Friday, July 9, 2010

Representation, Resistance, and Indigenous Organizations

This weekend, the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular is reportedly holding elections for regional and national directors.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the proposed election of representatives in an organization dedicated to advocating for participatory democracy.

One of the participating movements, COPINH, has gone so far as to publish a public position paper on the topic, declaring their intention to abstain from the interim organization of FNRP leadership, and asking that the Frente publish a description of the mechanisms for selecting directors.

Writing on Vos el Soberano, sociologist and activist in the Frente Ricardo Arturo Salgado voices his support for the statement by COPINH, and outlines his own concerns about the planned elections. He urges that the FNRP not forget that its "vertebral column" is in
the popular movement, whether that is feminists, writers, intellectuals, union organizers, LGBT groups, artists, politicians (not parties, individuals), professionals, campesinos, all the Honduran men and women; this should be the base of its construction of power as well.

At issue, as it has been continuously as the Frente evolves, is the relationship of the Frente to traditional forms of party politics in Honduras. Salgado asks that the Frente
demonstrate why we are different. We should stop conspiring, we should not permit an assembly in the style of a "united front" this weekend. Please publish the methodology adopted so that we militants can see clearly the process.

The Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas (COPINH) is a major partner in the FNRP, serving as the sponsor for the II Encuentro Nacional por la Refundacion de Honduras held in La Esperanza in March, which advocated a strongly participatory dialogic process to arrive at proposals for a new constitution.

The existence of COPINH as an activist group long predated the coup of June 2009.

On their official website, COPINH records their formation in March of 1993 to bring together "the popular movement in the Department of Intibucá, the battle in defense of the environment, the rescue of the Lenca culture, and to raise the conditions of life of the population in the region" of southwestern Honduras, and with a national visibility on these issues. Their statements of history, policies, and programs culminates in this description:
We are an indigenous and popular organization, anti-patriarchal, anti-imperialist, anti-neoliberal, sensitive in the face of the problems, needs, and rights of the indigenous, campesino, and urban communities of the Honduran people and the world.

As early as spring of 2009, COPINH spoke out in favor of a consulta of public opinion about a new Constituent Assembly to write a new Constitution. Salvador Zuñiga of COPINH wrote
The new constituyente should not be a personalized project around a caudillo, the new constituyente should be a project of the Honduran people for the construction of a true democratic institutionality that will end the disorder of manipulation, of lies, of social inequalities, of discrimination, of violence, of impunity and of corruption in which the powerful laugh everyday at our people who each time lose more of their hopes in all men and women.

The statement enumerated that the new constitution should be a document
in which the country is declared a multilingual country and the indigenous languages, Tol, Pech, Garifuna and others, are recognized as official, in which the equitable distribution of natural resources is declared, in which therapeutic abortion or abortion in case of rape is declared legal, in which the exercise of direct democracy is expedited, in which national sovereignty is rescued by ordering the dismantling of foreign military bases, in which gender equality remains clearly established and it puts and end to discrimination and violence against women, in which the wealth of the corrupt who for years have been enjoying impunity is expropriated, a new constitutional assembly that will leave clear the functioning of the organizations that should impart justice with the aim of guaranteeing a true administration of justice, a constitution that guarantees liberty of expression through communication media that will be independent and not supernumeraries of the powerful groups that do enormous business selling publicity and their role of manipulators of consciousness.

In other words, COPINH has long-standing, consistently articulated and substantive positions on the central issue of "refounding" Honduras via a new Constitution.

In their public position statement on the planned elections of this weekend, COPINH reiterates their dedication to forming part of the Frente, but insists that the principles they espouse be honored:
it is necessary to make clear that the struggle of COPINH transcends the conjuncture of the oppressor golpismo, to project itself in a permanent manner against all forms of domination that repress the people. The communities of COPINH will continue resisting the capacity of the colonialist system that wants to put an end to the peoples and leave them without their water, their forests and their territories. Therefore the struggle will continue in the path of our martyrs of the colonialist invasion: Lempira, Mota, Iselaca, Etempica.
We are convinced, men and women, of the role that we should play in this historical crisis, in this form, we hold ourselves to reason to command obedience and to the construction of socio-political power from below, from the base itself. Power and reason should emanate from the people from below and on the left. We are inspired, in that sense, by:
  • Political practices that will be democratized and not concentrating of decision-making power.
  • Political practices that make decisions, resources, actions and discussions transparent.
  • Political practices that include, diverge, and multiply both reasoning as well as responses to the historical urgencies of our people.
  • Political practices that spring from the collective and not individualities. Principles and not slogans, actions and ideas and not pamphlets pre-designed as epitaphs. Practices that will be congruent with collective discourse and organizational reasoning.
Against these principles, COPINH warns that
Groups, persons, parties and phantom organizations, with no social base, pretend today to get shares of power and of decision within the FNRP, behind the back of the people, and that will throw away the liberatory struggles by the social organizations before, during, and after the coup d'Etat.

COPINH reiterates that they
maintain ourselves in resistance against the oligarchic oppressor's boot, but as well against all those behaviors that would lead the FNRP to positions that attempt against the interests of the people and popular dignity and against all those decisions that pretend to bargain the blood of our martyrs.

This is a strong challenge to the would-be leadership of the Frente.

As it moves from a stage of opposition to the coup and the de facto regime, to a campaign of mobilization, there will be pressure on the Frente to follow a conventional course to gain recognition and a modicum of political power.

From the point of view of COPINH, though, the stakes are higher than merely being admitted into Honduran politics: their position requires them to demand new forms of political organization, or risk being swamped as a minority in a majority-rules democratic system yet again.

1 comment:

John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Thanks for working through all this material. I have been concerned about the possibilities that the Resistance would just continue the old style of politics, centered in the educated and the urban centers.The voices of the poor really need to be heard and their voice and participation need to be encouraged.

Thus the critical voices being spoken within the Resistance are, in my mind, really important and speak to the necessity of long-term "concientización" among the people in the countryside.

That's why there need to be efforts in the towns and villages (aldeas) that really allow people to discover and use their wisdom, their energy, their voices so that a "Refounded Honduras" will be based on the secure foundations of people aware of their dignity, their capabilities, and their vision.