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honduras - where are the people?

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
the morning after sham elections, a taxi drives proudly shows me that he did not vote
the morning after sham elections, a taxi drives proudly shows me that he did not vote
later in the afternoon, the Resistencia drove a caravan of over 300 cars, trucks and vans through the streets of Tegucigalpa - as we passed, people showed us their un-inked fingers, a sign that they hadn't voted
later in the afternoon, the Resistencia drove a caravan of over 300 cars, trucks and vans through the streets of Tegucigalpa - as we passed, people showed us their un-inked fingers, a sign that they hadn't voted

It is perhaps fitting that my time in Honduras should end right where it began – facing a lineup of police in riot gear in front of the Brazilian embassy where the elected President of the country remains in exile. There is much that can be said about what Honduras was like under Zelaya – it certainly was no paradise for the millions of people who struggle to survive from day to day – but it was not a police state.

Honduras today is like an Orwellian nightmare. A façade of calm as soldiers patrol the streets with automatic weapons; a theatrical production of democracy in a state that no longer has a functioning code of law; a discourse of peace that so completely fails to convince, it almost seems like it is intended to mock its victims. Indeed, one placard yesterday read, “2 + 2 = 5? Do not insult us, golpistas.”

And Canada is already falling all over itself to recognize the ‘elections’ as fair, free and legitimate.

No doubt the United States will follow suit – it appears the North American strategy on Honduras is to have Canada jump in first and take whatever heat comes from it. We don’t care, evidently, that our already souring international reputation (as a result of the occupation of Afghanistan, our participation in the 2004 coup in Haiti, the brutality of our mining operations in Central America, etc) will be even further damaged by playing along with a lie that is painfully obvious to most of Latin America. Then when the road has been cleared, Prince Obama will give his blessing and everyone will go home and forget that any of this ever happened.

But Hondurans cannot go home – their home has been stolen. In a literal sense, their homes are not safe. Police raids on private residences are a daily occurrence; warrants rarely provided or obviously faked, protocols on human rights of people who have been proven guilty of nothing patently and brutally ignored, people involved in the peaceful resistance targeted and terrorized ruthlessly. It is the heliotype of a totalitarian state, everything we are led to believe our governments oppose and, indeed, everything we are said to be fighting against in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And in the larger sense, the country they call home has been taken from them. Even according to the official numbers, barely 10% of Hondurans voted for Porfirio Lobo (Pepe Robo - Pepe the Robber - as the walls call him) on Sunday. There are nearly 8 million Hondurans, and only 1.7 million voted. By a manipulation of how many people are considered ‘eligible’ to vote, the golpistas have claimed that there was a 60% turnout (Fox News in the United States, in a comical display of disregard for anything resembling truth, is reporting 70%. Not even the golpistas in Honduras have claimed anything so stupid.) Pepe is to be sworn into ‘office’ on January 27th, but even the notion that he is being sworn into something is absurd – the coup on June 28th marked the end of constitutional order and rule of law in this country.

But no matter how the golpistas and their North American allies spin this, Nov. 29th was a small victory for the Resistencia, in that the massive rejection of the election spoke eloquently to the support behind the movement. I was back in the capital on Nov. 30th, and I attended an assembly at the STIBYS union hall in Tegucigalpa, where members of the Frente gave a press conference responding to the pantomime elections, followed by a massive rally and a caravan through the city. After five months of almost-daily protest, people still found the energy to take to the streets; thousands of Hondurans cheering, singing, waving flags, honking horns and - in what may yet become the most poignant symbol of the movement – waving their un-inked pinky fingers high to show that they had not voted.

Manuel Zelaya spoke to the assembly as Juan Barona held a microphone up to his cell phone. But Zelaya is overshadowed by what he represents. Zelaya, himself a junior member of the oligarchy gone rogue, is only a figure who has opened the floodgates of popular resistance in Honduras. “Where are the people?” asks Rafeal Alegria. “The people are in the streets, demanding their freedom!” comes the reply. When it comes from thousands of enthusiastic people, in a crowded union hall, in direct defiance of the state, the sound is truly electrifying.

As we paraded through the streets of Tegucigalpa, it became clear that this was not, as the coup regime keeps saying, a movement of a few thousand Melistas. In nieghbourhood after neighbourhood, people streamed into the streets to greet the caravan, cheering and waving their un-inked fingers. Riding on the back of a falling apart pickup truck through the barrios and colinias, I felt like I was bringing home the Stanley Cup. In a way, I was; riding shotgun in our truck was Bertha Oliva, the founder and director of COFADEH, a human rights group that has been at the center of the struggle against oppression for the last 27 years.

When we finally arrive at our destination, the Brazilian embassy, the police line has already formed. Over the next couple of hours, thousands of Hondurans filled the spaces between the banks and the Burger King, while more and more police and soldiers arrive on the scene. The protest is peaceful, as usual. The police didn’t fire tear gas at this gathering, the way they did in San Pedro Sula the day before, but they made a point of loading up the cannons and aiming them at the crowd. Even with my ‘international observer’ badge displayed prominently, I found my video camera staring into the barrel of a water cannon that had been adjusted to set its sight on me, and felt my heart start racing at the idea that they might actually fire. And that was only a water cannon.

I didn’t get hammered with water, no one was hurt, the protest was slowly disbanded on its own initiative. But the scene was both intimidating and inspiring, and it made me wonder what would have happened if there hadn’t been such a huge presence of international press, with cameras and notebooks at the ready. That presence is leaving, to most people, the story is over. I worry about what will happen now, when the world turns its back on Honduras and the golpistas are given a free hand to terrorize their opponents – the people – as they see fit.

“We will keep fighting for the constituyente,” announces Carlos H. Reyes, an independent candidate who has withdrawn from the elections in protest weeks earlier. “People keep saying the election in the solution to our crisis, that there is no alternative to move forward in Honduras. Of course there is an alternative, there has always been an alternative. We want the constituyente, like we’ve been saying for years. We want to write our own laws. We don’t want the golpe laws, we don’t want Facusse’s laws, we want the people’s laws.” The crowd erupts, un-inked fingers point to the sky, a ‘no vote’ chant builds up, and a small man in a crisp white shirt idles up beside me. “I’m Donzalo Rosales, I teach at the autonomous university. I see you are taking notes, so you must be a writer. I’m a writer too. Someday, I will write a book about our struggle, you see, it is not over. You see that, don’t you? I think you see that. This is only the beginning. I will write the book and it will have a great ending, where the people will finally have the power in our state. I hope you will read it when it is finished.”


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About the poster

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Tyler Shipley (Tyler Shipley)
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Member since November 2009

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Comments

Deception

Barack Obama - more of the same - unfortunatelly.

Book

I hope the book that Carlos reyes is going to write is about how Honduras didn't ended like Venezuela

This whole post is completely off base

You must have been wearing Marxist-colored eyeglasses.

The majority of Hondurans don't think like the small minority you associated with.

I should know, I lived there for 10 years, and have contact with a broad base of people there.

90% of the "abuses" and oppression reported amongst the "resistance" is exaggeration, rumor or outright lies.

Of course, there is division in the country, and as the "resistance" burns tires, breaks windows, trashes vehicles, throws rocks, and sprays graffiti everywhere, and block roads, the authorities have to do something. They responded with a lot of restraint in the first few months, but as time went on, they used more force because the vocal minority was trying to shut down life for the majority. Of course there were injuries, arrests, and even a few deaths in the skirmishes (only 3 or 4 that can be confirmed by reputable sources, and even most of those it is not clear who is responsible).

You will hear plenty of lies and propaganda, rumors and exaggerations from the likes of Radio Globo, which seems to be living in a parallel universe. Along with this blog entry as well.

The whole brouhaha and claims of victimhood supporting Zelaya is being whipped up by the far Left and neo-Marxist groups associated with the Foro de Sao Paulo. This is a group of Communist parties, narco groups like the FARC, and the more moderate (by comparison) but still far left groups and individuals that came together after the fall of the Berlin Wall, to devise a new strategy forward. They chose to reject the most extreme forms of Communism, but instead to adopt a more moderate image, using democracy to come into power, but once in power, subverting all institutions and thus undermining democracy from within.

Hondurans saw this happening with Zelaya, who had allied himself closely with Chavez and other Foro de Sao Paulo members and was making moves to remove a perfectly good Constitution with vague claims that it was oppressive to the people, and other such demagogery that these groups use to dupe the people. Hondurans have a strict Constitution, and fortunately, some strong institutions, which fortunately stopped this before it could happen.

They made mistakes, and the situation is messy, but it is the least of two evils. Had Zelaya had his way, no elections would have occurred, and he would still be in power. I have video proof (it is on YouTube) of Zelaya specifically talking about removing the term limits, so don't try to deny it. Under the Honduras Constitution, proposing that carries a consequence of immediate loss of position and even of citizenship.

Really?

 Jeez dude, you actually believe this garbage you are writing? The TSE is estimating 62% turned out using the exact same counting method they used four years ago to determine that only 55% turned out to vote for Zelaya. More than half of the Honduran population is under age and that 8 million you are claiming is an overly generous estimation of the population.

And his supporters don't number in the thousands anymore, try more like three hundred. Get a life and stop trying to spread lies about Honduras. All the opinion polls are at least 80% in favor of dumping Mel and so was the vote tonight.  Get over it.  Head back to Canada and work on making it more socialist and leave the work of building a strong democracy to people with balls.

15-0

15-0 Supreme court removes Zelaya as he attempts to viloate the constitution

14-1 Supreme court ratifies decision above

63% of the population voted (2.8 million).. Zelaya is clearly not the leader he claims to be

111-14 Honduran congress rejects Zelaya a second time around...

Hondurans do not want him
A proud, democratic honduran

The Vote

I live in Honduras and you don't seem to have ever been there.  When you say there are nearly 8 million people you forget to mention who and where these people are.  Of the 7.5 million people 3.25 million are children, look at the demographics, that leaves 3.25 million over 18.   Of those eligible to vote over 1 million live in other countries, the US, Spain, Canada, Mexico.  That would leave 2.25 million voters in the country.  This is just one of the ways that you have misrepresented the facts to spew your own brand of socialist dictators on these poor people.  I doubt if you care, you, Hugo, Fidel, Daniel and Mel.....

A bill of goods

Obama was nothing more than a package to win back the hearts and minds of the people. But it is what's always been, business as usual!

Unfortunate reporting

Official statistics don't show a 10% voting rate, it shows a 60% voting rate and this is where world news organs are getting their information.

If you are so concerned about the laws of Honduras why place a double standard when it comes to the actions of the former President who undermined the constitution? Zelaya was subject to the laws of the land like any other president. The constitutional institutions of the Honduran government, who have competency in such matters, found that Zelaya was actively undermining the constitution and thus the remedies laid out in the constitution applied, removal. 

The constitutional crisis was initiated by Zelaya. He undermined the electoral council by using his mobs to illegally take possession of the ballots. Presumebly, pro-Zelaya mobs were to govern the process of the illegal referendum. Furthermore, Zelaya was withholding the budget of the upcoming election which he was constitutionally obligated to disperse. 

The crisis began with Zelaya's reckless actions and will likely end with his lawful imprisonment after a fair trial before the Supreme Court of that country. T

How to lie with numbers...

Do you see what I see? In the photo, half of the people showing their un-inked fingers are clearly children. What is the minimum age to vote in Honduras?

Interesting

Interesting that my postings here recieve such vitriol from English-speakers in Honduras.  It is certainly the case that North Americans who own and operate businesses in Honduras have been vocally in favour of the coup - it is, after all, very clearly in their interests.  I've responded to much of this stuff elsewhere, but let me give a few quick clarifications on the points that still need them.

The sixth respondant is correct to note that not all 8 million people in Honduras are eligable to vote.  I was very clear in my article that it was precisely the grey area of eligibility that the coup leaders were manipulating in order to claim higher turnout than there actually was.  To be more specific: 1.7 million people voted (not 2.8 million, as the fifth respondant claimed.)  Of those, only 1.2 million actually voted for a candidate (nearly 50,000 spoiled or blanked their ballots.)  This information comes directly from the official TSE itself: http://200.107.126.222/  So - *even according to the official organ of the de facto Honduran government* - only 56% of eligible voters actually voted for a candidate.  

Now, let's more closely examine the TSE's numbers.  There are nearly 8 million Hondurans.  Of those, approxiamately 4 million were considered eligiable to vote in 2005.  This year, there were 4.6 registered voters.  (http://www.webcitation.org/5ljJF8PhO)  So, let's all pull out our calculators together and see what happens when you divide 1.7 into 4.6... looks like 36% to me.  If we take the number of people who actually voted for a candidate, (ie. remove those who spoiled their ballots) the number drops to 26%.

This is all assuming that there was no fraud committed by the TSE or the coup regime to inflate the numbers of voters.

Hopefully that provides some clarity on the numbers.  As for the fifth respondant's appeal to the decision of the Supreme Court, this shouldn't come as any surprise - the Supreme Court are political appointees of the very same oligarchs who engineered and carried out the coup.  Of course they don't support Zelaya.

I think I've already demonstrated that the numbers thrown out by the fourth respondant are not accurate.  I'll have to wait and see if you can provide any evidence linking 'strength of democracy' to 'size of balls'... until you do, I'll assume that you were just trying to assert your masculinity.  We're all duly impressed.

The third respondant suggests that "90% of the 'abuses" are lies and exaggeration.  I wonder if you have any evidence whatsoever to back up that claim?  I would encourage the fifth respondant to visit the websites of CODEH, COFADEH and FIAN, three human rights organizations in Honduras that have been doing the documentation work on these cases.  You will find that they are very thorough in their documentation.  If Spanish is not your language of choice, you may be surprised to note that even groups like Amnesty International have been on the ground in Honduras documenting the killings, beatings, rapes and kidnappings that have become increasingly common.  Denying that these things are happening (or casting doubt on the organizations reporting them) does not seem like a very effective argument.  I spent many hours talking with people about their own experiences - two people who has just been released by the police, who showed me their bruises and cuts.  They were not charged with anything.  Unless you think they gave themselves those cuts, or that I am fabricating this entire story, I don't think your line of argument works here.

As for Zelaya extending term limits, this video you describe sounds fascinating, please share it with us.  It is entirely possible that Manuel Zelaya thought that extension of term limits was a good idea.  Unfortunately for him, it would not have made one whit of difference what he thought, because the constituent assembly could not even have been struck until his term was over.  The constitution could not have been changed until well into the term of the next President.  This is all fairly elementary and if you are as familiar with the situation in Honduras as you claim, then you should understand that the fourth ballot system for constitutional change would have made Zelaya's ambitions (if he had them) impossible.

The second respondant must have been in such a rush to tell me off that s/he didn't get a chance to properly read the article.  Carlos H. Reyes has no plans (that I am aware of) to write a book.

I'm flattered that my writing is generating such concern amongst the landed elite in Honduras.  My solidarity lies not with the Canadians or Americans operating businesses on Roatan Island, but with the millions of Hondurans who have been struggling for decades to change a profoundly unequal society and whose aspirations were dramatically and brutally stopped in their tracks on June 28th. 

 

 

Children in Photo

The ninth respondant has put his/her eagle eyes to the case and accurately observed that there were children in one of the photos I posted.  Thankfully, this wasn't the only photo I took in Honduras.  I'll be posting a complete photo blog shortly, which may even have pictures of adults with un-inked fingers!

Petition

There is a petition going around calling for non-recognition of the Honduran 'elections' on Nov. 29th.  It has about 250 names so far and is still growing - please consider signing it:  www.petitiononline.com/helect

 

quick math check

Hey Tyler, thanks for your thoughtful responses.

You say:

To be more specific: 1.7 million people voted (not 2.8 million, as the fifth respondant claimed.)  Of those, only 1.2 million actually voted for a candidate (nearly 50,000 spoiled or blanked their ballots.)

Those numbers don't add up. Were there 0.5 million people who spoiled their ballots (500,000) or was it 0.05 (50,000)?

 

the numbers

Thanks Dawn - you're right, my 1.2 million figure was incorrect, because I was counting it as if 500,000 had spoiled ballots when the number was closer to 50,000.

By way of update, the TSE is continuously changing the figures on its website - so that even today when I went to double-check, they had changed the numbers again.  At this point, they are claiming aroud 140,000 spoiled ballots out of around 2 million votes (http://200.107.126.222/escrutinio/pais.php).  If that is true, participation (including spoiled ballots) would be about 40%.  However, we now have reason to believe that any information coming from the TSE could be suspect.

In this video, Jesse Freeston demonstrates the extent to which all of the TSE results are potentially misleading or even completely false and fraudulent.

Thank you Tyler

Thanks again for your continued great reporting on this issue Tyler. I'll be checking in frequently to see how things are developing in Honduras.

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