Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Day: a Constitutional Assembly is "the final objective"

May first, traditional date throughout the world for demonstrations by organized labor, this year presented a particular opportunity in Honduras for the Frente de Resistencia to make visible popular support in the face of a Honduran government and international community determined to ignore the existence of an organized popular opposition.

Reports and photography by participants in the marches leave no doubt that anti-coup, pro-constitutional assembly messages were critical to the marches that took place in the major cities of Honduras.

What is harder to know is the scale of the marches. Pro-coup newspapers chose to portray the presence of Resistence participants as usurping the events, displacing "authentic" laborers. El Heraldo continued to equate the Frente de Resistencia with the Liberal Party, taking advantage of slogans by some Resistence marchers calling for the government to allow José Manuel Zelaya Rosales to return to Honduras, to portray this as the main demand of the marchers. The newspaper also claimed, without any evidence, that marchers displayed "more Cuban and Venzuelan flags than Honduran", although the photograph captioned with this provocative claim actually showed Doña Xiomara Castro de Zelaya giving a speech in a crowd holding a poster entirely occupied by Honduran imagery-- including the Honduran flag.

El Heraldo gave no overall estimate of the crowd in Tegucigalpa, only claiming that the speeches given by people it condemned as "political" were heard by 5,000 people, while the speeches of union leaders were heard by only 3,000, as part of its argument that the Resistance illegitimately took over a workers' march, ignoring the substantial overlap between the Resistance and unionized labor and campesino groups.

However, even the pro-coup newspaper, La Tribuna, was forced to acknowledge a strong turnout, reporting that the march in Tegucigalpa
did not bring together the 150,000 people that the organizers hoped for, but it was sufficiently massive to paralyze the city with the closing of nearby commercial centers and to alter vehicular traffic in the perimeter that the route embraced. A caravan of motorcycles headed the protest, followed by dozens of union members and campesino organizations, with large placards on which could be read messages like "We want a Constitutional Assembly", "Neither forget nor forgive the authors of the coup d'Etat".

In another story in La Tribuna, the number of marchers is estimated at "more than 100,000".

Meanwhile, El Heraldo reported that in the southern city of Choluteca, marchers-- again described as the "liberal resistance" and portrayed as "inserting" themselves inauthentically into the occasion-- took over the Panamerican Highway for an hour and a half.

While again no estimate of the size of the crowd was provided, the effective ability to block the main highway for that long suggests a substantial body of demonstrators. In its coverage of this demonstration, El Heraldo described the demand for a Constitutional Assembly, oddly, as having been a defeated campaign point of the UD party in November 2009, rather than admit that the call for the Constitutional Assembly is not merely the policy of a particular political party.

Separate reporting on marches in San Pedro Sula, again lacking any estimate of crowd size, noted the presence of marchers representing the Frente de Resistencia. But it also makes clear what other stories tried to confuse: that the Frente and the unions worked together to advance a shared set of themes, including calls for greater economic justice but also the demand for a Constitutional Assembly.

Israel Salinas, president of the Confederación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras (CUTH), is quoted as saying that workers will join in demonstrations called for June 28:
“the people are and will continue to be in the streets until there is a national Constitutional Assembly, because this is the final objective"...

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