Central America is going through a period of instability that is expressed in strikes, massive mobilizations, and insurrections that demand the overthrow of the rulers and the end of austerity imposed by the US.
By Ovet Córdova
In Honduras, a fragile government born of a scandalous electoral fraud is supported by the US State Department and LIBRE, the main bourgeois opposition party that diverted an authentic people’s uprising. The struggle of the doctors and teachers Platform encourages the masses to reorganize their forces and stop dispersion.
Honduras, a US colony
Honduras has historically been a US colony and the two traditional parties, Liberal and National, alternated in power on its behalf. Manuel (Mel) Zelaya is a rich landowner who became president in 2006 and adopted a more populist profile over the years. Although it did not change the colonial character of the country at all, it sought to approach the then Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his “Bolivarian” bourgeois followers. At that time, the 2008 world financial crisis drastically affected the economy in the region and most of the Honduran bourgeoisie (liberals and nationalists) considered necessary a military coup that toppled Zelaya in 2009.
The IMF guided the transformation of the national economy by accentuating its role as a branch of imperialism. Its best collaborators and partners were the post-coup governments: Micheletti, Lobo, and Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH), who arose from an electoral fraud endorsed by the American Embassy, and the OAS and European Union advising.
In a decade, the health and careless children systems have been handed over to NGOs and private entrepreneurs; state-owned electric power, water, and telephone services were auctioned for the benefit of international consortiums, as well as roads, ports, and airports; the same fate befell forests, rivers, and the subsoil.
The working class has fought hard these attacks but has been defeated, losing rights that took decades to achieve. Dozens of state-owned enterprises were privatized leading to the dismissal of more than 24,000 workers, social security is about to be privatized and pension funds were looted to fund the businesses of the entrepreneurs.
To a great extent, this abrupt change in the economic and political situations was the result of the defeat of the resistance against the coup d’etat, because its leadership – Manuel Zelaya and the opportunist left – opted for negotiations with the coup perpetrators and the US. As we shall see, that conciliatory tactic was not abandoned during the following decade.
From military coup to electoral fraud
The Honduran working class and the people’s movement reached their highest level of organization between 2002 and 2008. During that period, they formed their own organizations and waged tough battles against the governments of Ricardo Maduro and Manuel Zelaya. The National Civic Strikes organized by the National Coordination of Popular Resistance, CNRP, are well remembered.
In 2008, organizations of the reformist, opportunist and Castro-Chavist left, such as the Revolutionary Tendency (TR), the Political Organization Los Necios (OPLN), and the Popular Bloc, drove the CNRP to capitulate to Zelaya’s government that was flirting with Chavism. This was the end of the independent workers’ movement.
LIBRE is born of a reactionary agreement
The National Front of Resistance Against the Coup d’Etat, later FNRP, emerged from the masses struggles against the military coup. The workers/popular movements that took part in the CNRP and the liberal sectors that supported the return of Zelaya to power joined it.
The Front became a mass movement with a cross-class alliance leadership that, on more than one occasion, had the opportunity to overthrow the usurping government. The fight and the mobilizations against the coup were strong enough to divide the armed forces, a sector of which refused to take part in repression.
However, at all times its bourgeois leadership diverted the mobilizations towards the pacts with the military, participating in the Guaymuras (municipality of San José) deals and concluding in the Cartagena of the Indias Agreement in 2011. In this last one, the Front’s leadership, behind the masses, agreed a pact of governability with imperialism and the military government that would allow the return of Zelaya to the national territory and the creation of the “party of the resistance”, called LIBRE, in exchange for stabilizing the political situation and trading their differences in the parliamentary arena.
This betrayal was sealed with the signatures of presidents Barack Obama, Juan Manuel Santos, and Hugo Chávez. The masses’ heroism was taken to the slaughterhouse of the polls in 2013, the year in which fraudulent elections were held and where the coup supporters were triumphant.
LIBRE emerged as a gamble to contain the revolutionary rise that the resistance to the coup meant. Its political platform, as expected, is moderated in relation to the traditional parties of the oligarchy and in accordance with the interests of capital; it neither questions private property nor the non-payment of foreign debt.
The ebb of the mass movement followed the defeat of the fight against the coup. The confusion deepened when LIBRE accepted the outcome of the fraudulent election in a disciplined manner, in exchange for 27 seats in Congress and some mayoralties. While the fraud was consummated, a leader of LIBRE called a party to celebrate his nomination as Mayor of San Pedro Sula and Manuel Zelaya said: “We accept the outcome of these fraudulent elections (…) we are not going to set this country on fire.” These facts are the beginning of the so-called “parliamentary opposition.”
The bankruptcy of the Honduran left
The debacle of the Stalinist left is serious. It started with the Democratic Unification party (UD), which suffered a terrible bourgeois adaptation to parliament. Its two main leaders became direct agents of the coup’s right wing: Cesar Ham as Chair of the National Agrarian Institute (INA) was instrumental in the defeat of the peasant movement and Marvin Ponce acts as an advisor to JOH.
Today, organizations such as the Revolutionary Tendency, Political Organization Los Necios, the Party for Honduras Transformation (PTH), and the New Democracy Movement, among others, succumbed to the pressures of the mass movement and adopted a class collaborationist policy. That led them to capitulate to Manuel Zelaya, to whom the CNRP was handed on a platter. So, they liquidated the main fighting organization of the working class. That is, they betrayed the struggle of the Honduran people.
Once the resistance against the coup began, they praised the deals with the US and the military government, that led to the defeat of the movement and the creation of LIBRE. Very soon, they climbed positions and, from leaders of the workers’ movement, turned into candidates and representatives: they exchanged the streets for the comfortable seats of the parliament. From this moment, their speeches against the government and the misfortunes of the exploited were only heard in the electoral campaigns. Their calls to trust in the possibility of a good life once they triumphed at the polls were also repetitive.
The reformist left abandoned the project of a socialist revolution and accepted the thesis of the “peaceful transformations” that the followers of the “socialism of the 21st century” proclaim. They also abandoned the historic task of building an independent working-class political instrument and, from then on, stopped defending the unity of action to fight the bosses’ governments.
Finally, it should be noted that the opportunist left, which swings according to pressures and “opportunities,” has not grown: these organizations declined once they were absorbed by the LIBRE apparatus. At best, the disappointment of their cadres and membership caused splits. However, in general, it diluted in LIBRE.
The “indignant” movement
The retreating FNRP left room for the demands of the middle class and youth. Despite the disillusionment of large sectors, the youth and movements in defense of the territories made a strong resistance to JOH’s government.
The student movement carried out four strikes, each one more important than the other, such as the Agricultural School’s strike that caused the resignation of an important government agent who served as Principal at the UNA, and of the Minister of Education, Marlon Escoto.
The anti-JOH feeling was born and was exacerbated by the uncovering of the scandal of the plundering of 7 billion lempiras in the Social Security Institute and the announcement of the president’s unconstitutional re-election. A new uprising was developing, this time led by the conservative petty bourgeoisie that distrusted the left and held an anti-party stance.
The indignant movement (2013-2015) expressed a democratic agenda that demanded punishment of the corrupt, rejected government institutions, stood against JOH’s re-election and demanded the intervention of the US Embassy and the OAS to install an International Commission Against Impunity in Honduras (CICIH), in order to investigate and punish the corrupt.
In a few weeks, it reached a national character with demonstrations of tens of thousands. Its spontaneous and massive nature prevented the seizing of the movement by the traditional leadership. Eventually, the Anti-JOH movement leadership was co-opted and begins negotiations with the government and the OAS. The imperialism’s intervention helps to defeat the mobilizations through concessions: The Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), similar to that existing in Guatemala, is installed. It is funded by the OAS and, in general, its contribution to fighting corruption is zero.
Despite the balance sheet of this process, it should be reminded that it was a period when there as a huge growth of an anti-JOH feeling among the youth, which organized outside the structures of LIBRE and the FNRP. The next upsurge would take advantage of this important feature.
The insurrection against fraud
Imperialism, JOH’s regime, and LIBRE agreed to solve the problem of power in the 2017 elections, but the formers were not willing to comply with the pact of governability, while Manuel Zelaya said that he would defeat fraud and reelection at the polls: There was no room for fighting.
The refusal of the Electoral Court to declare the opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla was the winner triggered the most important social outbreak in the country’s history. All the anti-JOH popular anger was expressed in that electoral process and when the fraud became known, the youth organized to defend the popular will.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets stopping the main roads and bridges; the resistance was organized in the communities; the economy didn’t work for several weeks while the capacity of the repressive organs was decimated by the rise of the masses.
During the first weeks, the protesters did not respond to any leadership: their irruption was spontaneous and self-convened. While Zelaya and Nasralla called “to celebrate” the electoral victory, the masses took to the streets furiously. Faced with the danger of being overthrown, JOH announced a state of siege, but it is defeated new demonstrations on December 10, which divided the police and the anti-riot forces, which went to strike. In that context, the LIBRE leadership called for the releasing of roads and to “respect the New Year celebrations”. This betrayal allowed the regime’s counterattack, from which the movement could not recover.
The fraud was organized two years before since the Supreme Court of Justice approved the unconstitutional re-election of JOH. The entire governmental apparatus was designed to guarantee the continuity of the current dictator, who controls the organs of justice, repressive entities, and the electoral court. In the same way, the desired electoral reforms never happened.
But the regime did not do it alone, it had the support of LIBRE and other opposition parties. The block of supposedly “opposition” parties signed the Toncontín agreement, according to which they would fight re-election, fraud and for electoral reforms. But they never carried out a single action to stop the fraud and, before the demands already mentioned, they remained divided.
On the other hand, they maintained complete unity in supporting the economic and fiscal policy of JOH’s government. They supported changes in the penal code to criminalize protest, the election of the attorney general who defends the corrupt, they voted for the criminalization of abortion, prohibited the use of morning-after pills; and re-elected the UNAH’s Principal, who was forced to resign, among other anti-popular measures of the ruling party.
The role of LIBRE was disastrous, backing the regime in approving its government policies while pretending to oppose re-election. When the insurrection broke out, it privileged the negotiations hoping to be “blessed” by the US State Department and other imperialist organisms (something that did not happen).
In the electoral campaign, it allied with a pro-coup party (PINU-SD) and campaigned for a presidential candidate with a bourgeois background. Its government program was not far from that of other bourgeois parties and had the same principle: to maintain the market economy, respect private property and economic and military agreements with imperialism.
Salvador Nasralla was the candidate of LIBRE-PINU alliance. He comes from the PAC, a right-wing and conservative party that was assaulted by the regime. Nasralla is a prestigious sports and entertainment showman, an employee of the main Honduran television and radio media corporation. He calls himself a “friend” of businessmen and the US; a defender of private property and a center-right politician, who argued on several occasions that in his government he would hand out huge concessions to businessmen and foreign investors, and expand the facilities of the main Honduran military base, commonly known as “Palmerola”, occupied by the US military.
This policy of subordinating the struggles of the workers and the masses to the “strategy of negotiating roundtables” in order to hand them over to the government was promoted by the bourgeois leadership of Mel Zelaya, to which the majority of the Honduran left joined. Its result is in sight: the enemy is strengthened and the masses are at a low ebb. In each concrete moment, the PST, IWL section in Honduras, while participating and promoting each struggle, opposed that policy.
But even at the low ebb, the masses seek to reorganize their forces in order to resume the struggle. It is necessary to promote this reorganization and that resumption of mobilization with all those who agree with these tasks. But to effectively develop this process, it is also essential to make a balance sheet of what happened in the last ten years and draw some conclusions.
The first one is that it is totally wrong to substitute negotiation with the enemy for our fights because that only strengthens it and weakens ourselves.
The second is that even when we are together in some struggle, we should never trust a bourgeois leader (even less in sectors of imperialism) because sooner rather than later they will stab us in our backs in defense of their interests. That is why we should only rely on our strengths and our own independent organization for the struggle.
Finally, the most important of all: there will be no real changes in Honduras if that struggle is not guided by a workers’ and socialist revolution in our country and in the world. To lead this task, we need to build a revolutionary socialist party that does not capitulate to the bourgeoisie and its “siren songs.”
The PST is at the service of this task. We call all the honest fighters who trusted Mel and LIBRE to make this balance sheet together with us.