Honduras Justice Tour Educates Students on Coup

The Honduras Justice Tour came to Scripps College’s Hampton Room onNov. 4.The tour, a series of speaking engagements throughout Southern California, constitutes the first time the Honduran resistance movement has spoken directly to the U.S. public since the military ousted Manuel Zelaya from the presidency on Jun. 28.The leaders of the coup claim that they overthrew Zelaya in order to preserve the constitution, which the ousted president hinted that he might reform.Those struggling against the de facto government, however, claim this served as a mere pretense, and that the leaders of the coup had ousted Zelaya for his betrayal of the business elite. They note that Zelaya had not planned to change the constitution on Jun. 28, but rather to issue a survey to the Honduran people on whether the constitution needed to be changed.The event—organized by a group of 5-C professors and a committee of 10 students, and sponsored by several clubs, departments, and organizations across the 5Cs—consisted of a video conference, footage of the unrest following the coup, and forums with several labor leaders, political organizers, and human rights advocates.The afternoon began with introductions from Scripps Professor of History Cindy Forster and Pomona Professor of History Miguel Tinker Salas.The organizers then began a video-conference with three university students active in the protests against the coup. Working through organizations such as Los Necios, Revolutionary Tendency, and the Committee of the Relatives of the Disappeared Detainees of Honduras (COFADEH)—all of which are part of the coalition of the National Resistance Front against the coup in Honduras—these three had worked to organize a student opposition to the coup at Honduras’ two public universities.“We know that there are a lot of people interested in what is going on in our country [and] we would like to thank all of those who have helped us in our struggle for democracy in the Americas,” said Ian Diaz, one of the three students.Diaz, speaking through a translator, stressed the importance of considering the recent events in Honduras in the context of the region as a whole.“It is really important for us to realize that the situation in Honduras is not an isolated coup,” he said. “We are certain that this is a political and military laboratory.”Regarding the upcoming elections scheduled for Nov. 29, the students, like most of the remaining speakers, expressed skepticism.“There is just a little over two weeks before the Nov. 29 elections, and the National Resistance Front has already taken a position on this and decided not to participate,” Diaz said.In addition to the National Resistance Front, COFADEH, and the Democratic Unification Party, President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina and the Union of South American Countries and Mercasur have also stated that they believe the Nov. 29 elections under de facto President Roberto Micheletti will not be legitimate.Carlos Reyes, an independent candidate who had the support of many members of the National Resistance Front, dropped out of the elections on Monday, and urged his supporters to boycott the elections as well.Diaz said that the military’s increased presence in urban and rural Honduras demonstrates their desire to preempt any attempts to boycott the elections. He stressed the variety of voices represented in the National Resistance Front, stating that, in addition to those who had worked in labor organizations and human rights organizations prior to the coup, the unrest following Zelaya’s ouster rallied other dissidents from the “traditional political parties” as well. The result, he said, was a “heterogeneous unity.”“It … has a diversity of points of view, so … any actions they take come from the discussion of different sectors and political groups,” Diaz said. “That makes it very solid when it comes to the political analysis in the country.”In response to an audience member’s question regarding the role of students in the movement, Diaz said the resistance movement consists largely of women and young people. The students have been particularly active in preventing the de facto government’s attempts to militarize the universities.“Despite our youth, our work backs us up,” Diaz said. “Our opinion is not only respected but it is sought out when it comes to the political decisions.”Martha Arguello, a visiting Professor of Africana Studies at Scripps College, concluded the video-conference by introducing panelists Sarah Aguilar, the coordinator of the National Movement for Dignity and Justice; Iris Munguia, the coordinator for the Banana and Agro-Industrial Worker Unions; Esquias Doblado, an activist on the Committee in Defense of Human Rights in Honduras; and Indyra Mendoza Aguilar, a representative from the LGBT Coalition of Honduras in Resistance to the Coup (CATTRACHAS).Doblado spoke first, giving a brief history of the military’s role in Honduran politics since the 1940s. He began by drawing a specific contrast between the situation in Honduras and the situation at the 5Cs.“It just so happens that in the private universities in Honduras, it’s prohibited to discuss the things we’re discussing here with you,” Doblado said through a translator. “In the Honduran universities where there is supposed to be a free circulation of ideas and thoughts, the professors have told me they are proscribed from discussing [these issues].”Doblado said that, initially, Honduras’ armed forces consisted of “non-professional,” decentralized militias. Around 1942, however, the Honduran government signed a direct treaty with the United States, obliging the latter to reorganize the Honduran armed forces. These reforms included the establishment of a more defined military hierarchy and a centralization of military power. This influence became particularly noticeable during the Cold War years.“Latin America and Honduras do not escape this … [they are] trapped between the East and the West,” Doblado said. “As a consequence … the U.S. comes to be responsible for forming ideologically the armed forces.”This ideological aspect of military training, Doblado said, established anti-communist rhetoric, including the argument that the armed forces acted to “defend democracy”–thus the violation of human rights in Honduras during the 1970s and 1980s.Following the end of the Cold War, Doblado said the Honduran military came to occupy a less visible yet influential role in politics as the elite business leaders gained more direct power over the government.“[The business elite] had the armed forces like a locked up dog, because they didn’t have the need to unleash them,” Doblado said. “But now the people want fundamental changes in the social, political and judicial structures … [so] they have released the armed forces from its confines.”Doblado described Zelaya as a well-intentioned person who saw the need to enact fundamental reforms.“He understood a judicial and constitutional framework and the legislation under it has become a straightjacket that curtails the natural evolution of the society,” Doblado said.

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