Resistance Pulsing Through Honduras

by Chris Thomas

One of the "grandmothers of the Resistance" sits in front of a military blockade in protest outside of the Brazilian embassy, where deposed president Manuel Zelaya was held captive for four months. Tegucigalpa, Honduras, November 2009. Photo: Chris Thomas

They say that without knowing our history, we have no way to change the present. This of course is the precise role of mass media - change history as it is being written so that we have no way to understand the present we live in. Post-coup Honduras is a perfect example.

According to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, "the Honduras crisis has been managed to a successful was done without violence." Secretary for Western Hemispheric Relations, Arturo Valenzuela, has openly encouraged the US to continue the flow of aid to the country, and the World Bank has announced that $390 million will now be made available - a 40% increase over previous years.

The situation in Honduras, it would appear, has returned to normal.

Governments around the world are moving to recognize President Porfirio Lobo. Lobo came to power in the wake of the June 28, 2009 coup through a fraudulent November 28 election marred by political violence carried out by the same military that led the coup against former president Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

Meanwhile key coup leaders have been cautiously shifted out of public view into advisory roles for the current administration. The most notable of these is former general and School of the Americas (SOA) graduate, General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, who Lobo recently named head of Hondutel, the state-run telecommunications service. Such shifts are meant to clean up the image of the Honduran government, installing a "democratorship" that allows repressive forces to continue their onslaught against Resistance members with complete impunity while projecting a democratic façade for the international community.

The supposed truth commission established in the October 2009 San José accords has yet to materialize, and the Congressional vote on reinstating Zelaya (also mandated in the accords) was never held. Further, a wave of political assassination has swept through the country in the months following the election. The Committee for the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) has confirmed 41 assassinations since the coup. Due to the difficulty, now more than ever, of confirming assassinations, the real toll is surely much higher.

Recent assassinations include Social Security union worker Vanesa Zapeda, teacher Blas López, Resistance members Julio Funes Benítez and Claudia Brizuela, seven campesinos from the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan Valley, and - most notably - teacher José Manuel Flores who was gunned down at work in front of students and colleagues. This wave of political violence confirms claims that paramilitary death squads have been reactivated with the reported involvement of another SOA graduate, Billy Joya Amendola. Joya is a former member of the 3-16 Battalion accused of torturing and disappearing activists in Honduras in the 1980s.

Far from Clinton's disingenuous claim of a nonviolent return to "normality," violence, fear and terror permeate the streets, the workplace, home and family life for most Hondurans. US and international complicity in the transfer of power and consolidation of the June 28 coup have facilitated this wave of violence. Such complicity has also provided immunity for the intellectual and material authors of these criminal acts, as well as for the continued pillaging of the country's resources.

The Resistance borne out of the coup has changed Honduras, and irreversibly so. The coup unmasked where the people's interests truly lay. This has divided family and communities, but has generated clarity, conviction and a new cohesion within the social movement that won't be so easily undermined.

On March 14 in Honduras' western highlands, the Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations (COPINH) and the Movement for the Refoundation of Honduras convened the first National Popular Constitutional Convention. More than 1,000 delegates from campesino, indigenous, Garifuna, feminist, labor, student, LGBT and other organizations converged in La Esperanza to lay the groundwork for an assembly of a similar nature. The Convention's date is set for June 28, 2010, marking one year from the plebiscite convened by Zelaya when the coup was carried out.

The absence of those who have been killed or who are now living in exile is a somber one.  But the energy, spirit and dignified rage that continue to pulse through to the furthest corners of the country despite the continued repression are both tangible and contagious. There exists a growing understanding within the Resistance that they are not alone, but form part of a continent-wide struggle against US imperialism and against local and transnational oligarchies. For centuries these have pillaged the region's resources, decimated peoples and cultures, destroyed hopes and erased history.  Throughout Latin America there is a struggle for memory, a struggle to recover a history that has been erased but not forgotten so that our dreams for another world, another way to live, may not be in vain.

Chris, a Syracuse native, working with Comunicador@s Populares por la Autonomia (, is currently providing support to community radio in Garifuna, Honduras.