Saturday, July 10, 2010

Not quite a reply from the FNRP

But the statement posted on Vos el Soberano today may show some effects of the public positioning of COPINH and the Feministas en Resistencia.

Titled In installation of its first National Assembly the FNRP recognizes its diversity and strengthens unity, the statement starts
Recognizing the diversity of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP) there was initiated this day in Tocoa, Department of Colón, the act of installation of the First National Assembly of the Honduran Resistance.

That "recognizing the diversity" is, obviously, critical to many constituent parts of the Frente.

Choosing Tocoa as the site of the Assembly is itself symbolic: Tocoa is in the region of the Bajo Aguan, where the confrontation of campesinos and landowners has not yet been concluded, and where tensions continue.

The statement goes on to say that
delegates, militants and sympathizers of the FNRP coming from all Honduras participated actively in the Forum of installation.

This wording raises the question, what constitutes a delegate, versus a sympathizer? The statement goes on to describe the assembly as including
men and women, youths and adults of all the political currents that have expression in the country and that have space in the FNRP.

Near the end of the statement tensions are finally openly acknowledged:
At the end of the act of installation and previous to the mobilization various doubts were clarified that have to do with the character of the Resistance, it was clarified that "the objective that the FNRP has is the National Assembly. What matters now, is not if we will be a political party, the important thing is that we are the principal social and political force of the country and that we have succeeded in reconfiguring the map of power in Honduras".

The "big tent" rhetoric, especially given the specification that it concerns "all the political currents", hints at the tensions between traditional political parties and the more revolutionary groups in the Frente.

So who did attendees hear from to represent the diversity of the Frente?

The three speakers mentioned by name in the article are Marcelino Borjas, Pavel Núñez, and Gloria Oquelí.

Borjas is described in the statement by the Frente as a retired teacher with a Master's degree in sociology and a doctorate in economics. His remarks at the Assembly reaffirmed the anti-imperialist posture of the Frente, and argued that the coup "would not have been possible without the participation and the help of officials of the highest level of the North American government".

Pavel Núñez, a member of the musical group Café Guancasco "spoke in the name of Honduran youth".

But the really interesting choice here is to give a great deal of print to Gloria Oquelí, described as "recognized leader of the Liberal Party, member for Honduras of the Parlamento Centroamericano (PARLACEN), and until recently President of that regional organization".

In March, Oquelí was listed as part of a group called the "encounter of progressive Liberals", one of seven factions within the Liberal Party that El Heraldo claimed would "promote the overthrow of the Liberal Party and even ask for the disappearance of that party". In May, El Heraldo augmented its count of factions of Liberals in Resistance to include what it called three "zelayist" factions, for a total of ten separate movements within the Liberal Party organizing against the dominance of Roberto Micheletti and Elvin Santos.

So, whatever other role she has, when Oquelí speaks, one of the tensions she voices is that between Liberals in the Resistance and those suspicious of the party system itself.

Oquelí is quoted as saying that
the rules of democracy are simple: one of those affirms that the majority rules and a second reaffirms that the majority can change any rule that might be established in a democratic system, except for the first.

Sounds uncontroversial, right? Majority rule = democracy.

But in fact, COPINH and the Feminists in Resistance each have articulated different rules of democracy, which stem from a minority position that understands that majority rule may actually end up being majority command. COPINH builds on a tradition of indigenous organizing in which consensus is the goal. A consensus is a majority; but it is a majority without significant dissent. To arrive at consensus, you have to take time to thrash things out, and you may well need to abandon some things that are objectionable to a determined minority.

Feminist organizations often strive for consensus as well. They also may advocate, as the Feministas en Resistencia did in their statement, for parity between men and women in governance.

Minority groups, including traditional parties that have strong agendas but are not popular enough to win a majority (such as the Liberal Democrats in the recent UK elections), often advocate an alternative to majority rule: proportional representation. Unlike the more familiar winner-takes-all approach, in proportional representation, minority positions can emerge with representation equal to that of their supporters. In pluralistic societies, proportional representation is probably more truly democratic.

So, the rules of democracy are not so simple after all.

But back to Gloria Oquelí. The report on the Assembly says she argued that "it is important to consolidate the political project known as Resistance". Again, not all participating segments of the Frente would agree that the Resistance is a "political project", and if they did, they would disagree on what kind of "political project" it is; and they may well continue to politely disagree with the claim that it has to be "consolidated".

Oquelí is a good politician, a progressive one, and she clearly feels the Resistance has a once in a lifetime opportunity. According to the report,
Recognizing the wide character of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular and the traps of empire she declared that "if they push us, if they corner us, so that we will be an institution of a homogeneous ideology, we could fall into error. In the FNRP we all fit, therefore it is not true what Hugo Llorens says, that we are a small group of the extreme left and of the extreme right facing off. It is the ideas, the ideals and all our dreams, not the ideologies that mark our way".

While it isn't entirely clear here who "they" are who want to corner the Frente into a homogeneous ideology, the juxtaposition with US Ambassador Llorens' regrettable dismissal of the Frente as an "extreme left" group tends to suggest Oquelí is concerned about the Frente being pushed to remain ideologically pure by the left. While it is hard to reduce feminist or indigenous activism to right/left terms, if you have to choose one position, it would indeed be left.

So, perhaps "they" who are trying to corner the Frente into an "ideology" in place of simply "ideas" and "ideals" includes those who recently expressed their uncertainties about the goals of this weekend's assembly. Since no one from indigenous or feminist networks is quoted in this first report, it is hard to say what they thought of how the event was opened.

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