Saturday, August 7, 2010

Political economy of Honduras: the 2009 coup d'etat (Part 4 of 4)

Economist Miguel Cáceres Rivera and historian Sucelinda Zelaya conclude their analysis of the modern Honduran political economy with the developments that culminated in the coup d'Etat of 2009.

They characterize the situation as a crisis of representation, a crisis in the system of representative democracy, a crisis of institutional credibility and social legitimacy.

Here, I translate the remainder of their paper in full:
Manuel (Mel) Zelaya Rosales, coming from the cattle ranching class displaced in the 1970s, ascended to the presidency with a margin of voting close to one-fourth of the total electorate, and for that reason, with a very low level of social legitimacy. Over the course of his term this increased considerably thanks to his putting into practice (more through spontaneity and political intuition than in obedience to a pre-elaborated governmental plan) two types of economic measures: on the one hand, some oriented to stabilize, reduce or impede the growth of the cost of living for the people, and on the other hand, those [measures] that sought to improve personal income. Among the first would be the control of the prices of fuels (through the regulation of the margin of intermediation and by means of a subsidy on the price of fuels) and the reduction of the interest rates for loans for construction of homes; among the second, would be the important increase that he decided on in the minimum wage. Zelaya addressed these and other solutions to the problem of the crisis of reproduction.

The majority of the people affected by the adverse impacts on the new axis of accumulation formed the business elite during the process of its consolidation and enrichening. A common suffering identified and unified this majority. So diverse in its social composition, this contingent is part of the elite. In the economic measures undertaken by Zelaya Rosales, this contingent found common solutions that established a tie of identity among its constituent elements, on the one hand, against Zelaya, on the other, in a progressive and gradual dynamic of leader-mass.

The economic measures that on the one hand alleviated the crisis of reproduction, are perceived by the business elite as threats to the process of accumulation, and therefore, to themselves. Within this perception, the threat became extreme with the proposal by Zelaya to install a constitutional assembly that it was presumed would modify the rules of the game that ruled and constitutionally supported the mode of operation of activities of the axis of accumulation that had benefited the business elite. An assembly that at the same time would change the form and means of political participation beyond the traditional mediation of the parties that had been highly functional for the elite. The elite and parties saw themselves, then, as threatened, forged the coup d'Etat and executed it making use of the judicial and legislative branches and of the army. Reacting to the coup the majority affected by the model of accumulation and identified with the economic measures was made visible, emerging in the actions of struggle undertaken against the coup. From the varied social composition of this majority derives the so-marked social heterogeneity of the movement of resistance.

Two basic political perceptions fuel this movement of expanded social stratification. One that sees in the anti-coup conjuncture the possibilities of modifying fundamental characteristics of the economic system. Another than conceives of the actions of the movement within the parameters of the system. Within the latter, there are two aspects: one that is assembled around Zelaya Rosales as its leader, and another that is constituted in reaction to the violation of the right of popular sovereignty involved in the coup. With all the possible nuances between these basic positions the political spectrum of the movement is wide. Uniting all these positions and nuances is the consensus around the need for economic measures against the model of accumulation and the need for a scheme of participation that is more open and with mechanisms for direct democracy.

The coup d'Etat split Honduran society and its institutions and polarized perceptions, opinions, attitudes and actions of the population. The strong decline in economic activity is one of its most evident and gravest repercussions. It sharpens in consequence the crisis of reproduction. The coup as a violation of the right of popular sovereignty aggravates the political crisis of institutional credibility and of representation. And one year from this coup, solutions are not noticeable.

The solution to the crisis of reproduction necessarily passes through questioning and reversal of the logic and scheme of functioning of the present model of accumulation and, therefore, the economic and political power of the business elite, while the solution to the crisis of participation passes necessarily through the questioning and reversal of the political model of representative democracy.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 02 July 2010

Miguel Cáceres Rivera and Sucelinda Zelaya

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