Friday, November 06, 2009

Suffering in Tegucigalpa


From time to time, there was a note to myself sitting on the desk to write a follow-up post on Honduras, since we took an interest in this back in the summer. That's when the President of Honduras, Mel Zelaya, was arrested by the military one morning, hustled onto a military plane in his pajamas, and flown out of the country.

It's been a dramatic time in that country. People took to the streets in large numbers demanding that their elected President be restored and, if he was suspected of any crimes, let him be tried in some accountable process. The new government leadership responded by cracking down violently on protesters: beating them, killing them, and making a number of people disappear. At the time, our nation's eyes were still on the unrest in Iran. The Honduran protests did not get much attention in our news media. They continue, undaunted, as the government has consolidated its power and restricted news organizations in that country.

The other nations in our hemisphere have lined up against the coup, insisting that Zelaya be restored to power for the remainder of his term. New elections take place later this month and a new president would take office in January. It seems a reasonable position. The regime said, in effect, no dice. Zelaya had to sneak back into his own country, and take refuge in the Brazilian embassy, calling for negotiations.

The U.S. was slippery. We claimed to be eliminating aid to the country while we in fact continued to pump money into the coup state. We negotiated a weak deal with the Micheletti regime which they have now publically flouted. We might be the lone nation in the hemisphere to recognize elections conducted by the coup regime, whereas the other nations are taking a more principled stance.

This is a very interesting story bearing on democracy in our own hemisphere, with the U.S. taking a stance against most of the states of central and south America with respect to the legitimacy of the Honduran government. I suspect, although I do not have time this morning to make my case, this has much to do with Zelaya's decision to make Honduras part of the Bolivarian Alternative (ALBA) -- something that the U.S., perhaps, does not welcome.

Mostly, I keep returning to it because my heart is sick for the protest movements in Honduras and the repression there. As with Iran, the violence being inflicted on people demanding honest democratic government is brazen, right out in the open, and has been going on since the early summer. The Iranian people took a step back for a while, but the Hondurans have not. Every day they have turned out, demanding justice, some reasonable process for dealing with the political dispute in government, and a legitimate political order. For this, they have been shot, beaten, arrested, every day.

When we see Zelaya on the news, he looks like a funny uncle with his bushy moustache and cowboy hat. The images on the streets of Tegucigalpa are much more urgent, and the failure of U.S. leadership as a defender of democracy and justice reeks of cynical mendacity.

Also, I am embarrassed that I have not used this little space to air the story myself and give it the treatment it deserves. These folks have some good updates and commentary, if you want to keep up. Thanks to Mark Weisbrot for his work on this.

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