Friday, February 26, 2010

"Neither Forgive nor Forget" Shouts the Resistance

Yesterday, the Frente de Resistencia in Honduras carried out a massive protest march in Tegucigalpa. Coverage by Honduras' Tiempo, which provided the headline quoted above, reported estimates of 20,000 participants who marched to demand constitutional reform and accountability for human rights violations that followed the coup d'etat of June 28, 2009.

The crowd was described by Tiempo as composed of
Teachers, union members, workers in general and the unemployed... galvanized by the popular leaders Rafael Alegría, Daniel Durón and Eulogio Chávez.

The pro-coup La Tribuna took a different approach. Their story, which offered no estimate of the crowd size, focused more on the participation by teachers-- who have been the long-term target of conservative backlash from the media and political elites. La Tribuna quoted the Lobo Sosa administration's Minister of Education, Alejandro Ventura, as calling the strike by participating teachers "unfortunate". In response, Jaime Rodríguez, president of the Colegio de Profesores de Educación Media de Honduras (COPEMH) was quoted as saying "It is also possible to teach students in the streets". So much for the idea that Lobo Sosa's appointment of Ventura had resolved the opposition of teachers.

But that didn't stop El Heraldo-- also resolutely pro-coup-- from headlining its story mentioning the march Majority of Teachers Gave Classes Thursday. Their first line tells it all, from their (nakedly biased) perspective:
Primary school teachers from the capital city did not attend the Zelayist march that ended in the accustomed acts of vandalism.

Well, glad we got THAT sorted out.

So is anyone taking notice outside Honduras?

Well, the Jamaica Observer wins the award for highest attention to the issue in the global English-language media. Its coverage estimated the crowd at 10,000 and managed to accurately communicate that the marchers "called for reform of the constitution and denounced corruption and rights abuses since Zelaya was ousted last June".

Of course, its opening paragraph mis-characterized the marchers as simply "pro-Zelaya".

This confusion between a national movement for reform and the personal supporters of a specific politician is not unusual in English-language media. But it detracts from the real issues, and facilitates the media ignoring the fact that it is not just a segment of the Honduran population that remains concerned about what the success of the coup has produced, both in Honduras and more broadly in Latin America.

When Argentina's Christina Kirchner discusses the negative reaction of Latin American governments to the failure of US policy in the face of the coup on CNN-- negative reactions that contributed to the creation of a new regional group excluding the US-- US media should follow through with analysis of what she, and others in the region, are concerned about.

But instead, the US media rely on two strained storylines for Honduras: Zelaya is the past; Lobo is doing everything needed to create "reconciliation".

But there is no reconciliation without actually facing the facts of what divided Honduras, and continues to divide Honduras. To ignore public protest is to shape the news.

Or, as Ida Garberi puts it in the headline of her article on Vos el Soberano about the event:
we are not five, we are not one hundred, sold-out press, count us well...


Anonymous said...

Would you count the hammers and sickles showing up as a sign of radicalization? I don't recall having seen any significant number of Marxist paraphenalia at any of the marches prior to the installation of Lobo. In the march at Tegucigalpa, there were a number, and according to Adrienne, in San Pedro Sula, they actually put up a plaque with a Karl Marx quote where a Micheletti plaque had previously been installed.


RAJ said...

Sorry for the delayed response-- we were on the road all week.

The march in San Pedro Sula that covered literally took back the boulevard associated with the National University campus there, by reinstating the name of the teacher, Rodolfo Aguiluz Berlioz, who was originally honored there. Aguiluz Berlioz himself was politically progressive; he graduated from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and specialized in labor law. He wrote a thesis entitled "Regímenes agrarios en Honduras" credited as the underpinnings of agrarian reform efforts of the 1970s. As a lawyer, he reportedly defended laborers under prosecution, and was also critical in the history of the university center in San Pedro Sula itself.

Aguiluz Berlioz studied in Mexico because his parents fled Honduras under the dictatorship of Tiburcio Carias Andino. He was reportedly a member of the Frente Democrático Revolucionario Hondureño in Mexico, and the Comité Democrático de Honduras in 1944. These are better known as the Partido Democrático Revolucionario Hondureño and Comité Liberal Democrático de Honduras.

Dario Euraque, in his book El capitalismo de San Pedro Sula y la historia política hondureña (1870-1972), writes about these organizations as the "radical wing" of the Liberal party, largely composed of sampedranos in exile in Mexico, following a massacre in San Pedro in 1944.

(My sources are an editorial by Leonel Delgado in La Prensa published March 2, 2010, and another editorial, by Patricia Murillo Gutierrez, published March 3 in Tiempo.)

This history alone makes the citation from Marx appropriate-- both for the person, for the field he practiced, and for the universities where he was trained and where he worked.

So I would separate the content of the plaque honoring Aguiluz Berlioz and the display of hammer and sickle iconography, worn as T-shirts and displayed as flags. This does seem to me to be significant-- and certainly, something new in the public demonstrations.

Anonymous said...


It will be ironic if the legacy of the coup is the re-ignition of 1960s-style liberation movements ala Che.