Friday, September 04, 2009

Honduras: long road no matter what

Authentic democracy means that people at the grassroots level actually participate in shaping the policies and laws that affect their lives. We don't have that here, and we're not getting any closer to having it.
There's no mass movement to demand it, and there won't even begin to be for some time. Many of the people and organizations that might form part of such a movement in the U.S. are still waiting and hoping for some shadow of the changes they thought they were voting for last year. A few are beginning to grasp that in some fundamental ways, the major political parties here are not really so different than they are in Honduras: two wings of the rich overclass, one with a slightly more warm and fuzzy reputation, but neither willing to broaden the small group of people who really make decisions.

But there is such a movement in Honduras. It's been building for decades. Thanks to the arrogance of those who funded and organized the overthrow of the elected president, and to the half-support of our government, the coup regime has sparked sustained resistance that has fused that movement into a national organization.

They have a concrete goal: la constituyente, a national constituent assembly to rewrite Honduras' constitution. Restoring President Zelaya to office between now and the November 29 elections will not change that, because, as independent presidential candidate Carlos Reyes said this week, constitutional reform is the only way out of the country's social and political crisis.

A long-term, nonviolent organizing movement facing a repressive government that represents the rich needs every human resource it can call on. Faith is one such resource, and Honduras is blessed with several priests and bishops who recognize that the church needs to be with the people. International solidarity is another. The national resistance is devoting the fall to organizing itself down to the local level, and has called on supporters abroad, particularly in the United States, to form solidarity committees. The first international conference for a constituyente will take place in Tegucigalpa October 8-10.

Update: 3:30 pm, September 18 - Admin note: This post was begun and saved on the date shown, but posted today around noon. Another excellent video from RealNews's Jesse Freeston on the topic of this post is out today (link includes transcript). It features Oscar Estrada, the Honduran filmmaker and resistance participant whose dispatches have appeared on Adrienne Pine's blog since the coup.
[Image: marchers from La Esperanza heading to the capital for the national demonstration on August 11. Shaun Joseph, Quixote Center.]

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At 6:01 PM, September 18, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a broad movement in the US-- you're part of it-- but it hasn't moved off the Internet. Daily Kos and Move On represent a fundamental change in the way politics is done. They are capable of inundating the Congress with constituent calls.

The real problem is, as in Honduras, that the system of moneyed bribery creates inertia. By electing new members and getting rid of the entrenched, we may generate enough motion that we can pass real campaign finance reform. I think public financing is the key step.

The system is headed for a crash. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, if they succeed in blocking reform, they will get revolution.

Just like in Honduras.

At 11:03 PM, September 18, 2009, Blogger John (Juancito) Donaghy said...

You might want to note that Caritas Honduras has been doing some work on "Participación Ciudadana" - Citizen Participation - in all the dioceses for several years. Its aims include supporting civil society, training people in anti-corruption work (especially in terms of local Transparency Commissions), etc/ Some efforts are small, but at least the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán is planning to them to the diocesan level, using radio stations as well as church structures. One idea being floated around is to train three members of each parish to provide training in their parishes in terms of strengthening and supporting local transparency commissions.

At 10:16 AM, September 19, 2009, Blogger Nell said...

Thanks for the information, John. That kind of work can produce ripple effects far into the future.

There seem to be a number of "streams" of organizing that have flowed together in the resistance to the coup / campaign for the constituyente. Al Giordano profiled the Afro-Honduran organizing project . Communities in different regions have gotten active in response to incursions and abuses of mining, timber, and tourist development. Feminists have been galvanized by the right-wing character of the coup regime; working closely in a broad movement with women organized along different lines and in rural areas can enrich and strengthen both.

Moving forward will require going beyond constant mobilizing of the already committed to the slow but necessary work of persuasion. I try to be clear-eyed about the limitations and difficulties, and they're formidable.

At 3:31 PM, September 19, 2009, Anonymous Jenny said...

Unfortunately, the IMF is continuing to donate money ro Honduras and of course, they've been opposed to Zelaya being re-instated, so I don't think we should be too kind and optimistic about the Obama regieme's handling of this.

At 6:06 PM, September 19, 2009, Blogger Nell said...

I'd be the last person to deny that the Obama administration has tried to make their withholding of funds, recognition, and support look and sound bigger than it is, but it's simply incorrect that the IMF has sent money since the coup.

I've put a fair amount of energy into encouraging corrections to posts citing Mark Weisbrot's Sept. 3 Guardian piece saying otherwise. Weisbrot's own CEPR has corrected the record, but the piece keeps being picked up and re-run.

At 11:22 AM, September 20, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

Thanks for the info Nell.

The broad movement in the US isn't yet broad enough by a long shot, and money remains much more important than constitutent calls, so although I agree that campaign finance reform is a key step, that's going to be the chicken and not the egg. No congress elected by money will ban money. That will follow change, not cause it.

I agree that the system is indeed headed for a crash, from all objective indicators, and the instability it brings is going to weaken if not destroy the center and ultimately probably lead to a lot more violence than Nancy Pelosi remembers, domestically in the US to some extent but especially abroad.

It is terrible to watch the early U.S. preparations for war in Latin America. Those seven U.S. bases are still going into Colombia, and once that happens, if past experience is a predictor of future events, then it will be only a question of time before war follows--maybe a decade, maybe less, maybe a little more. But it will happen. That's what the Pentagon does after it prepares for war--it wages it.

So I can understand why Chavez, like the leaders of Iran, would like to develop a nuclear energy program. And perhaps, ironically, such preparations will be the ultimate spark for the long-planned attack. So that's a dicey business too.

The Honduran people are going to need to be disciplined and patient and not count on the US for much help, because I don't think they'll get much help. And I'm not really sure I even want them to. No US involvement at all is likely to be the best they can hope for, because if the Obama administration does too much to improve Chavez's position, Southern Command and the National Security bureacracy will respond to more than counteract the change.
This has happened so many times in various parts of the world that I can't count them on all my fingers and toes. And, to my irritation, almost nobody will ever even figure out how our policy fell apart evolved from being cooperative to being militaristic. So goes the dirty business of running an Empire under the cloak of a democratic republic.

What can Americans do? Anything is a start, but Nell seems way better at thinking productively than I am. All I know is no real political change happens without a movement. Whether Obama has a heart of gold or stone underndeath all the callouses that running an Empire causes, he did have the right idea with his "one person can change a room" speech. I've seen people change rooms.

It's just that the country is a damn big room, and there are lots and lots of bouncers.

At 10:51 PM, September 20, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nell, I think I found Hugo Llorens "reports." State runs a site called OSAC for Diplomatic Security. Until July 29th, they issued what they call WARDEN reports, which are warnings about the country situation. Then they stopped. Wasn't that about the time Ambassador Llorens skipped town?


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