Monday, June 28, 2010

Commemorating the Coup d'Etat of June 2009: Opinions

Marking anniversaries is a basic human impulse. When the event was a positive one, we call this a celebration. When, as in the case of the coup d'Etat in Honduras, the event was violent, destructive, and disruptive, the word we use is "commemorate": to remember together.

So it is that in Honduras today, those in opposition to the coup, to the de facto regime it initiated, and to the administration of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, elected under the shadow of that regime, gathered in public, to share in marking the passage of a year since the legal order was broken in their country.

We would normally be in San Pedro Sula at this time of year, when the celebration of the founding of the city, the Feriana Juniana, takes place. In San Pedro yesterday and today the Artistas en Resistencia continued their practice of using the arts as a weapon of protest, organizing a sleepover Sunday night with cultural activities and fireworks, and promising a concert and screening of the film "Quien Dijo Miedo".

As it happens, El Tiempo, the only newspaper in Honduras that dared to print accurate stories during the coup and de facto regime (and as a result, saw its circulation increase), is published in San Pedro Sula. So it was the first place we went to see how the marking of this anniversary would be covered.

The first notable thing is that the front page includes a whole series of stories on the topic. This even includes reporting on the alternative truth commission sponsored by the Human Rights Platform.

But even more striking is the editorial stance of the paper. Of six signed editorials, four overtly condemn the coup d'Etat. There is only one that openly supports the coup. (*)

The lead (unsigned) editorial is striking: it calls attention to the connection between drug-trafficking and the coup, quoting Hugo Martinez, chancellor of El Salvador, for the punch line: "There are only two sectors that are interested in the governments in the region being weak: drug-traffickers and golpistas".

Luis Alexis Ramos writes of the "Anniversary of a betrayal" (or even, "Anniversary of an act of treason"
promoted by the oligarchic classes of the country, with the collaboration of unscrupulous and ambitious politicians and congress members, clerics and pastors that left the pulpit to meddle in politics, and with the backing of the most backward groups of the decision-makers of the Armed Forces of Honduras...The only positive thing that was obtained through this attack on the Constitution perpetrated by the Honduran oligarchy, is that the people became conscious of their role in defense of democracy, woke up from their stupor of decades; they illuminated their mind with the thoughts of liberty and rebellion in the face of injustices, and that their courage was an armor against all the affronts and the blows that the received defending their right to protest.

In "The Virus of golpismo", Eduardo David Ardon argues that due to the long history of coups in the country
we have not attained the development that the people long for, and we believe that it is only possible when a democratic process is initiated in which popular sovereignty is respected and a system of participation with justice and equity truly takes shape, because if not, if there is not justice for everyone, there will be peace for no one.

Ardon identifies golpismo as a virus in the bloodstream of some politicians because their ancestors carried out previous coups. He traces an intricate web linking many of the authors and supporters of the latest coup to relatives involved in previous disruptions of constitutional government. He continues
The golpistas of yesterday, today, and always, are the same and the people knows them already, so that it fights against them in every circumstance.

The causes of those coups and attacks on the Constitution, also are the same, since at every moment it has been the defense of their economic and political class interests, that do not compromise with the ideas of liberty and progress of the Honduran people.

EfraĆ­n Bu Figueroa labels the coup of 2009 an "Historic Rupture",
with which constitutional order was broken in Honduras. A ferocious repression was begun against the people and the independent press was silenced by bayonets. Old death squads were reactivated, that human rights institutions have denounced as dedicated to the selective elimination of the opposition, actions that persist to the present, many of them disguised as crimes by common delinquents.

The coup was fostered by powerful groups, affected in their economic interests by the diverse popular measures taken by the government of citizen power....

The political crisis of 2009 is the eruption of a political-social volcano, whose destructive energeies have been building up for many decades.... When the people began to receive timid responses to their vital needs, the controlling elite saw its special interests menaced, and its hegemonic power in danger....

One year later, Honduras is no longer the same nor will it go back to being so. The coup d'Etat, was a consequence of the distortions and weaknesses of the system, placing in evidence its failure; but at the same time opening the door, in a moment of inflection, to advance without fears, with hope and under new paradigms to a State of justice, and equity, and of confidence under new leadership and renewed ideas.

Finally, Efren D. Falcon writes in "First things First" that the answer to the question "what do Hondurans want?" is complex, beginning with what he identifies as a lack of understanding about the political-economic situation of the country on the part of the small middle class, in which he places himself. His critique of the political-economic elite is harsh:

the political leadership confuses itself and merges with a coarse business class that has not learned how to measure the consequences of its actions. It manipulates with hypocrisy and cynicism poverty and need; it makes a party of an unwanted social conscience-- that is quoted with discretion and without dignity-- but that it keeps in its Prada handbag or Armani wallet when it isn't speaking in public, citing measures of inequality that they themselves sponsor.

To this, he contrasts

the growth of a social movement whose extension has no equal in national history. We call this phenomenon the Resistance: resistance to the coup d'Etat, and against an infinity of irregularities that today are perfectly unmasked. What is moving through the country today is a resistance against the present social and political-economic order, ever stronger winds of change.

These editorial opinions contrast vividly with the failure in much of the English language press to understand that the coup of 2009 was a response by a threatened political-economic elite to the possibility of broader effective participation on the part of the Honduran people, to relatively small steps toward economic equity and participation in governance by that people.

The repeated recognition that there is no going back, and that the resistance movement mobilized by the coup may well be the real lasting legacy of that attempt to hold back change, is and should be the story, one year after what history will look back on as the grossest miscalculation by a group in power thinking they could hold back change by force and will.

*The sixth signed editorial in Tiempo, by Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramirez, is ambiguous. It presents an argument against people who rely on "one book". If we take this as a call for tolerance of pluralism, mark it in the category of opposed to the coup. Ramirez, a former revolutionary during the anti-Somoza fight in Nicaragua, wrote in negative terms about the coup in Honduras last year, calling the international press to task for not identifying it clearly as a military coup, calling attention to the dangerous political involvement of the military, to cite just two examples.

But he also is engaged in fighting against what he sees as the danger of continuismo in Nicaragua. So the framework for his editorial is not that of the Honduran editorialists, and he makes no mention of the anniversary. Yet it is interesting to read in the context of that anniversary. He asks explicitly whether we should hold against Marx "the socialism of the 21st century". References to 21st century socialism in Honduras usually come from those who see danger in the kinds of participatory democracy promoted under Manuel Zelaya. We would not be surprised if this editorial is read by those people as support for their position, regardless of Ramirez' own intentions.


Tommy said...

For your information: BBC commemorates too, selectively:

RAJ said...

See the next post. Not to single out the BBC, but they have in the past been better than others.