Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Zelaya's return to Honduras: victory for Latin American and Honduran democracy

May 31, 2011
''Si se pudo!', 'Si se pudo!' ('It could be done!', 'It could be done!') was the slogan chanted by the huge crowds that poured into Honduras' capital city, Tegucigalpa, on May 28, 2011, to give a rapturous welcome to 'Mel', Manuel Zelaya, the democratically-elected president of the country until a brutal military coup deposed him on 28 June, 2009.
For nearly two years, a mass movement of the people of Honduras has been on the streets to oppose the coup and challenge the de-facto regime established after the ousting of Zelaya. They have paid a heavy price in loss of life, imprisonment, torture and repression. Yet, the mass movement, led and organised by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNPR), have managed to expose the shaky bases of the current government, which in elections held under conditions of military dictatorship in November 2010, won Porfirio Lobo the presidency.

The intense isolation which Latin American subjected Lobo's government to, by not only condemning the coup and refusing to recognise the November elections but by also excluding it from the Organization of American States (OAS), the Ibero-American Summit and various other international bodies, which coupled with the steady strengthening of the FNPR, and Honduras' international isolation, led Lobo and sections of Honduras political establishment to make the unprecedented U-turn, thus making Zelaya's return possible.

As part of the 'process of reconciliation', relevant Honduran authorities have dropped criminal charges against Zelaya, thus paving the way for Lobo and Zelaya on May 22, 2011, to sign the Cartagena Agreement (text in Spanish), brokered jointly by presidents Chavez and Santos from Venezuela and Colombia respectively.  This joint Venezuela-Colombia initiative set the framework for the return of Manuel Zelaya to Honduras which, among other things, allows for a referendum on whether and how the constitution might be reformed --the very reason argued by the golpistas to oust Zelaya-- and for the FNPR to register as a formal political party (see FNPR's statement). Furthermore, a joint Venezuela-Colombia Monitoring Commission has been established to ensure the terms of the agreement are adhered to. This opens the way for Honduras to be allowed to return to the OAS. Lobo has also decided to rejoin Petrocaribe, from which Honduras withdrew in 2009.

The Cartagena Agreement has been widely endorsed by the region. Hillary Clinton has publicly thanked 'the help of the Colombian and venezuelan governments' for it. And Zelaya's return had the presence of among, others Nicolas Maduro and Maria Angela Holguin, foreign ministers of Venezuela and Colombia respectively as well as government representatives from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, etc., including Jose Miguel Insulza, OAS Secretary General.

The return of Manuel Zelaya to Honduras is no doubt a significant victory against the obscurantist external and internal forces that ousted him two years ago. It also shows that the emerging Latin America is not prepared to tolerate a return to the hellish days of US-organised coups that ousted progressive governments in the 20th century. With the Cartagena Agreement the struggle of the FNPR to get a referendum to establish a Constituent Assembly has been boosted, but this by no means guarantees democracy or the respect for human rights in Honduras. A new phase has been inaugurated in the country's history but the people confront a recalcitrant oligarchy and retrograde forces in the US who will do everything in their power to resist progressive developments in Honduras. The heroic people of Honduras will need all the solidarity we can give them.

Dr Francisco Dominguez
Convenor Emergency Committee Against the Coup in Honduras