Clock ticking in Honduras
For the past four months, ever since the military coup that removed President Manuel Zelaya from
power in Honduras, the oligarchy has been accused of purposefully delaying to make it to the
scheduled election of November 29. But now, with only one month to go, it looks likely that no more
than a handful of countries will recognize the elections unless Zelaya is immediately returned to power.
Al Giordano, who has been extensively covering Honduras since the coup for Narco News, shares his
belief that the latest attempt to negotiate Zelaya’s return will not work, and that there are some inside the
coup resistance in Honduras that are hoping to take advantage of election day to do more than just
boycott the vote.
JESSE FREESTON, PRODUCER, TRNN: It has been 125 days since a military coup removed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya from office. At the time of the coup, the world’s leaders responded in unison, declaring the change of power illegitimate and demanding Zelaya’s immediate and unconditional restoration. Four months later, the Obama administration has sent three top officials to Honduras to facilitate negotiations between the same coup government that the US claims to consider illegitimate, and Zelaya, who is marking one month holed up in the Brazilian embassy.
IAN KELLY, SPOKESMAN, US STATE DEPT.: We’re just taking every opportunity to try and press on both sides the urgency of the situation and to try and get them to resolve this as soon as possible.
FREESTON: The Real News spoke to Al Giordano, editor of Narco News.
AL GIORDANO, JOURNALIST AND EDITOR, NARCO NEWS: I don’t know that it is going to change anything. I don’t have great hopes for it. I’ve never had great hopes for the negotiating process. You can’t negotiate with a fundamentally criminal enterprise, and I don’t think it’s that relevant. I think that the State Department, and Secretary Clinton in particular, have their egos bruised that they pushed so heavily this negotiation process and the coup regime in particular has not taken it seriously, it’s used it as an excuse to buy time.
FREESTON: For the US government, resolution to the crisis means creating favorable conditions for the scheduled general election on November 29.
KELLY: You know, I think it’s getting quite urgent. What we want is we want to see an election, which is coming in about exactly a month, to enjoy the kind of international legitimacy that the people of Honduras deserve for their government.
FREESTON: Numerous observers have noted that the conditions don’t exist for a free and fair election. Take the media situation. After three weeks off-air since the military forcibly entered and stole their equipment, the Radio Globo network and TV Channel 36 are back on air but have not been returned all their confiscated equipment, while three shows on another network, all hosted by women’s rights organizations, were taken off air by their owner after criticizing the regime, while those programs that remain on air are subject to a presidential decree that criminalizes, at the discretion of the regime, both the jeopardizing of national security and the promotion of what it calls "social anarchy". But human rights violations are not restrained just to the freedom of the press. A new report from Honduras’s largest independent human rights monitor, COFADEH, documents 21 political assassinations, 3,033 illegal detentions, and 133 cases of torture in the four months since the coup. All this has left the regime with little to no international support for its upcoming elections.
GIORDANO: The clock has inverted, and what used to be their attempt to run out the clock to the November 29 elections, when everything would magically be made legal again, is now a clock that runs against them because nobody’s under the illusion anymore that these election results, if they take place under a coup regime and its repressive decrees and its censorship of the press and all the things it has done to prove it is not an authentic democracy, that it does not have authentic conditions to hold an authentic election, I think now the clock is running against them.
FREESTON: In the meantime, the economy of Honduras is in shatters.
GIORDANO: Things are worse than they’ve been in a long, long time. Honduras never quite recovered from Hurricane Mitch in 1998. It already had a fragile economy with a very high percentage of its population in immense poverty. But things have gotten so much worse since the coup began, both because of the international sanctions and also because the coup regime has spent so many resources defending itself—not just by hiring Washington lobbyists, but fielding those police and those military troops on the streets every day to prevent democracy from breaking out, or even dissent, is a very expensive job that is sapping things from other resources.
FREESTON: The coup resistance has maintained that it will boycott the elections, and has been joined by two of the five presidential candidates, as well as hundreds of both congressional and municipal candidates. The regime has responded by threatening that anyone advocating nonparticipation in the election will face prison sentences of four to six years. But Giordano reports that the resistance may have more than just a boycott up their sleeve, and that’s a plan to bring back their central demand: a constitutional referendum.
GIORDANO: The resistance still has a big opportunity that is provided to it by the coup regime’s insistence on holding these elections on November 29. There’s been some talk, and we’ve reported it in certain quarters of the resistance, of using that date when the regime has set up these polling places in every electoral district in the country to go ahead and hold the very referendum that the coup was designed to stop on June 28—not a referendum that’s run by the state, but a popular referendum. Putting up ballot boxes outside of every polling place and having that vote, "Do you want a constituent assembly for a new constitution, yes or no?" could provide a real horns of a dilemma for the coup regime, because if they let it happen, the very thing they held the coup to prevent has now happened and has placed the constituent assembly on the front burner, once again, of the national agenda. Or if coup regime behaves as it has behaved since June 28 and turns its great celebration of elections and democracy on November 29 into global media images of its own soldiers and police attacking ballot boxes with billy clubs, well, then it will have shown to the world that it was not a legitimate election day. I think if that happens—and the resistance, I think, is still discussing it—the resistance then assumes the momentum again.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.