From the Trenches: Honduran Indignados Demand Democracy
“From the Trenches” is a battle cry. In a globalized world that criminalizes the rebellious in spirit, it’s easy to forget that change-minded activists and organizers are tallying up tiny victories against sociocultural and economic oppression on the regular. The column will serve as a weekly reminder that we not only can win, but we do, often. So hasta la victoria siempre and all that.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Latin America, it’s that no matter how bad life gets in Mexico, things will almost certainly be worse in Central America.
For Honduras, that has meant decades spent as as the quintessential banana republic, its political reality at the mercy of Western corporate interests, such as the United Fruit Company, better known today as as Chiquita Brands, growers of the yellow fruit probably sitting on your kitchen counter. Uncomfortably situated in the United States’ so-called sphere of influence, the Central American nation saw its governments toppled, its land handed over to foreign business interests, its sovereignty trampled upon in the name of an international Cold War-era pissing contest in the 80s. Little has changed over the last 100 years.
But Honduras has taken another small step toward gaining its sovereignty.
Friday, 25,000 Hondurans took to the streets to demand that President Juan Orlando Hernández resign amidst a $200 million corruption scandal.
Maybe young Hondurans are taking a cue from Libya and the Spanish indignados. Maybe they’ve decided it’s time to take the reins from their US-friendly government that would gladly see the country remain pinned under the sweaty thumb of imperialism. But their protests against the right-wing National Party (Partido Nacional) are different than uprisings in Europe, and even parts of the Middle East: Honduras has one of the world’s highest rates of violence, mired in drug conflict and with a well-earned reputation for open, active repression of the smallest acts of political dissent.
Inter Press Service reports that the movement against Orlando Hernández and the PN, known as the Oposición Indignada, was like so many other major social movement of the last decade, and perhaps disappointingly for some, founded by young, middle-class people who want to take control of their country’s destiny:
Every Friday in Tegucigalpa, and on Saturday or Sunday in another 50 cities, hundreds of thousands of “indignados” or angry, outraged protesters pour onto the streets to demand the creation of an International Commission Against Impunity (CICIH), like the one operating in Guatemala since 2007 …
“What made us come together was the embezzlement, and knowing cases of friends whose relatives died in the social security institute because of the shortage of medications,” Gabriela Blen, a young activist who is one of the founders of Oposición Indignada, told IPS …
Blen, 27, said that “in the beginning there were just a few of us, only 50 or 100 people who would come out to protest in front of the social security institute building. ‘There go those crazy kids’, they would say. But later, as if by some miracle, everything changed,” she said. “And now every Friday thousands of us come out together with our torches, peacefully, to call for justice and an end to impunity.”
The Oposición Indignada did not sprout from barren soil, of course. The National Party, the governing party since 2009, has also been the target of Manuel Zelaya supporters. A democratically-elected President Zelaya was ousted in a US-backed coup shortly before the PN took power. Last year, presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton admitted to her role in the coup (despite Obama-administration claims that the US supported Zelaya’s return to power), saying, “We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”
Recently released emails corroborate Clinton’s role in the coup, which the ex-president discussed in an interview with Democracy Now!
Zelaya argued that the Obama administration’s meddlings in Honduras has broader implications for the rest of the hemisphere:
[Clinton] is a very capable woman, intelligent, but she is very weak in the face of pressures from groups that hold power in the United States, the most extremist right-wing sectors of the U.S. government … She bowed to those pressures … On the one hand, they condemned the coup, but on the other hand, they were negotiating with the leaders of the coup. And Secretary Clinton lent herself to that … which has resulted in a process of distrust and instability of Latin American governments in relation to US foreign policies.