Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Honduran resistance battles poverty, repression

By Heather Cottin
Published Mar 21, 2011 9:29 PM

The Resistance movement marched daily all over Honduras to protest the coup against President Manuel Zelaya, from June 28, 2009, the day of the coup, until Jan. 27, 2010. On that last day, 300,000 people accompanied their beloved president to Toncontín Airport, from where he flew into forced exile in the Dominican Republic.

With U.S. government complicity, the “golpistas” (coup plotters) had finessed the phony election of Porfirio Pepe Lobo Sosa, or “Golpepe,” as the Resistance calls the new president, who took power last year on Jan. 27.

Today the streets seem calm. Children are going to school in their well-ironed uniforms. Street vendors are selling fruits and homemade goods. Burger King, Pizza Hut and other franchises sell junk food beyond the means of most Hondurans. However, things are not really calm. It is all superficial. The rich are in power, and the poor are organizing.

Those who organize to fight the power face repression. Bodies turn up: a lawyer here, a teacher there, a young girl, a dozen Baja Aguan campesinos fighting for land reform. There are hundreds of martyrs. The government blathers about crime, but does nothing. Police suppress popular protests. Gangs operate with impunity.

While police attack protesters in Tegucigalpa’s streets, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praises Honduras’ “democratic and constitutional government.”

President Lobo promotes the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, which has allowed U.S., European, Asian and local factory owners to exploit more than 100,000 workers in the country’s maquiladoras.

Young women enter the factories at 14 to 17 years of age. They are paid $25 for working nine-hour days, seven days a week. Women must iron 1,200 shirts a day, standing up. The hot iron makes their hands swell. There are no unions, but the workers organize anyhow.

Confronting the enemy

One of the richest men in the country is Miguel Facussé, a Honduran businessperson who owns vast Afrocam palm plantations in the Aguan Valley. His mercenaries are killing the peasants struggling for land rights in the Baja Aguan region. His family and all the oligarchs are close to the government.

The peasants’ enemies are not just the oligarch landowners, but also U.S. agribusinesses. Farmers whose corn and beans formerly fed Honduras have been financially ruined. Honduras now is a net importer of staple goods.

The low corn and bean prices set by corporate giants Monsanto and Cargill bankrupted the peasants. Then the agribusinesses raised the price of food. Robert B. Zoellick, president of the World Bank Group, reported that within the past year, prices for corn increased 73 percent. (The World Bank, Feb. 15)

People are hungry. About 30 percent of Hondurans live on less than $2 per day. Honduras has the seventh poorest population on earth, with 65 percent of the people living below the poverty line. Unemployment runs to 44 percent.

Poverty has forced hundreds of thousands to migrate, primarily to the United States. As immigrants in the U.S., Hondurans face racism and insecurity. The remittances they send home account for 20 percent of Honduras’ gross domestic product. Lobo needs this money to keep a lid on the anger generated by ravaging poverty.

The Lobo government’s neoliberal policies are expanding as rapidly as the imperialist powers can manage it. The Legislature just rubber-stamped Lobo’s “Model Cities” plan, which will cede sovereign land in Honduras to national or international businesses. This will allow businesses to build new towns with a corporate infrastructure. The Wall Street Journal says that they will develop “different laws ... different norms about right and wrong ... a way to counterbalance the populism that causes ... so much harm.” (Feb 14.)

Meanwhile, former U.S. President Bill Clinton will host a conference in San Pedro Sula in May, called “Honduras is Open for Business.” This is another of Lobo’s schemes to sell Honduras as “the most attractive investment destination in Latin America.” Former Colombian President, Álvaro Uribe Vélez; Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim; and Luis Alberto Moreno, the president of the Inter-American Development Bank, will be there, too.

The Resistance organizes

The National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) held a national assembly in Tegucigalpa Feb. 26-27. Juan Barahona, president of the United Federation of Honduran Workers (FUTH), and Carlos H. Reyes, president of STIBYS, the major labor union in Tegucigalpa, listened to delegates’ powerful speeches calling for the refounding of Honduras under a peoples’ constitution. Xiomara Castro de Zelaya represented President Zelaya, her spouse.

The assembly agreed that the only response to the policies of impoverishment and repression is unity and organized resistance. The delegates condemned the Lobo government and held it responsible for crimes against the people and massive corruption.

The FNRP has radio stations, leaflets, newspapers, poets, musicians and artists. The leadership includes youth, the elderly, women, professionals, members of the lesbian, gay, bi, transgender and queer community, Indigenous people, members of the Afro-Honduran Garifuna communities, workers and peasants. They are organizing so that 8 million Hondurans can live in dignity.

On the day following the national assembly, teachers and students in Tegucigalpa went on strike to defend public schools. They sang in the street, “Nos tienen miedo porque no tenemos miedo.” (“They fear us because we have no fear.”)

The Frente has no fear. The last words spoken at the national assembly were, “¡Hasta la victoria siempre!” It is the Cuban slogan — the call for struggle until victory.

On one wall in Tegucigalpa is the slogan, “La Resistencia vive.” The Resistance lives. They have no choice. They must win.

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