Honduran coup regime holds sham election

Roberto Micheletti, nominal head of the Honduran military-backed coup regime that overthrew the country’s elected president, Manual Zelaya, in June, has instructed the public prosecutor and the Supreme Court to apply the law “ruthlessly” against anyone publicly advocating a boycott of the regime’s November 29 sham presidential election.

Micheletti’s threat was aimed at the daily protests that have occurred since the June 28 military coup. A wall in the capital Tegucigalpa has been grafittied with the slogan “I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees”. Since President Zelaya was able to return to the country on September 21, crowds have remained outside the Brazilian Embassy, where Zelaya is being protected. The National Front of Resistance against the Coup has united a large number of organisations. Tens of thousands of people have regularly rallied to protest against the military regime, defying ongoing persecution.

Left turn

Zelaya was elected president of Honduras in January 2006 for a four-year term. Representing the Liberal Party, he moved steadily closer to the revolutionary socialist governments of Latin America. Zelaya regularly met with the socialist president of revolutionary Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and condemned US interventionist policies in Latin America. Within Honduras, he attempted to implement social and economic reforms that aided the poor. In August 2006, Honduras joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), which was initiated by Cuba and Venezuela in December 2004. “This is a heroic act of independence”, Zelaya said at the time, “and we need no one’s permission to sign this commitment. Today we are taking a step towards becoming a government of the centre-left, and if anyone dislikes this, well just remove the word ‘centre’ and keep the second one.”

Although Zelaya attempted to find a negotiated settlement to the political crisis after his return to Honduras in September, the coup regime ignored its international isolation and refused to abide by the October 30 accord that would have reinstated Zelaya as president. On November 3, Bertha Oliva from Honduran Human Rights Monitor told the internet-based news service Realnews: “The coup regime has worked hard to manipulate the situation so as to remain in power for as long as possible … The situation in Honduras is worse than ever. It’s worse because now the dictatorship has positioned themselves so that they have absolute control over everything.”

The accord called for the creation of a government of national reconciliation that included cabinet members from both sides; suspension of any possible vote on holding a Constitutional Assembly until after January 27, when Zelaya’s term ends; rejection of a general amnesty for political crimes; command of the military being placed under the Electoral Tribunal during the month prior to the elections; restitution of Zelaya to the presidency following a non-binding opinion from the Supreme Court and approval of Congress; creation of a verification commission to follow up on the accords, consisting of two members of the Organisation of American States and one member each of the constitutional government and the coup regime; creation of a truth commission to begin work in 2010; and the revoking of international sanctions against Honduras. However, within hours it was clear that the coup regime and Congress had no intention of abiding by the agreement. As soon as the agreement became public, the Congress, which was to debate and vote on the agreement, announced that it was in recess until the November 29 election.

US complicity

While formally condemning the coup, the US government has sought to achieve its aims. In a statement issued on November 9, the National Front of Resistance against the Coup declared: “We condemn the attitude of complicity of the US government, which has manoeuvred to delay the crisis and now shows its true intention to validate the coup regime and ensure that the next administration is amenable to the interests of transnational corporations and regional control. We therefore consider correct the decision of President Manuel Zelaya to declare the Tegucigalpa Agreement a failure.”

In a November 1 article on the Upside Down World news website, Joseph Shansky observed that, “On June 28, the day that Zelaya was forcibly removed from power and ejected from the country, Hondurans were scheduled to vote on a non-binding referendum for a Constituent Assembly. The outcome was to determine whether or not to have a later vote to rewrite the outdated 1982 Constitution, which caused much debate on the coup in the first place. Subsequent polls have indicated a majority of Hondurans support this reform. In the big picture, this is the real change for the future which thousands of Hondurans have been fighting for in the streets. “Now, what the accords actually do most is create a space for the United States to recognize the legitimacy of the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for November 29. With National Party front-runner Pepe Lobo likely to win (thanks to a campaign season in which any independent voices were sharply silenced by media censorship), the US also likely secures another puppet in the region who will be opposed to the progressive social, economic and political reforms being articulated and demanded by the country’s social movements. This also serves to counter the region’s growing independence from Washington’s political and economic influence.”

Election boycott

Tamar Sharabi reported on the internet-based news service Narconews: “While the official campaign season began August 31, many candidates have been more concerned with solving the political crisis than focusing on campaigning. As part of the resistance front, they argue that elections will legitimize the coup and that the country does not meet the conditions for free and fair elections. Carlos H. Reyes is the first ever independent candidate to run for president in Honduras. He withdrew officially on November 8 after citing that ‘The observers contracted by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal are not a guarantee for the security and transparency of the electoral process because they are the same organizations that have justified the coup d’etat.’ Maria Margarita Zelaya Rivas, the ‘designado’ or Vice Presidential candidate for the majority party in Congress, the Liberal party (and cousin of President Zelaya), also withdrew her candidacy stating ‘my resignation speaks for … those that cannot express their thoughts for fear that the de facto government will take reprisals against them.’”

The broad-based National Front of Resistance Against the Coup (FNR) stated on November 9: “An election driven by a de facto regime that repressed and trampled human rights and political rights of citizens, would be merely a form of validation of the dictatorship of the oligarchy nationally and internationally, and a method to ensure the continuation of a system that marginalises and exploits the popular sectors to ensure the privileges of a few. Participation in such a process would give legitimacy to the coup regime. This does not mean we have abandoned our fundamental claim to return to Honduras the institutional order, which includes the return of President Zelaya to the office to which he was elected by the people of Honduras for four years…

“Today more than ever it is shown that the exercise of participatory democracy through the establishment of the National Constituent Assembly is not only a right but the only negotiable route to provide a democratic and inclusive political system to the Honduran population ... We call upon the organisations and political candidates who are running for November 29 to display an attitude consistent with previous commitments and publicly withdraw from the electoral farce.”