Honduras: only the action of the masses can guarantee the removal of JOH

On 26 November, national elections were held in Honduras. The election was divided into two camps: those who supported current President Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH), who is seeking re-election, and those who supported the candidate of the Alliance Against the Coup, Salvador Nasralla. The first block consists of the most reactionary forces that seek to maintain their privileges, starting with the National Party, the main political force of the oligarchy. The latter comprises the masses of workers, peasants, unemployed, students, housewives...who can no longer stand their exploitation, poverty, violence and lack of democracy and aspire to a profound change in society.

This Sunday, 3 December 2017, one of the largest demonstrations in the history of Honduras, comparable in magnitude to that of 5 July 2009, when the ousted president Manuel Zelaya tried to return to the country in the midst of the coup d'état, which imposed Micheletti at the head of the country.

These elections were full of irregularities and were completely rigged to ensure the triumph of the National Party. There was vote buying and the ruling party was counting on widespread abstention amongst the people, but they came out massively to vote and defeated them. However, just a few hours after the closing of the polling stations, Juan Orlando Hernández declared himself winner regardless of the opinion of the population.

Juan Orlando Hernandez left and Enrique Peña Image Presidencia de la RepúblicaJuan Orlando Hernandez (left) and Enrique Peña / Image: Presidencia de la República

All the state apparatus is at the service of the oligarchy but so far they have not managed to impose their candidate, due to the response of the masses. Ultimately the election will be decided in the struggle on the streets.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) had to initially recognize that Salvador Nasralla had a lead of around 5 percent in the count. On Wednesday 29 November, the computer system that was carrying out the count went down. The excuse given was that the hard drive was full, something ridiculous and unacceptable for an election that has cost millions of lempiras to Hondurans. When the system was restored, JOH appeared in the count as being ahead.

The Honduran people understood the trick and the response was a huge popular uprising that was not prepared or convened by any central organization, but by local groups and above all by the indignation of working people spurred to action. The response of the state was repression. It is a mockery that now they blame the opposition for "division and violence". The state has used tear gas against demonstrations, and in working-class neighborhoods, the population has been shot at and several people have been killed. This has not stopped the protests, which have covered every corner of this Central American country.

In response to this unstoppable revolutionary movement, Juan Orlando Hernández decreed, on Wednesday night, a curfew during which people can not meet, demonstrate or even leave their homes between 6:00pm and 6:00am the following morning. Seeking to intimidate the protestors, the armed forces acted with particular brutality that night. The state arrested around 100 people, social networks showed images of the armed troops sadistically beating the population in the streets. A 19-year-old woman, Kimberly Fonseca, was killed after the military fired at the group she was with. The dramatic image of her body thrown in the street with a stream of blood coming out of her head is a scene that in itself shows us the true face of the supposed Honduran democracy.

The opposition candidate, Nasralla, is appealing to the OAS, the European Union and the US to correct the irregularities of the election. The opposition candidate comes from a party that cannot be considered left-wing, but he has been forced to address the problem of hunger facing the people, promising to solve it. Thus, Nasralla has become a bridge through which popular discontent has been expressed. The election has not been won thanks to Nasralla but despite him. People will demand the solution to their heartfelt demands if they manage to defeat the regime of the dictatorship. In a period of global capitalist crisis, we believe that it is only possible to solve the social problems of workers by openly confronting the capitalist system, putting the economic levers – now controlled by corrupt coup oligarchs and their imperialist allies – under the democratic control of the workers by establishing a planned economy. For this, it is necessary to organize a revolutionary tendency that fights within the mass movement and defends a socialist program based on workers' democracy.

Salvador Nasralla Image Byga99Salvador Nasralla / Image: Byga99

Nasralla and the leadership of the Free Party have gone behind the backs of the people in the struggle. The only thing they organised was a rally the day after the election, against the Supreme Electoral Court, but the movement itself developed and acquired a national dimension, with hundreds of thousands of spontaneous actions of the population throughout the country. It was not until the curfew decreed by JOH that the directorate of Libre, through Manuel Zelaya, called for some actions: to challenge the curfew with cacerolazos [banging of pots and pans] in the barrios and a national march on Sunday 3 December.

The Honduran people found in the cacerolazo a way to manifest their discontent. The response was massive. There are those who compare what happened on Thursday night with the celebration of the new year, in terms of the amount of people in the streets and the amount of noise, which shows us the massive nature of this protest. The people responded to the violent coup by the oligarchs with militancy, defying the curfew in each working-class neighborhood of the country.

The weakness of the movement in its first stages has been its relative lack of central focus. Sunday's march was a point of unification and therefore it had a mass character. The demonstrations took place at the national level in the main cities and departments such as Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula or Choluteca. There might have been as many as 300,000 people in the streets (in a country with a population of about 9 million). It is clear that this struggle is bringing out new layers that did not intervene in 2009 (in the struggle against the coup). Among the people on the streets there is a growing defiance of the regime and a questioning of the capitalist system.

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The individual can play a role in the story. Hernández, in his obsession to maintain power, has accentuated the contradictions, even generating discontent in the very ranks of the National Party. He represents nothing but a decadent and unsustainable capitalist system run by a rotten regime, but he also has his own personal ambitions. The ruling class in Honduras is not capable of securing the minimum bourgeois democracy and every democratic conquest will have to be wrested by the struggle of workers and peasants in the streets.

Nasralla says that before the failure of the counting system, there was little more than 70 percent of the polling station records counted and he was 117,671 votes ahead. After the system crash, the records were digitized and counted in favor of JOH. To do this, new ‘records’ were printed and recorded without a signature and new records were scanned from the offices of the National Party, which were then fed into the counting system. For the oligarchy democracy is simple: if the results do not favour you, change the results.

In the middle of the protests the TSE accepted to count the records with irregularities, which affect 1,006 of the 12,900 total polling station records. But the opposition demands that 5,179 records, which were added after the fall of the system, be counted, and has provided a full list of those. In addition, the opposition demands a repeat of the count in three departments where the level of voting was well above the average and the National Party won. These are Departments where fraud was concentrated. The opposition's demands are really limited in the midst of such a fraudulent and rigged election but the TSE is refusing to comply even with these elementary nods to democratic process.

After the huge mobilization on 3 December, the TSE rushed the count of 1,006 polling station records with irregularities, giving a slight advantage to JOH with 42.98 percent of the votes, while Nasralla got 41.39 percent. Neither the Alliance Against the Dictatorship nor the people will accept that ‘result’. They will fight for the recount of the total number of records they have pointed out as containing irregularities. The fight has already generated fissures in the state apparatus. The TSE magistrate, Marco Ramiro Lobo, has criticized the process and called for a recount of the 5,000 records. The state, due to the current strength of the mass movement, could try to lengthen the process in the midst of the challenges by betting that the movement will eventually wear out and decline.

The imperialists wants their trusted historical allies to rule Honduras, but their enormous loss of prestige casts doubt on whether they can keep things under control, especially after seeing the huge protests. The imperialists do not rule out, therefore, the possibility that Nasralla will come to power, and so are trying to tie his hands so that he is kept within safe limits. The OAS has requested that more than 5,000 records be recounted. But for them, even with all the moderation that Nasralla may have, this is not the most viable option. They fear the rank and file that is behind Nasralla and are not only fighting to get rid of JOH but also aspire to solve their pressing economic and social problems. The only guarantee of victory is that the workers and peasants, together with the rest of the people, force the regime of the dictatorship, and its imperialist masters, to retreat.

2009 Honduras demonstration Image Flickr eduardoferreira2009 Honduras demonstration / Image: Flickr, eduardoferreira

The masses’ determination to struggle has had an impact even amongst the ranks of the police. The state apparatus is starting to crack along class lines. In the capital Tegucigalpa, a unit of the Cobras riot police has mutinied, demanding higher wages and declaring that they are not prepared to attack the people. There have been threats from the military police to act against other police units. Police mutinies are spreading to other parts of the country and there have been instances of fraternisation with the people. Police officers are disobeying their commanders and putting their units in the hands of mid-rank officers.

The Honduran people have demonstrated their great revolutionary potential. Your struggle is an inspiration. You must trust in your own strength and no one else. The leadership of Libre has not issued a clear action plan for the following days. The action in the mind of the masses is a national strike in the following days. But what is needed is a real general strike, where the workplaces are taken and production is paralyzed, showing the power of the working-class. The leadership of Libre and the unions must organize the struggle in this way. The general strike is part of the revolutionary tradition of the Honduran proletariat: we must recover the legacy of the 1954 movement.

The general strike has to be organized on the basis of committees in the neighborhoods and in the workplaces, coordinated at the local, departmental and national levels with elected and recallable delegates. Such committees of struggle must also take the necessary measures of self-defense against the brutal, repressive offensive of the state.

Finally, the struggle for the defense of the election result must be closely linked to the struggle for work, trade union rights, housing, education and healthcare for all, and these demands can only be achieved through the expropriation of the five families of the capitalist oligarchy. These five families represent the core of that 3 percent of the population that controls 40 percent of the national production and keeps 70 percent of the population in poverty. Those five families are the ones behind the 2009 coup and the current attempt to rob the working people of their chosen electoral result, once again. The struggle for democratic rights is therefore inextricably linked to the struggle for the expropriation of the oligarchy.

The International Marxist Tendency expresses its full solidarity with the Honduran people. Your struggle is a shining example for us all, and the eyes of the most conscious workers of Latin America are turned towards you. A triumph of your movement would be an inspiration for the workers of the world and of all Latin America, and would have an immediate impact in the Central American region and Mexico, which will face in a few months a similar electoral scenario. The comrades of the IMT in Honduras are already participating, to the extent that our strength permits, in the mass movement.

We make a call for international solidarity and breaking the media blockade on what is happening in Honduras. The workers', youth and activist organizations of the world must organize pickets at Honduran embassies everywhere to demand the end of repression, and respect for the electoral result, in addition to denouncing governments and international organizations whose silence is an accomplice of the coup being prepared in Honduras.

The Honduran people deserve to live with dignity, with jobs, healthcare and decent education. If this battle is lost, the nightmare will continue. This is a decisive fight that can be won. The coup plotters do not want to leave power, we must force them to do so with the revolutionary action of the masses.

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