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  August 26, 2009

Honduran resistance goes it alone

60 days of anti-coup protests show persistence in civil disobedience and little faith in int'l community
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Al Giordano is an investigative journalist based in Chiapas, Mexico. He is originally from the Bronx, New York. Since 2000 he has been the publisher of Narco News, which reports mainly on the US War on Drugs effects on the people of Mexico and Central America. He is also the founder of the School for Authentic Journalism and writes a blog called The Field which focuses on US politics.

As protests against the coup government in Honduras enter their 60th day, the international community has largely turned their attention away from the streets of Tegucigalpa. This lack of awareness, combined with heightened state repression, has done little to deter the ongoing disobedience campaign inside Honduras. Al Giordano reports from rural Honduras on the determination of the resistance movement to achieve their goals, with or without help from abroad. Giordano also points out that, contrary to popular belief outside of Honduras, the end goal of the resistance is not the return to power of President Zelaya, but rather the transformation of the country through a constitutional referendum.


JESSE FREESTON, PRODUCER, TRNN: Today marks day 60 of the Honduran resistance to the military coup of June 28, 60 days since the cancellation of the nonbinding national survey on rewriting the Constitution, and 60 days since the removal of President Manuel Zelaya from the country. While the coup government continues to receive some military economic support from the United States and Canada, not a single government has officially recognized the regime. Yet despite universal denunciation in the days following the coup, 60 days later the international community appears either unable, unwilling, or even complicit, and the foreign media has largely turned the page. But the coup resistance inside Honduras has not been so eager to accept this fate and has remained strong. The Real News spoke to Al Giordano, veteran investigative journalist and publisher of Narco News. He joined us via broadband from Santa Rosa de Copán in southwestern Honduras.

AL GIORDANO, JOURNALIST AND PUBLISHER, NARCO NEWS: Almost the whole story of the civil resistance and how it is organized has been missed. Keep your eyes on the story down below. The story up above, the circus about, you know, Zelaya, Micheletti, the generals, the personalities, what Washington says, what Caracas says, most of that is a sideshow. The real story here is that in Honduras, among vast sectors of society and with the support of a majority of its population, people are organizing creatively to topple a coup d'état. What you see unfolding is something unprecedented in Honduran history. What everybody tells us everywhere we go is that in the past there may have been national mobilizations that lasted a week or two but no more. Now they're 60 days in daily resistance. And what everybody agrees is, number one, the goal of this thing is way beyond whether Zelaya returns to the presidency or not. He either will return or he won't. But the overriding goal doesn't change, and that's to remake the country, that's for a new constitution and what they call a constituent assembly or a constitutional convention in order to make that happen. That's of course what the regime is panicked about. What the oligarchs and the upper classes and the multinational business interests fear is that people might elect delegates to a constitutional convention and make a better constitution for a more democratic and inclusive society.

FREESTON: According to Giordano, this long-term planning is taking place in the rural areas, while in the capital of Tegucigalpa the resistance has been preoccupied with continuous conflict.

GIORDANO: The situation has been plagued by this state-of-siege mentality, where people go out, they march peacefully; the regime represses it violently; the people then go out and march against the repression; the regime represses that violently. And this sort of vicious cycle has made long-term and strategic thinking and conversation much more difficult with all the constant interruption, the need to get people out of prison, that sort of thing.

FREESTON: In some cases, detainees are brought to special forces barracks such as this one, where more than 20 protesters were taken to after a march last week.


Courtesy: Gremio de Cineastras




FREESTON: When the government's own human rights ombudswoman arrived to investigate, she was denied entry.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Listen up. I can enter at any time I can enter at any time.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Anywhere where people are being detained.


FREESTON: The recently concluded human rights delegation from the Organization of American States reported at least 3,500 cases of arbitrary detention. Their report, together with a recently released report by Amnesty International, confirmed denunciations of political assassination, torture, use of excessive force, and of the exposure of media outlets and journalists to consistent intimidation, mobility restrictions, assault, forced closure, and illegal detention, such as seen in this video of the arrest of a local newspaper photographer.

GIORDANO: Well, just recently, two nights ago, there was a concert that at its peak had 40,000 participants in Tegucigalpa. It began at nine o'clock in the morning and went till midnight. At around 9 p.m., as the two major anti-coup media—Radio Globo, which is based in the capital but has affiliates in 15 different parts of Honduras, and Channel 36 TV—were broadcasting the concert live, and armed men entered both at the same time, knew exactly where the transmitter was located, and went in both cases and poured acid on the transmitters, temporarily shutting down their broadcasts. And, of course, you know, the coup regime not only does nothing to work against these attacks on the free press, but it is behind them, obviously to everyone. This is a regime that's tried now twice—once through military action, the other through government bureaucrats—to shut down Radio Globo. It hasn't succeeded. Radio Globo had a plan B: they had another transmitter lined up, and they were up again by morning. Channel 36 is still trying to get itself back on its feet.

FREESTON: Women in the resistance have been the targets of the most vicious of attacks.

GIORDANO: You'd see in the demonstrations that the cops are very brutal on women, even elderly women, kicking them to the ground. They kicked the rector of the university to the ground when there was a demonstration there. That's on video.

FREESTON: What follows is the testimony of Irma Villanueva, 25-year-old mother of four who was detained at a march last week. This is what she told the Catholic radio station Radio Progresso about her experience after she was detained.

IRMA VILLANUEVA, CAPTURED PROTESTER, TOWN OF CHOLOMA: I don't know where we were headed, because the cop kept me pinned face down with his foot on my back. They brought me to a filthy place. They threw me down and told me, "Now, bitch, you're going to find out what happens to you for doing things you shouldn't be doing." Four policemen then raped me. Afterwards they raped me with that thing they use to hit us. Then they left me lying there alone.

FREESTON: As international interest wanes, the repression grows. Amnesty International concluded their report by saying, "As protests increase and spread throughout the country ... Honduran citizens are increasingly exposed to violations of their fundamental rights." (August 19, 2009) For its part, the coup government says it will not relinquish power until the scheduled elections of November 29. Giordano says the elections present the resistance with a troubling dilemma.

GIORDANO: There's a great ambivalence about them. They know that the game is fixed, that you've got a regime that on the spur of a moment will call a curfew, will suspend basic constitutional rights, will invade people's homes, will engage in great acts of intimidation and violence. And it's clear that you can't hold fair and free elections under these circumstances of repressive intimidation. Nobody believes that a regime that would pull off a coup d'état won't also engage in electoral fraud as well.

FREESTON: Both traditional parties are led by coup supporters, leaving some to see the election as an opportunity for the resistance to take power, given the widespread resentment of the coup.

GIORDANO: The problem is they know if they participate in the elections, the elections will be portrayed as legitimate, and they don't see any way they can win the fixed game. So there's a big debate over whether to participate or how to participate. And there's a whole 'nother sector of the social movements that's already decided it will boycott the elections. It may even impede them from happening through nonviolent action.

FREESTON: International bodies like the OAS have suggested that the election may not be recognized if Zelaya isn't returned to power beforehand. Micheletti's government has countered that international recognition is not of importance to them. According to Giordano, this debate shows once again that the international community is out of touch with what the people in the streets of Honduras are really after. It comes as the leaders outside Honduras continue to push for the plan of Costa Rican President Óscar Arias, as championed by the US State Department. Rejected by the coup leaders for including Zelaya's return to power, it has been equally rejected by the coup resistance for including both amnesty for crimes being committed during the coup and the dropping of the national survey on the Constitution.

GIORDANO: And people sort of feel like the diplomatic efforts have failed. Plan Arias was stillborn from the start because it did not consider the real aspiration of the Honduran people, which is this new constitution. And I think that people are going to stop playing along with Secretary Clinton's game on this and begin to focus more on the grassroots community organizing and civil resistance tactics that have defeated regimes in many countries around the world.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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