Thursday, May 26, 2011

Reactions to the Cartagena Accord, Part 3: Artists in Resistance

The Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular is not homogeneous. It does not speak with one voice, as we previously noted.

We have special affection for Artists in Resistance who made the phrase "culture and politics" in our title something other than a contradiction in terms. Performing artists, writers, poets, have been at the forefront of the resistance from its inception.

They have now issued a characteristically poetic response to the Cartagena Accord, in the form of a statement addresses at Mel Zelaya, never mentioning the words "Cartagena Accord", and explicitly denouncing the administration of the co-signatory of that document, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, for continued aggression against the people of Honduras at sites such as the Bajo Aguan.

It is worth visiting the original to get a sense of the poetics, even if you don't read Spanish. Luckily for the non-Spanish reader, Adrienne Pine has provided a translation at quotha. While she leaves the statement to speak for itself, I cannot resist pulling out some threads and noting where they lead.

The first thread is given by the addressee: this is a communication to Mel. But it places on record the fact that Mel's return is not just a personal success, and further, underscores that it does not make him the body of resistance even though he came to embody "the dignity of Honduras":
Your return to Honduras is only the first step for which we took to the streets....

We will go to welcome you as you deserve, compañero Manuel Zelaya, with the pride of knowing that we did everything within our reach to defend to dignity of Honduras that you embody...

The tone is restrained. While congratulating Mel on being able to return to Honduras, and promising to be part of the crowd greeting him, Artists in Resistance refrain from being part of a carnivalesque celebration:
We will be there, compañero Manuel Zelaya, but we will not provide the spectacle. Our song and our voice is political and not simply backup for a cathartic euphoria over a success that we have yet to achieve.

"Cathartic euphoria over a success that we have yet to achieve": nothing could be clearer. The Cartagena Accord has not, and will not solve the entire political situation; it does not even undertake to address many glaring issues.

The Artists in Resistance, like the Political Committee of the Frente, do not believe that Lobo Sosa can be trusted to safeguard human rights, as he promised in the accord:
we will not forget that the Lobo regime is murderous, that it continues murdering the campesinos of Aguán and Zacate Grande; that this very week it has ordered police to stomp on the necks of the students of Luis Bográn, that it ignores the martyrs and desperate hunger strike of the teachers, that it permits the targeted assassinations of artists like Renán Fajardo and Juan Ángel Sorto, that it carelessly ignores the deaths of poets of universal standing like Roberto Sosa and Amanda Castro, that it continues ordering protection for the murderous businessmen of the coup d'état and that it attacks and persecutes its people and has sold off our territory piece by piece, with the help of a police force and army converted by the empire into occupation forces within our country.

While much of this part of the statement could be generalized to others in resistance, the outrage by the Artists in Resistance about the failure of the Lobo Sosa government to recognize "the deaths of poets of universal standing" speaks volumes about the cultural divide opened up by the coup.

On one side stand those for whom culture, in the famous phrase of Myrna Castro, also includes fashion, but not the distribution of what she considered subversive books; and on the other, those who were, under the Zelaya government, seeing public recognition of poets and authors reflected in many aspects of policy, advances now lost.

(The Honduran literary blog mimalapalabra has an appreciation of Roberto Sosa for Spanish readers. Feministas en Resistencia produced a statement on the death of Amanda Castro, reproduced on voselsoberano.)

Nothing in the Cartagena Accord deals with the retrogression in Honduran cultural affairs that came about in the coup and has continued under Lobo Sosa.

Artists in Resistance reserve harsh language-- I would have said, the harshest, had their statements about Lobo Sosa not been so severe-- for others in the Frente de Resistencia:
we did everything within our reach to defend to dignity of Honduras that you embody, an extraordinary effort that has brought us, in the course of two years of painful struggle, to organize our understanding and watch it grow within the legitimate structures of the FNRP. Nonetheless, all of our enormous effort, from every corner of Honduras and from all of our people's artistic expressions, does not seem to be sufficient to ensure that the FNRP at all levels of its hierarchy also advances in terms of decisive dialectic understanding and of accepting internal criticism and its own diversity...
[speaking of their refusal to perform as part of a premature celebration]: This is a fundamental stance for us that has not been understood by those who have been incubating orthodox hegemonies from within the FNRP leadership.

Can the Frente survive the Cartagena Accord? In part, it seems to us, that will depend on whether those who thought they spoke for the entire heterogeneous group get back to work engaging internally.

The Artists in Resistance close with a call to recognize that they, and the rest of the heterogeneous resistance, can be the leaders in the continuing political struggle:
The enormous weight that now lies on your shoulders—and that we are willing to bear—can be summarized in the fact that, with each of your actions, the voice of our martyrs and exiles will remind you of the sacrifice that so many have made to give life to the National Front of Popular Resistance.

This is not quite the conventional view that sees the Cartagena Accord as bringing an end to the need for resistance, viewing Zelaya as the leader of the Frente. The resistance remembered by the Artists is something bigger:
we have been witnesses to the growth of thousands of voices and faces of leadership, leaders of neighborhoods, municipalities, towns, collectives and organizations—an immense demonstration of the strength and will accumulated over decades in the bowels of a humiliated Honduras.

Couched in poetry, what this statement does is make clear that José Manuel Zelaya Rosales matters as a symbol of what has been done to Honduran society generally; and perhaps even a warning to him not to mistake that for a mandate for leadership.

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