Honduras: A Warning Sign to the World

article submitted to the WAMM newsletter by AWC member Meredith Aby

On the morning of June 28, members of the Honduran military took over the residence of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. While entering Zelaya’s home, they shot and killed one of his security guards, then kidnapped the president and flew him at gunpoint to Costa Rica. The coup took place as Hondurans were set to vote on possible future changes to the country’s constitution.

The Honduran people are resisting the coup government and have protested for over 100 days the removal of their president. On September 21st, Zelaya returned to Honduras to demand his reinstatement as president and is currently in the Brazilian embassy. His supporters have defied curfews, endured police brutality, and even risked their lives for voicing their demand for Zelaya’s return to power.

The coup d’etat was led by School of the Americas graduates trained in Fort Benning, Georgia. The Obama administration has refused to legally classify Zelaya’s ouster as a coup and has continued to send US military aid to the coup government. The Honduran right wing military take over is the first in Central America in over a quarter century and has sparked protest and solidarity across the globe.

Power in Honduras is in the hands of about 100 people from 25 families, while the majority of Hondurans live in poverty. In 2006 Manuel Zelaya was elected as a center-right candidate with the support of this Honduran elite. After he was elected, Zelaya moved to the left and became a populist. In March of 2009 he increased the minimum wage by 60 percent and joined the Latin American trade bloc ALBA, which is organized by countries like Venezuela and Bolivia to counter the free trade agenda of the United States. The popular movement in Honduras was excited to finally have an ally in government.

When Zelaya proposed to have a referendum on whether to amend the Constitution, including whether he could run for another term, the ruling elite were afraid they were about to lose their tight grip on governmental control. They got the Supreme Court to issue an arrest order for Zelaya, and then the military, who have long been seen as protectors of the wealthy and multinational companies in Honduras, kidnapped Zelaya and removed him from the country. It is no surprise that most of the Honduran military have been trained at the US School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.

The right wing military coup in Honduras is very significant. The FMLN, the former rebel army turned political party in neighboring El Salvador, won the presidency of that country last year. Salvadorans are worried that the success of the Honduran coup will send a message that winning elections is not necessary to take power. As the US government’s attention has been increasingly focused on the Middle East and Central Asia, its grip on its southern neighbors had loosened. Many Latin American countries have elected leftist leaders, like Venezuela and Bolivia, and started to move away from the US’ free trade agenda for the region. Obama’s tacit support for the coup and the role of School of the Americas alumni worry Latin Americans that the US is increasing its intervention in the region again.

Take action!

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has received solidarity from peoples across the globe, but the Obama administration has kept its distance from Zelaya. Although Obama first called the military’s removal of Zelaya a coup, his administration has backpedaled. Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Zelaya’s return to Honduras “reckless” and blamed him instead of the coup government for the violence in Honduras. The Obama administration has not ended US military aid to Honduras even though security forces have used brutal and lethal force against pro-Zelaya protesters.

Please call the State Department at 202-647-4000 to voice your opposition to any financial support of the coup in Honduras. And call your representative and senators at 202-224-3121 to say close the School of the Americas and cut off aid to Honduras. WAMM is also participating in local demonstrations in solidarity with Honduras.

Websites for further information:

Democracy Now: http://www.democracynow.org/features/honduras_coup
Committees in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador –
School of the Americas Watch –
Voz de Abajo –

Website for the local Hands Off Honduras Coalition which both the Anti-War Committee and WAMM are a part of: http://hondurasfreedom.blogspot.com/2009/11/hands-off-honduras-coalition-stop.html