[News] Toppling a Coup, Part I: Dilemmas for the Honduras Regime
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Fri Aug 7 14:09:20 EDT 2009
Toppling a Coup, Part I: Dilemmas for the Honduras Regime
Giordano - August 7, 2009 at 9:56 am
By Al Giordano
Last Saturday, at a hastily called public meeting
in Tegucigalpa, more than one hundred rank and
file participants in the Honduran civil
resistance and some of its known leaders came out
to speak with Ivan Marovich, the Serbian
resistance veteran who had been invited by local
and national anti-coup organizations to share his experiences.
It was one of three such sessions, and the only
public meeting of the three. Almost immediately
upon the completion of the screening of the film
Bringing Down a Dictator (you can
it via YouTube in six parts beginning here) about
the Serbian movement that toppled the government
of Slobodan Misolevic, a wind storm outside
brought down a light pole, and with it the
electric wires that lit the auditorium.
The Q & A session was thus held in darkness, and
yet nobody left. Every attendee stayed for more
than an hour with questions and comments to
share. The lack of light in the windowless
auditorium provided the feel of an underground meeting of the resistance.
One of the questions was:
Q. How can we cause a headache for the dictatorship?
That is a very good question because now were
getting down to the dynamics of popular resistance.
During our struggle, every morning when we would
get together we would ask ourselves the same
question: how can we give the regime a headache today?
What matters now is who is going to make the next move.
If the regime makes the next move, you have to react.
If you make the first move, then they have to react.
The whole game is to calculate the next steps, to
put the adversary in a position where he cant react well.
You can see how this develops over time. When we
were still small, maybe ten people, and the
existing opposition leaders had been run out of
the country or arrested, we were a very small
organization. If we could get this many people in
one theater we would have been happy. What we
wanted was a small but powerful provocation. And
this is when we used street theater. What we
wanted to have is something that is going to
provoke a response and make the regime look stupid.
This is what we called a Dilemma Action.
Dilemma actions are actions that put the opponent in a dilemma.
Let me tell you a Serbian folk tale. The story is
called The Dark Realm, and it goes like this:
There once was a king that went with his friends
on a journey. And they entered a land which was
totally dark. You couldnt see anything. They
came across some small stones. Someone heard a
voice and it said, anyone who takes some of
those stones will regret it, and those that dont
take the stones, they will regret it also. So they didnt know what to do.
Some said, Im going to regret it so I better
not touch it. Others said, Im going to regret
it anyway so I better take some stones.
And when they left the dark land they looked at
the stones and they realized that they were
diamonds. And those that took none regretted it.
And those who took them, they regretted that they didnt take more.
So what we wanted to have is a dilemma action in
which the opponent is going to regret whatever he does.
The fist thing that we did, when we were still
ten people, is we took a big barrel and a
baseball bat. We wrote on the barrel: Money for
Milosevic. It said were collecting money for
Milosevics retirement. If you have money, put in
the barrel. If you dont have money, beat on the
barrel. And Milosevics photo was on the barrel.
So we put it on the street and walked away.
People walking by read the sign and began banging
the barrel. Because of that noise, four more
people came. And when they read it everyone
started banging the barrel. This made a very loud
noise. Finally somebody called the police. The
police came and asked, Whos barrel is this?
Nobody knew. The police didnt know what to do.
If the police had left the barrel there, people
would keep banging the barrel. If they took the
barrel, well, that is not their job. Finally
somebody ordered them to take the barrel. We took
photos of them and gave them to the media which
reported, POLICE ARREST BARREL. So whatever
they would do, they were going to regret it. And
they regretted it because the very next day every
town in the country had a barrel in its town square.
This is an example of how you create headaches
for the adversary. The system, the regime, they
have procedures. They have the way they do
things. They dont rely on creativity. They dont
rely on taking initiative. They totally rely on
their procedures and on following orders. They
dont know how to react in certain situations.
And thats when they start making mistakes.
As the saying goes, never interrupt your opponent when hes making mistakes.
One thing the system likes is demonstrations.
They know how to react to demonstrations. They
know how to count many people are in the street,
how many police are needed, how much tear gas,
maybe a water cannon. They know all that. But if
they see a barrel in the streets and they arrest
it and then there are barrels all over the place, they dont know what to do.
The importance of taking initiative to put the
adversary the coup regime on the horns of a
dilemma is a tactic that is increasingly being
implemented by the Honduras civil resistance, often on a decentralized level.
After their highway blockades that had paralyzed
the country on three successive Thursdays and
Fridays in July began to have diminishing returns
when the National Police and the Armed Forces
attacked and dispersed them violently, the civil
resistance moved to a new kind of protest that
began on Wednesday and is taking place along
twenty different routes throughout the most
populated corridors of Honduras. All of these
marches will converge early next week on the two
largest cities, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula,
which are four hours apart from each other.
The agreement from all the local organizations
along the tributaries of the march is that they
will not block traffic this time, but, rather,
walk along the side of the road, and that they
will travel about 20 kilometers (12 miles) a day
to reach their destinations. In each town along
the way, they'll hold public events and call on
the local folks to join them in the march.
Already, tens of thousands are walking along the
side of all the major roads in Honduras.
We dont even know how far we will get today,
but we want to advance 20 kilometers and on the
road people are already beginning to join us,
said walker Esly Banegas to
newsletter of Radio Progreso:
At 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, Father Andrés Tamayo
of the Catholic Church began walking with others
from his state of Olancho toward Tegucigalpa. We
dont have any security forces, he told the
radio station, our safety is peace.
From the eastern end of the Atlantic coast,
another march left from La Entrada, Copán.
Another branch of the march left from Tela, in
the state of Atlántida. Both were headed toward
San Pedro Sula. A call has been issued to the
members of the public to support the march along
the way with food, water and medicine.
As you can see from the photos here of just one
tributary of that march, sent to Narco News by
lay Catholic missionary John Donaghy, along the
route between Santa Rosa de Copán and San Pedro
Sula, the marchers are keeping to the side of the
road. Theyre not blocking traffic.
The dilemma they provide for the coup regime is
this: If it sends police and military to attack
the peaceful march, the regime looks not just
authoritarian but stupid. If it does not send
repressive forces to attack the march, the sheer
numbers of people who will converge in the two
biggest cities next Tuesday will be earthshaking
and again demonstrate, as on July 5, that many
times more Hondurans, hundreds of thousands, are
mobilized against the coup than have shown up for
all pro-coup rallies combined.
Sometimes a dilemma action can turn the enemys
initiative against it to put the regime on the defensive.
An example of how the tables of initiative are
turned is the story this week about the regimes
order to shut down Radio Globo and its 15 stations throughout Honduras.
There, the regime took the initiative. It
delivered a letter saying "you must stop
broadcasting." Radio Globo chose to react in a
way that turned the horns of the dilemma back
against the regime. It ignored the order. You can
listen live online click where it says
Aquí - and confirm for yourself that three days
later, the closed radio station is still
broadcasting, still taking live phone calls from
the public, still breaking the information
blockade as a national clearinghouse for
information on the civil resistance from every corner of the country.
If the regime is going to shut it down it is
going to have to do it by force, which will cause
it a national and international scandal and
further reveal that its claims to be protecting
freedoms and democracy are objectively false. If
the regime, likewise, does not invade the station
by force, it reminds all that it is weak, that it
cant enforce its own orders, and that it is not
really as in control as it pretends to be. And
every day that a radio station operates under
threat of closure, it has more and more
listeners, because there is an added drama of
listening to see when or if it gets shut down.
The regime is thus on the horns of a dilemma.
Another example: Yesterday, the Air Traffic
Controllers union in Honduras began a strike in
all the countrys airports, expressly in protest
of the coup detat. Its workers refused to sign
the paperwork on each plane scheduled to fly in
or out or within the country, in accordance with
international aviation laws and treaties. This
stopped all air traffic for at least four hours
last night. (And now you might deduce one of the
reasons why your correspondent, having duties to
comply with this week in another country, slipped
out of Honduras the day before.)
The air traffic strikers have put the regime in
another dilemma: It could leave the strike alone
and have a country without access or escape by
air, crippling important business interests and
express mail services. Or it could send in coup
regime troops to do a job they are not trained to
do, which means that if mistakes are then made
and god forbid public safety of passengers or
people on the ground becomes threatened, it will be on the regimes head.
The regime has sent in the uniformed scabs now to
direct commercial air traffic, a job they are not
trained to do, in violation of international
aeronautics treaties and laws. Now the
international airlines are placed in their own
dilemma: to continue flying in and out of the
country in more dangerous and illegal conditions, or to ground their flights.
The same has happened with the hospital workers
strike that began last week. Most of the
hospitals in Honduras are now filled with
military soldiers, purportedly to do the job of
doctors and nurses. Whether they can actually do
that job remains to be seen. Meanwhile, hundreds
of soldiers in an army of only 9,000 are thus
diverted from the usual tasks of repressing and
attacking the peaceful opposition.
The regimes bad choices in how to respond to the
dilemmas posed by the air traffic controllers and
hospital workers have led it to spread its
limited forces of repression thin. This in turn
gives other theaters of the civil resistance a
little more elbow room to maneuver.
One thing that became crystal clear from my
reporting from Comayaqua, Tegucigalpa, Catacamas,
San Pedro Sula and points in between, through
talks with members of the civil resistance, is
that the best organizers among them are beginning
to wake up each morning with that same question:
How do we create a headache for the regime today?
These headaches, growing in number and from
decentralized locations begin to deliver the
death of a thousand cuts to the regime, whose
only hope to remain in control is to keep the
national and international community convinced
that, whether legitimate or illegitimate, it at
least is in control. But the fast growth of these
dilemma actions are painting a more compelling
picture of a coup regime that very much is not in
control, that it is unable to govern.
That reality and not arguments over whether the
coup was legal or not is the most devastating
thing for any regime. Once it becomes clear that
a regime is not in control, the perception that
it can ride out the unrest diminishes
considerably, and it begins to lose the first
layer of its illusory support: the consent by
silence of those sectors that simply want to back
the eventual winner of the conflict.
The coup regime - support for it or grudging
acceptance of it - is built on an illusion, one that claims it is in control.
The dilemma actions from the grassroots are
demonstrating, with greater frequency and volume
every day, that the coup regime is very much not
in control, and is losing its grip daily.
Next we will discuss how the support (and apathy)
that prop up a coup regime resemble the form of
an onion, and how successful civil resistance
movements - with examples of how this is working
in Honduras - design their actions to effectively
peel away the layers of that onion until the coup
plotters are left divided, isolated, alone,
abandoned, and very soon after that, expelled from power
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