February 27, 2010

Part 2: The Honduran 'coup', from someone who lived it

The following article is the second part of an article that was drafted back in early July 2009 and added to at other times when I thought I might post it. The article has grown and grown, so now I will post it in parts. Maybe it will be of interest to those of you who were fooled by the bravado. ;-D

Constitutional changes

A couple of months after signing Chávez's ALBA treaty (in August 2008), Zelaya began talking about a referendum to consult the people about rewriting the constitution. Initially, like most people, it sounded fine to me. I wrote long ago that I have no problem if the Honduran people decide to allow someone to run for president for a second term. What would be scary is if that president can somehow declare himself an extended term and that didn't seem so farfetched anymore. Zelaya, however, was well-known for coming up with big plans that were not well thought out, cost lots of money, but then never materialized, like the time he said he would build an international airport in six weeks.

Manuel Zelaya, poder ciudadano asambleaIn the months before June 28, we began watching more and more of the state-run television station. We saw that Zelaya never gave any straight answers about what he hoped to change in the constitution − never − except to make vague comments about making it 'more democratic' or that it was "too old" (27 years). The ironic thing was that the people attending these Poder Ciudadano (Citizen Power) meetings were never allowed to ask questions. Their role was only to sit and respectfully listen to the hour-long diatribes of the man who claimed that citizens should be consulted.

Zelaya gave very divisive speeches, pitting one group against another. During his term, he was always at odds with the congress, the courts, the teachers, and the media about something. He completely alienated the majority of the media while paying off other, less scrupulous media for favorable coverage.

cuarta urna, hondurasWe saw him and his staff be evasive about providing details, including financial details of how much money was being spent on publicity and public meetings all over the country and where the Petrocaribe funds were going. No information was provided about how the members of the constituyente (constitutional assembly) would be selected or whether the people ultimately would have the ability to approve or disapprove the new draft constitution. It seemed as if this referendum was just to 'write a blank check' to Zelaya, who would presumably be in charge of the assembly. That only added to my worries that this constitutional assembly did not bode well for Honduras.

This time was different

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, anti-zelaya protestersEarly in June and again the week before the planned June 28 referendum, we saw massive public marches against the cuarta urna (fourth ballot box), not the dozens or hundreds that we had seen in other protests, but tens of thousands of protesters. This photo is from a later demonstration but will give you an idea of what was taking place.

Demonstrations are a way of life here in Honduras, but that was the first time I had seen huge demonstrations in Honduras that weren't organized by the unions. "No to the cuarta urna, yes to democracy" was the theme.

I saw a massive march of people dressed in white on (I believe it was) June 24. The reporter interviewed a woman, María Marta Díaz. I did not know who she was but I will never forget this. She spoke directly to the camera (I'm paraphrasing from memory): "Look at us! (gesturing to the tens of thousands of people behind her) We are are behind you! DO THE RIGHT THING for Honduras!"

She was visibly shaking, as was her voice. It gave me chills. I felt my hair standing on end. I wasn't even sure who she was talking to, but I assumed it was either the military asking them not to allow Zelaya to violate the constitution or to the congress asking them to stop Zelaya before it was too late. I still get shivers thinking about this. That woman is burned into my mind.

I found out later that it was a group of women who started the whole movement to stop the cuarta urna. They didn't want their children growing up in a Cuba- or Venezuelan-like society and they were determined to force their government to protect democracy in Honduras.

I also only realized later that Honduras was headed to a 'disruption of democracy' or 'coup d'etat' no matter what. The military were the key. Had they decided to support Zelaya, we would have had a "coup d'etat" of a different sort. The OAS was supporting Zelaya, despite many comments from other countries, including the USA, in the June 26 emergency OAS meeting voicing their concern about Zelaya's undemocratic actions and his lack of respect for the separation of powers.

All of those countries seemed to have forgotten about that after June 28.

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See Part 1

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