay safe - and one of the oligarchs will be crowned President, albeit with a very low voter turnout. While it is obvious to most people here that the elections are a mockery of democracy and that Honduras has essentially become a dictatorship, it is equally obvious that the United States will recognize the results of this sham as legitimate. On that note, it is truly impossible to adequately describe the level of disrespect and derision with which the NDI and IRI ‘elections observers’ have shown to the people of Honduras.

A small but illustrative example: I stood this afternoon with some of those gringo observers in suits as they walked with their military escort into the TSE building, laughing in mockery at the gathering of the five most prominent human rights organizations in Honduras, whose meeting with TSE officials was delayed by 3 hours in order to accommodate the schedules of the U.S. observers. The observers refused to give interviews, laughed about the value of local money (“how many of these damn things do I need to get a decent cup of coffee”) and ridiculed the Resistance for not understanding that “no matter how it plays on TV, sometimes the bad guy really is the bad guy.”

They were referring, of course, to Manuel Zelaya, holed up in the Brazilian embassy. The fact that they focus the Resistance on him is proof-positive of their profound misunderstanding of the situation. Zelaya is but a figurehead – one who was generally viewed with suspicion and doubt in his three and a half years in office before the coup – for a movement that has its roots in trade unions, women’s organizations, student activism, human rights advocacy, campesino groups, indigenous struggles and countless other grassroots social movements that have been built up over many decades and have come together in the wake of this assault on their already-flawed democratic system.

What neither the arrogant gringos nor the foolish golpistas recognize is that nothing is fine in Honduras. No matter how emphatically Barack Obama can say ‘yes,’ Hondurans have already said ‘no.’ No to sham elections. No to violence against women. No to police and military repression. No to unrelenting poverty. No to North American imperialism and local comprador oligarchs. No to an unfair and easily manipulated constitution. No a la reforma – si a la revolucion. I came to Honduras to experience what seemed like the climax of a story – I have discovered that it is only the beginning of what will likely be a long and hard struggle for true justice, peace and democracy.


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1302 words

Comments

Ignorants

learn  about the last 5 elections in Honduras before looking like cretins.

You're wrong

I've lived in Honduras, know Hondurans, and care about Hondurans. You do them no favors with this article. You oversimplify the situation there. You portray Zelaya supporters as good and Micheletti supporters as evil. You say feminists support Zelaya and that Micheletti supporters hate women. You imply  that Micheletti supporters do not care about human rights and that Zelaya supporters do. You imply that Americans do not care about democracy. These positions are too extreme. I support women's rights; I value human rights; and I want democracy to succeed everywhere. But I disagree with your assessment that these elections are a sham. The candidates on the ballot were elected by democratic election well before Zelaya was removed from office. This election represents the best option for Hondurans to move past this crisis. It is arrogant of you to assume that you speak for all Hondurans when you say they all reject the legitimacy of this election. Hondurans can speak for themselves. They will be voting in large numbers tonight. You should respect their decision. 

 

You're wrong

 I've lived in Honduras, know Hondurans, and care about Hondurans. You do them no favors with this article. You oversimplify the situation there. You portray Zelaya supporters as good and Micheletti supporters as evil. You say feminists support Zelaya and that Micheletti supporters hate women. You imply  that Micheletti supporters do not care about human rights and that Zelaya supporters do. You imply that Americans do not care about democracy. These positions are too extreme. I support women's rights; I value human rights; and I want democracy to succeed everywhere. But I disagree with your assessment that these elections are a sham. The candidates on the ballot were elected by democratic election well before Zelaya was removed from office. This election represents the best option for Hondurans to move past this crisis. It is arrogant of you to assume that you speak for all Hondurans when you say they all reject the legitimacy of this election. Hondurans can speak for themselves. They will be voting in large numbers tonight. You should respect their decision. 

Canadian in Honduras...

Tyler, you have it all wrong. EVERYTHING IS MORE THAN  FINE here in Honduras!!

I am writing this after the polls have closed on election day, and after Honduras has just experienced the highest voter turnout in their democratic history.

I live here. Your facts are wrong about what the people here want. Look at the votes. It is simple. It's real. The people chose democracy today. They have overwhelmingly choose the blue/nationalist party in most municipalities and for most members of Congress, and most importantly, for President of this proud country.

The nationalist party (PN) is what we would call the Conservative Party in Canada. They voted "right'...and not "left-left". The 2nd place party was the red party/liberals.. The other parties, were far behind, and I will remind you again of the record-setting voter turnout, in case you want to spin more crap.

Your leftist, socialist attitude is exactly what woke up the people in Honduras who support democracy. Zelaya is and was the culprit. The congress agreed with the supreme court, and removed him before he could break any more laws against the constitution.

I agree that there were those that supported Zelaya...but never NEVER  more than a few thousand, and most of those were the teacher unions forced to march and strike, and only in the capital city of Tegus.. The people who supported democracy had far larger rallys. Please report the facts.

I am so happy for Hondurans today. I have lived here for 6 years, and I have never been so proud of how they stood together to say "No" to a Chavez-style future.

Your words make me wonder why you don't move to Venezuela and preach your "No a la reforma – si a la revolucion.", because I'll tell you my friend, socialist "democracies" do not work. The people in Venezuela will rise up against Chavez now that they have seen Hondurans speak up....

So for our sakes, ....move there....please...and you can tell us how it turns out.

VIVA  Honduras. VIVA Democracy. VIVA Elections!

Murray
Roatan, Honduras

Great report thank you!

Thanks for telling it like it is Tyler and the Torronto Media Co-op. Commenters like "Canadian in Honduras" and "You're wrong"  are either pushing an Agenda as is blatantly obvious with the former or willfully ignorant as appears to be the case of the latter.

 

I've bookmarked your site and wish you the very best with your media project. 

 

 

 

Hello Murray, I see you are

Hello Murray,

I see you are writing from Roatan, the small island in the north where many foreigners own resort hotels.  I hope business is going well. 

I think you are very much mistaken about democracy in Honduras - I have met many people in the past days and heard from many more who have described in detail the repression they have faced.  I have written about it in more detail elsewhere.

As for the number, last night the TSE held a press conference and announced that 1.7 million people voted.  There are, as you know, between 7 and 8 million Hondurans.  So, how the papers are reporting a 60% turnout it is a mystery that only the pro-coup press, owned by about five families from the oligarchy can explain.  I know that people in Jutiapa, Danli pleaded with me yesterday to tell the world the true story in Honduras.  They are not Chavistas or thugs, they are families who are afraid for their lives.

I have learned very much about the last 5 elections in Honduras.  I know that voter absenteeism has grown exponentionally since the first elections under this constitution in 1982.  The first year, only 12% of the population abstained.  In 2005, 54% abstained.  And this year, in the context of the coup, it appears that nearly 70% abstained.

I also had the opportunity to visit dozens of polling stations and take pictures.  They were heavily militarized - at one polling station in the south, a soldier watched us from the roof with an M-16 pointed in our direction as we approached.  I find it hard to believe that anyone in their right mind (or anyone who has ever had a machine gun pointed at them) would call this democracy.  This was not isolated - human rights groups like COFADEH, CODEH, and FIAN, as well as international organizations, were spread out across the country taking pictures and assessing the situation.  Everyone reported the same things: heavily militarized polling stations and very few people.

Normally, at election time, there is a fiesta, people line the streets with red or blue banners and flags, honking their horns and cheering on their candidate.  Yesterday, there was very little of that.  People who haved lived through many Honduran elections said that there was "less than 1% of what normally happens on this day... it is usually like the world cup."

So, Murray, I know that business owners (especially foreigners) up in Roatan and the Bay Islands have been very vocal in their opposition to Zelaya and their support for the coup.  Given that context, I suspect you probably haven't been subject to the same violence and repression that people in the rest of the country have.  I can only hope that you will read beyond the narrow writing in the three oligarch-owned newspapers and perhaps visit the COFADEH website for more information about what has been happening here, in a country you claim to call home.

Sincerely,

Tyler Shipley

sincerely wrong.....

Tyler you know what you want to know. Not only am I honduran but also have been closer to the political life of the country since it returned to democracy in the early eighties. I know many of the participants in the honduran political circus by name including the former President who was removed from power in a legal maneouver that might raise eyebrows but it was legal and quite frankly he is the only one to blame for this situation as he exceeded the boundaries of his authority and overestimated the support of the people for his agenda and him personally.

The problems in Honduras trascend political ideology. They are rooted in the image of the caudillo and to be frank the acceptance of corruption as a means to an end. People wait their turn to work for the government so that they can profit from the lowest echelons of bureaucracy by charging fees to "tramitadores" who can expedite the processing of papework and documents to customs agents, policemen, to the top minister no matter what party or political ideology they used to reach the pinnacle of power in Honduras' politics. To believe that union or the other social leaders are truly concerned for the welfare of the people is naive as they are equally corrupt. Just consider that most of Mel's inner circle is made out of dedicated leftists and they managed to become the most corrupt government to date and if we consider the previous governments well, that is not an easy feat to achieve. I know personally many of those leftists whom reaching power with former President Reina became nouveau rich. Get it? They are all crooks. Each election cycle becomes more about whose turn is to rape the country than anything else but many of us believe that as long as there is the option to vote in open elections there is hope that someday this country will wake up and elect a worthy leader.

The elections were not perfect but the people came out in larger numbers than the election in which Mel won the Presidency with fraud, as he admitted on television. Lobo is not someone I believe to be a solution but he did receive more votes than any candidate at least since the corrupt and yet popular callejas. The so-called resistencia were largely bestowed on mel as he paid them out, not the people but its leaders. They are a minority in a country in which "jodidos pero contentos" seems to be a rule of life.

Repression? What repression? To keep law and order so that these people don't continue destroying property? Looting stores? If that is repression then by all means let's demand repression.

You err in judging Honduras through your eyes as there are many things that would be unacceptable in developed nations and yet are acceptable in Honduras.

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