[News] Toppling a Coup, Part I: Dilemmas for the Honduras Regime

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Aug 7 14:09:20 EDT 2009

Toppling a Coup, Part I: Dilemmas for the Honduras Regime

Posted by 
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?

Marovich replied:

That is a very good question because now we’re 
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 can’t 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 couldn’t 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 don’t 
take the stones, they will regret it also.” So they didn’t know what to do.

Some said, “I’m going to regret it so I better 
not touch it.” Others said, “I’m 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 didn’t 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 we’re collecting money for 
Milosevic’s retirement. If you have money, put in 
the barrel. If you don’t have money, beat on the 
barrel. And Milosevic’s 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, “Who’s barrel is this?” 
Nobody knew. The police didn’t 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 don’t rely on creativity. They don’t 
rely on taking initiative. They totally rely on 
their procedures and on following orders. They 
don’t know how to react in certain situations. 
And that’s when they start making mistakes.

As the saying goes, never interrupt your opponent when he’s 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 don’t 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 don’t 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 
don’t 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. They’re 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 enemy’s 
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 regime’s 
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 
can’t 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 country’s airports, expressly in protest 
of the coup d’etat. 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 regime’s 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 regime’s 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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