Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Honduras: Zelaya returns — the people celebrate

Federico Fuentes, Caracas
21 September 2009

September 21 — “Telgucigalpa is one big party”, said Dirian Pereira, member of the international commission of the National Front Against the Coup in Honduras, speaking to Green Left Weekly over the phone from the Honduran capital..

President Manuel Zelaya, who was overthrown by a military coup on June 28, returned to Honduras and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Telgucigalpa. Thousands of people have gathered in the capital to welcome him back almost three months after the military kidnapped him at gunpoint in the early hours of the morning and flew him into exile in Costa Rica.

Mass resistance on the streets from the poor majority, demanding “their” president return, has continued unabated since.

From the Brazilian embassy, Zelaya called for the Honduran people to celebrate on the streets. The coup regime responded by announcing a curfew.

“The people are totally ignoring the curfew”, Pereira said.

“The curfew started at 4 in the afternoon, right about the time that most people are leaving work. All of this is a demonstration of the desperation of the coup regime that wants everyone to simply go home.

“But the people are coming out of work and are not going to their home.

“Many have gone to the Brazilian embassy to greet their president. It is a big party.”

Pereira said people were flooding in from all parts of the country to hold for a massive mobilisation on September 22.

“The buses that are arriving from San Pedro Sula, that are arriving from many other parts of the country, are being stopped on the outskirts of Tegulcigalpa.

“But the people are simply stepping off the bus and marching together into the centre.”

For the Honduran elite behind the coup, Zelaya’s crimes included increasing the minimum wage by 60% and blocking privatisations.

His biggest crime, however, was to open a democratic process to change the constitution. Similar process have occurred in recent years in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador — with the poor and indigenous peoples winning many important rights for the first time.

On June 28, a non-binding referendum had been organised that asked whether the Honduran people supported the calling of a constituent assembly to discuss, debate and vote on a new constitution.

Zelaya had also developed closer relations with countries such as Venezuela and Cuba, joining the anti-imperialist Bolivarian Alternative of Our Americas (ALBA) bloc.

After almost 90 days of mass resistance and daily protests on the streets, combined with a diplomatic offensive to restore democracy headed by Zelaya and the ALBA nations, “Mel”, as he is warmly referred to by the poor sectors of Honduran society, has finally returned to Honduras.

He is calling on the people to mobilise and ensure that legitimate government is restored.

Asked what could be expected to occur in the next few hours, Pereira told GLW: “This is still to be seen, because the de facto government says that nothing is happening, that Honduras is calm and that all of this is the result of the curfew.

“The curfew was enacted in order to intimidate the people so that they would not go and join those from the resistance front at the embassy. They did it to create fear in the population.

“They say that they will not negotiate … but Mel has come with the intention of negotiating.

“We don’t know what will happen ... but we are continuing to demand a constituent assembly.”

A delegation from the Organisation of American States is set to arrive in Honduras on September 22 Honduras. The OAS has been promoting Plan Arias, drawn up by mediators, which would see Zelaya restored to power, but with his hands tied and forced to accept power-sharing arrangements with those who overthrew him.

Pereira said the problem for the popular organisations and the National Resistance Front is that “the Plan Arias does not contemplate a constituent assembly. As far as we know, there is also a UN commission coming.

“We will see what happens, but regardless the organizations are here demanding a constituent assembly.”

[Green Left Weekly hopes to have ongoing coverage on the dramatic developments in the struggle for democracy and justice in Honduras in the coming days.]

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