Honduras: a dictatorship in sheep's clothing

América Socialista – the Panamerican magazine of the International Marxist Tendency, interviewed Tomás Andino, a leading member of the Honduran Resistance.

Tomas AndinoTomas Andino América Socialista .- After the fraudulent elections organised by the Micheletti dictatorship, the attention of the bourgeois mass media on Honduras has dropped drastically and the official version that Honduras is a democracy is now accepted. Can you tell us what the real situation in the country is?

Tomás Andino .- The media blackout about the situation in Honduras is part of the US strategy to mould world public opinion into thinking that everything is back to “normal” here and that it is therefore “justified” to recognise the government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa. However, the reality is that in Honduras the break with democracy has not been solved because the coup regime is still in place, even with the same faces. For instance, we have the same Supreme Court of Justice, the same Public Prosecutor, the same Supreme Accounting Court and 80% of the Members of Parliament (imposed by the electoral farce of November 2009) participated in the coup. To top it all, the new Joint Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Carlos Antonio Cuellar, appointed by the National Congress, was one of the six Battalion Commanders who participated directly in taking president Zelaya out of the country.

Even today there are more “retired” army officers in the administration than there were under Micheletti. They are put in key positions from where they can control the country and undermine the Resistance. For this reason, migration control, the merchant fleet and the control of many hospitals is in the hands of former officers of the Armed Forces; even the state telecommunications company, Hondutel, has been given to none other than General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, who led the coup d’état.

On the other hand, Honduran society is deeply divided between a minority which supports this regime and a majority which rejects it. Therefore, deep-down, nothing has been solved in the area of Democracy. What we have is a dictatorship in sheep’s clothing.

AS .- We have heard reports of the selective assassinations of trade union and peoples’ leaders, could you give us more information so that we can publicise it widely?

TA .- At the time of the daily marches, between July and November 2009, the forces of repression implemented crowd suppression tactics which shocked the world. For instance, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission reported that during the repression of the more than 300 demonstrations during the Micheletti government, more than 3000 people were injured as a result of police and military violence, but only 5 people died while taking part in the demonstrations.

After the election farce on November 29, 2009, the methods of repression changed and became more selective, thus less overt, but deadlier. As a result we have had nearly 100 men and women killed and dozens of failed assassination attempts. Their aim is to sow terror amongst the activists of the Resistance so as to demobilise them. Their preferred targets are the middle-ranking leaders of the trade union, peasants' organisations, teachers’ unions, or left-wing activists (we could mention amongst the latter, Comrade Manuel Flores, Trotskyist leader of the PSOCA in Honduras). The killer's hand reaches not only these leaders, but also their relatives, that is, daughters, wives, brothers, etc. In many instances there is an attempt to present the killings as being the result of a “settling of accounts” on the part of organised crime, feuds between the mara gangs, or “crimes of passion”. In the months of March and April, 7 journalists have been killed. For this reason there are more than 200 Resistance activists and leaders in exile because they have suffered attempts on their lives or received death threats.

The death squads, according to information that we have gathered, are made up of elite cadres led by Israelis and Colombians.

AS .- Could you also tell us about the conflict which developed in the Bajo Aguán region?

Manuel FloresManuel Flores TA .- This conflict is not new, but has been rekindled after the arrival of Porfirio Lobo to power. In the region of the Bajo Aguán, which was in the past the capital of the Agrarian Reform, 3,500 peasant families, belonging to 28 rural communities have been demanding for a number of years the recovery of around 20,000 Ha of land, planted with African Palm, which were purchased by three landlords through fraudulent means from the peasant cooperatives which owned them. One of these land-owners is Miguel Facussé, possibly the richest man in the country and padrino of the Honduran oligarchy.

The peasants occupied this land a few years ago and have defended it machete in hand. Of course, the land-owners did not remain with arms crossed, and had already killed, before the Coup, a dozen of the peasant leaders with methods of sicariato (targeted political killings by hired guns). However, the peasants replied by using self-defence methods which generated harsh armed clashes with deaths on both sides. It is not by chance that this militant peasant movement became one of the strongholds of the Resistance against the coup d’état. As a matter of fact, this was the only sector which the army could not evict during the Micheletti period.

But on the same day on January 27, when Mr Porfirio Lobo was receiving the Presidential sash, a massive military operation started with a large scale offensive in order to evict the peasants resulting in several comrades wounded. Nevertheless, they did not manage to evict them and the conflict in the Aguan was brought to centre stage of the national situation to the point where Porfirio Lobo made it one of his main challenges in the social field.

Porifiro Lobo Sosa. Photo by Wilson Dias/Abr.Porifiro Lobo Sosa. Photo by Wilson Dias/Abr. The offer of the Pepe Lobo Government to the peasants with the help of his stooges, the Democratic Unification Party (former left party in control of the National Agrarian Institute), was to offer them 6,000 Ha of land which would be bought from the land owners, despite the fact that these were sobretechos, that is, illegally held. At the beginning of April, spurred on by the land owners, the so-called “government of reconciliation” of Pepe Lobo ordered the sending of 4,000 soldiers and more than 1,000 police officers to the region to surround the peasant communities, turning the Bajo Aguan into a war zone, with an undeclared state of siege.

Under conditions of such a military mobilisation and an imminent massacre, the peasants proposed an agreement by which they would extend the government’s proposal to 13,000 Ha. as well as other commitments for technical support and loans, as well as having the right to determine themselves which land they would occupy. Even though the agreement is a set back of the Aguan Unified Peasant Movement (MUCA), in relation to their original demand, the positive aspect is that it did not end up smashed by a military defeat as the landowners would have liked. The aim of preserving their organisation was achieved and the Resistance has kept this pillar in the struggle for the Constituent Assembly in the region. Now the land owners are reneging on the agreement and the conflict could restart.

AS .- The information we receive is that, despite repression, the Resistance and its Front are still strong and have mass support. Could you give us an overview of the most recent mobilisations and meetings?

1 May in Honduras.1 May in Honduras. TA .- The support of the masses for the Resistance is still massive and firm. It is true that since the election farce there are no daily demonstrations, but when the Resistance calls for a march this is always massive. In January there were 3 large marches of at least 50,000 each; in February and March there were two, of some 20 to 30,000 people, and on May Day we had half a million people marching all over the country following the slogans of the Resistance. This means that the political and social movement of the Peoples’ Resistance continues in a vigorous way and that the people identify the government of Pepe Lobo as a continuation of the dictatorial coup.

AS .- The Resistance has launched a campaign of signatures for the Constituent Assembly. Could you tell us what the aims of this campaign are and its success so far?

1 May in Honduras.1 May in Honduras. TA .- The aims of the campaign for a Declaración Soberana (a statement of the people about the need for a Constituent Assembly) are political and organisational. There are two main political aims. Firstly, to get the people to express through signing this declaration what it could not express because of the coup - a consultation about a Fourth Ballot as to whether the people agreed with calling a Constituent Assembly in order to re-found the country. Secondly, to express the support of the resistance for the return of citizen Manuel Zelaya Rosales, as well as that of the more than 200 political exiles.

The organisational aim is to take advantage of this mobilisation in order to incorporate more people to the rank and file structures of the National Front of Peoples’ Resistance (FNPR) in preparation for the Front’s Founding Assembly which will take place in September this year as we aim to become the most powerful political force in the country.

AS .- This year of struggle since the coup has radicalised the situation in Honduras and has meant an extraordinary process of political education for the Honduran labour movement and the people. What are the main conclusions which have been drawn?

TA .- The lessons are fundamental and have no precedent in our country's history:

  1. There has been a giant leap in the class consciousness of the majority of the population because through the struggle for democracy the people have been able to identify that the enemy which is always on the other side are the bosses and the land owners, and of course, imperialism.
  2. There has been an unprecedented break with bourgeois democracy, with the collapse of the Liberal Party, which was a pillar of the capitalist political system, and with a massive discrediting of the bourgeois electoral mechanism (abstention in the last election was at least 65%, when previously the average was 25%). It is not by chance that the strategy of imperialism today includes repairing this mechanism which is fundamental to maintain their domination.
  3. In the consciousness of the people, all the intermediate institutions of the ruling class (the Churches, human rights institutions, mass media, academia, etc.) which previously held sway, and prevented the people from seeing clearly who is who, have suffered from a massive discrediting. Today, all these institutions are in clear decline.
  4. There is a strong consciousness regarding the unity of the peoples’ movement, which has been achieved like never before in the country’s history. This unity expresses itself through the fierce defence of the FNPR.
  5. Today, the people in Resistance have a clear idea that its aim is to achieve a New Honduras, without oligarchs, without military officers and without imperialists; where we can have social justice and a genuine democracy. And it is clear that the way to achieve it is through a Constituent Assembly which should mean a radical break with the present.
  6. The people in resistance have gone beyond the demands of the concrete day to day struggle – even though these have not been abandoned – and have set themselves strategic political aims, like the taking of power, which are today only prevented by bayonets. Even the more bread and butter trade unions of the past are now forced to take a position and adapt their political language or risk being overtaken by the rank and file. The clearest example of this was on May Day when the main demand was that of the Constituent Assembly as well as the other demands of the Resistance.

But making a critical balance sheet, I see that the area in which there is a need for more maturity, or where we need to break a final link, is the trust that the people might still have in politicians who from the ruling class embrace the discourse of the Resistance. Yet I trust that through practical experience, which has already put many instances of mediation against the ropes, we will reach the conclusion that a new society can only be achieved through the strength of the people, organized in the FNPR.

AS .- What are the lessons of the position of the US, in this, the first coup d’état in Latin America under the Obama administration?

TA .- The people have gone through a very steep learning curve regarding Obama and imperialism in general. Before, some comrades had hopes that his election could have changed things, but with his covert support for the coup d’état, which was clear for the broadest masses, all doubts have been clarified. Today, the increasingly brazen intervention of US ambassador Hugo Llorens only serves to increase the rejection of the people to this representative of the empire. Nowadays nobody in the Resistance has any doubts about the role it plays on the side of the enemies of Democracy.

AS .- In our opinion, the struggle for the democratic and anti-imperialist demands, summed up in the Constituent Assembly, cannot be separated from the struggle against capitalism and for socialism. Do you think that the idea of socialism is today more present? What is your opinion about this?

TA .- The concept of socialism is certainly now more present than before, because of the identification of where we are going to in Honduras as “Bolivarian Socialism” - although nobody can say clearly what is meant by this. In fact, president Zelaya himself says that his ideology is a “pro-socialist Liberalism”, and paradoxically he is the one who uses the term "Socialism" more than the left wing forces in the Resistance. This could be misleading, because from the examples he gives (the Scandinavian countries), President Zelaya is really thinking about social-democracy.

Regardless of this, today we have the best possible conditions to educate the people in genuine socialism. The experience of the coup d’état has saved the left decades of political education regarding the impossibility of genuine Democracy under capitalism. Now the question is to prove that only revolutionary socialism is genuinely democratic. This is the challenge that we face. Regarding this, I think that in Honduras, because of what I have explained before, the terrain is fertile to develop a campaign in favour of such a vision like there has never been in the country - even more favourable than during the 1958 strike.

AS .- President Chávez made a call for the formation of the V International, which he described as anti-imperialist, socialist and anti-capitalist. What do you think? Has this been discussed in the Front?

It has not been discussed in the Front, but judging from the enormous sympathy which president Chávez has amongst the Resistance I think that it can easily gather a lot of support, maybe with the exception of the comrades of Liberals in Resistance who are less identified with the left. As a matter of fact, the FNPR has defined itself as a an anti-capitalist, anti-neoliberal, anti-imperialist, anti-patriarchal and anti-racist political and social organisation and this would make it easier for the FNPR to identify with the proposal of president Chavez.

In my opinion an International is needed, but it must be working class based. I mean by this, made up of political and social organisations representing the masses and which, of course, should be based on a correct policy of alliances with other class sectors, but fundamentally following the program of the working class.

I do not believe in purely anti-imperialist fronts, like some comrades are suggesting, because there is a certain tendency to include anyone in this definition, including enemies of the working people like the Mexican PRI. It will lead to nothing because at the end of the day, their fear of the self-determination of the mobilised masses is bigger that their antipathy for the empire.

AS .- The official leadership of Democratic Unification decided to participate in the elections of the Micheletti regime, but yourself and others opposed this. What happened to UD? What is the way forward for the organisations of workers based on a socialist perspective? What is now your point of reference or political project?

TA .- The UD was born as a party which united the different expressions of the left but was unable to consolidate a political and ideological program. It moved away from the rank and file, abandoning the barricade of the social struggle of the people and emphasised struggle in parliament. This pushed it towards accommodation to the system until it became absorbed by it. Now its leaders are political opportunists and play the role of the fifth wheel of the coup plotting oligarchy in the hope that they will throw a few crumbs to them.

As a result of this, there were constant internal crises in UD. Subsequently, little by little, all the left groupings over a ten year period left it so that now only a small handful of opportunist leaders remain as it is merely a home for opportunists who leave the parties of the ruling class.

I resigned from UD at the beginning of the year, because I think that it is a party that cannot be reclaimed. Together with other comrades I have committed myself to contribute to the unity of the Honduran revolutionary left, to make sure that it plays a role in the building of a revolutionary National Peoples’ Resistance Front based on the working class, having socialism as its perspective and the mobilisation of the working class as its main method of struggle.

AS .- What message would you send to democratic and worker activists around the world regarding the situation in Honduras? What can they do?

TA .- International solidarity is crucial. It was thanks to thousands of brothers who mobilised around the world that the Honduran Resistance got the necessary energy to resist for seven months in the streets without a pause. Thanks to that, the Micheletti government was unable to consolidate itself and even the Porfirio Lobo one has not been able to do so.

My first appeal is not to believe what the imperialist mass media say about everything having gone back to “normal”. We ask you to spread the word that here the coup plotters are still in power with the support of the US empire, but also we ask you to spread the word that under the surface there is an enormous movement of the peoples’ vanguard which continues the struggle for a new Honduras, now in much more favourable conditions from the point of view of the consciousness of the people. This is why the coup plotters fear us so much and are attempting to silence our voices. Despite our dead comrades, the struggle continues without respite.

The fact that you don’t see daily demonstrations in the streets, which characterised the first stage of our Resistance, is because in Honduras we have decided to move on from mobilisations in the streets to mobilisations in mass meetings and rank and file organisation in every neighbourhood, municipality and department in order to build this beautiful tool of struggle, the FNPR. This is a complicated task, one that it is not easy at all.

My appeal is to break the media blockade which imperialism has established, struggle against the recognition of the Pepe Lobo government by your own bourgeois governments, support the struggle of the people for the calling of a Constituent Assembly and support the struggle of the FNPR, the most important vanguard organisation in the country.

Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP)

Video: Gigantesca marcha en Honduras el 1º de Mayo

De Dick & Mirian Emanuelsson