Honduras: The making of a death squad "democracy"
12 February, 2010
Bill Van Auken
With the restoration of diplomatic relations and the resumption of aid and
credits from the world's major governments and financial institutions,
Honduras is being welcomed back into the fold of "democratic" nations, even
as the organizers of last year's coup remain at their posts and death squad
The Obama administration is leading the way in affirming that an election
held last November under state-of-siege rule and the inauguration of
Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo as president late last month have washed away all the
sins of the past. For Washington, the June 28 military overthrow of Honduran
President Manuel Zelaya, along with the brutal repression that followed, is
a dead letter.
Earlier this month, Honduran Minister of Security Oscar Álvarez met with US
Ambassador Hugo Llorens to sign a bilateral agreement that will resume the
direct flow of US military aid to the armed forces and police of the Central
American country. In July 2009, the Obama administration withheld $16.5
million in military aid to the coup regime headed by Roberto Micheletti as
one of the few and inconsequential sanctions imposed in response to Zelaya's
This week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Lobo to announce that
civilian aid programs would also resume shortly and to praise him for
working to strengthen the "unity of Honduran society."
High-level Spanish delegations have also flown to Tegucigalpa, and French
officials have indicated that relations with Paris will soon be resumed. The
Organization of American States is preparing to consider readmitting
Honduras, which was expelled from the OAS following the coup.
Finally, the World Bank announced on Wednesday that it is restoring loans
that had been frozen in the aftermath of the coup, increasing the amount on
offer from $270 million to $390 million, assuring the further indebtedness
of the impoverished country and a new round of austerity measures and
attacks on the already miserable living standards of Honduran workers.
The supposedly democratic transformation that has made all of this possible
took place on January 27, with the inauguration of right-wing National Party
candidate Lobo, a product, like Zelaya, of the land-owning oligarchy. In an
earlier stage of his career, Lobo was a supporter of Stalinism, active in
the Honduran Communist Party and educated at Patrice Lumumba University in
In his more recent political incarnation he is an advocate of the death
penalty and economic development based on free trade and maquildaora
sweatshops. He is also a loyal ally of Washington.
The assumption of power by Lobo in what amounts to the legitimization of the
June 28 coup was prepared through protracted political maneuvers and
negotiations involving the Obama administration, Zelaya, the coup regime,
and sections of the Latin American bourgeoisie.
From the outset of this process, Zelaya counted on Barack Obama to restore
him to the presidential palace. He, like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, accepted
Obama's talk about a new era of "mutual respect" between the US and Latin
America as good coin. In reality, this rhetoric was merely window dressing
for a more aggressive policy of US imperialism in the region, which included
the covert backing of the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies for the
US aims were indicated recently in the testimony of Obama's national
intelligence director, Dennis Blair, before the Senate Intelligence
Committee. Blair accused Venezuela's Chavez of forging an "anti-US alliance"
in Latin America and seeking to "undermine moderate, pro-US governments." He
noted with satisfaction, however, that Chavez's influence "may have peaked,"
pointing out that "recently" Honduras had removed from that alliance.
Zelaya agreed to the parameters laid down by Washington in negotiations
orchestrated by its principal agent in Central America, Costa Rican
President Óscar Arias. These included his returning to office as a
figurehead president in a government of "national reconciliation" dominated
by the right-wing politicians and military officers who overthrew him.
In the end, the coup's organizers were not interested in such a resolution.
With the support of US officials, they devised another "compromise" that
conditioned Zelaya's reinstatement on a vote of the congress and the
recommendation of the high court, both of which had backed the coup.
Predictably, both institutions rubberstamped the decision of the Honduran
oligarchy not to allow Zelaya back in office, even for a day.
A day before the inauguration, all accounts were settled, with the supreme
court ruling that the military commanders who carried out the coup merely
acted to preserve the peace and with Zelaya leaving the Brazilian embassy in
Tegucigalpa, where he had been holed up for more than four months, for a
second exile, this time in the Dominican Republic.
Just as Zelaya subordinated his attempt to return to office to decisions
made in Washington, so the leaders of the mass movement that emerged to
challenge the coup subordinated the struggle undertaken by Honduran workers,
peasants and youth to Zelaya and the futile quest for "dialogue" with the
leaders of the coup regime.
Despite the heroism of Honduran working people in the face of vicious
repression, the bankrupt perspective of the leaders of the National Front of
Resistance led this powerful movement into a political blind alley, leaving
the masses unprepared to confront Zelaya's capitulation and the "democratic"
charade through which the coup regime has consolidated its power under Lobo.
Now, César Ham, the leader of the "left" Democratic Unification Party, which
was counted as Zelaya's closest political supporter, has agreed to join the
Lobo government, allowing it to posture as a regime of "national unity and
While Washington and other governments are praising Lobo's democratic
credentials, the repression continues unabated, with workers, journalists
and others who resisted the coup facing kidnappings, torture and
In one recent case, Vanesa Yaneth Zepeda, a 29-year-old nurse and mother of
three who was active in the anti-coup demonstrations, disappeared on
February 2. Her lifeless body was thrown out of a car in Tegucigalpa two
The "democratic" consolidation of the coup in Honduras represents a stark
warning to working people across Latin America and internationally. Under
conditions of the deepening global economic crisis, the ruling elites
throughout the capitalist world are prepared to dispense with all democratic
forms of rule in order to carry out lethal violence against any challenge to
The Honduran events have also once again demonstrated that workers in Latin
America cannot advance their struggle by means of political subordination to
supposedly "left" and nationalist representatives of the bourgeoisie, such
as Zelaya and Chavez. Those calling themselves "socialists" who promote
illusions in these figures are disarming the working class and preparing
even greater defeats. The only way forward for Latin American workers is to
forge their political independence from all sections of the ruling elites
and unite in a common struggle for workers' governments and the socialist
transformation of the entire hemisphere.
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