As a symbol, he can be used against the resistance by politicians who dismiss calls for fundamental restructuring by labeling the resistance as "zelayistas", reducing what is happening in Honduras to a repeat of caudillismo-- the cult of a strong leader that permeates Latin American political history. Since the resistance includes groups and individuals who were and are critical of Zelaya, this over-simplifies and misrepresents reality, even if it does make it easier to digest Honduran reality (and thus return to the international status quo of ignoring it).
Yet repudiating Zelaya would alienate large segments of the Honduran population for whom he was not simply a symbol of change, but an actual agent of change-- making petroleum affordable, increasing the minimum wage, and giving opportunities for people to voice their own opinions and tell their own stories. The cuarta urna campaign gained its popularity from the sense it gave to these people that the system could be changed to allow their votes to actually count for something.
And then there is the specific quandary that Zelaya presents for the Liberal Party. As has been stressed numerous times, Zelaya and Micheletti were both members of the same party. Their differences dramatized the range of opinions contained within that party. Liberals in resistance are a major group, although again, politicians interested in dismissing the wider significance of calls for constitutional changes use that to claim that the resistance is simply a within-party movement.
From these differences have come a number of tensions, which sometimes rise to the surface in statements by resistance movement members and segments, some openly acknowledged in writing, others taking place in less public media. A good sense of the debates is being provided by ethnographer Adrienne Pine's posting of field notes from her ongoing research in Honduras. In a recent post, she points to a letter from Zelaya himself published by Vos el Soberano as an intervention of particular importance in the current situation.
In contrast to previous statements that have been criticized for collapsing Zelaya's own situation with the broader goals of the Resistance, this new letter is a straightforward exhortation to keep focused on the campaign for the constituyente; notably, it is addressed to the Resistance, the Liberal Party, and a broader group that might not identify with either but may have become politically conscious. It states clearly that the Liberal Party has destroyed itself and that liberals need to work within the Resistance Movement. It cautions against premature identification of candidates for office under the current system, and places support firmly behind the Resistance and the assemblies it is holding to formulate proposals for a new constitution.
While it does not entirely avoid the personalization of the coup and its aftermath that has made previous statements by Zelaya fodder for critics, it is a powerful distillation of the themes of the present movement to reformulate the Honduran constitution. It makes it clear why Zelaya is an important political actor, even in exile.
Dominican Republic June 11, 2010Comrades (men and women) of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular,
Correligionaries of the Liberal Party,
Compatriots with liberty of consciousness,With the good intention of contributing to fortifying the unity of the diverse political forces that make up the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular allow me to express [the following]:
The military coup d'Etat that we suffered together with the people the 28th of June 2009, when they expatriated me by the force of arms, produced the worst tragedy for Honduras in this century, but at the same time, it engendered the birth of the force of the Resistance, which today is obliged to remain united in the face of the enemies of democracy.
Since I was subjected to tortures and abuses in the diplomatic seat of Brazil in Tegucigalpa, we warned in a missive to the people about this necessity when we said:
“… The Resistencia is the new belligerent force in Honduras, and it should be the axis to coordinate and bring together the progressive political forces, that without losing their own identity, will oblige the dominant elite to recognize that the Hondurans do not have bosses and that we want to be free ”
In respect to the actions of the political forces, I reiterate what I said on that occasion:
“I am a liberal in permanent resistence and I will continue being so, of those that practice their true doctrine, opposed to military dictators and antidemocratic regimes, those that forged this coup d'Etat ceased to be Liberals and the people punished them at the ballot box, the National Party never would have been raised from the defeat that we delivered in 2005, without the leadership of the Liberal Party, conspiring with the oligarchy and the Pentagon, arming the military coup to remove me from the political stage…”
The Liberal Party only has an option for power within the Resistance, outside the resistance it is weak and is condemned to failure. To not be united in the Resistance is newly to deliver to the oligarchy the country and power.
We must be alert, the enemies of the people cause to circulate items with tricks and lies, with the goal of dividing us. The promotion of premature candidacies is part of their strategies to divide the Resistance from the Liberal Party and so liquidate the opportunity for liberty that today is presented to us after fifty years.
The homeland in this moment calls us to struggle for unity and for the Constituyente, and we should say without fear:
“Elections Yes… for delegates to the Constitutional Assembly”
Our struggle today is for true independence, and for the refounding of Honduras, where the worker and the poor will be freed from those who oppress them.
We should struggle without respite for a new Constitution that will guarantee democratic liberty.
The new Constitution should have clear contents that arise from proposals presented in the Assemblies of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular, and that gather the aspirations and needs of all the sectors.
By the 15th of September, anniversary of our Independence, we should have these proposals and broaden the period to that date for the collection of signatures for the sovereign declarations to demand the National Constitutional Assembly and my return.
The suffering of the victims of this crime against humanity, with the loss of lives of our martyrs who condemned the coup d'Etat, cannot be in vain, nor pass into oblivion.
Without justice there is no reconciliation, No to impunity!
“Coups d'Etat, never again”
“Everyone for the constituyente”
Manuel Zelaya Rosales