[News] Democra-Phobia: Fear of Citizen Power in Honduras

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 21 11:20:00 EDT 2009

Democra-Phobia: Fear of Citizen Power in Honduras

Posted by 
Giordano - July 20, 2009 at 9:20 am

By Al Giordano

Strip away all the sensationalism, distortion, 
simulation, ideological axe-grinding, flotsam and 
jetsam of media coverage of events in Honduras 
over the past month and it still boils down to one central conflict:

The coup regime fears, and was imposed as a last 
line of defense against, “Citizen Power.”

Citizen Power – “Poder Ciudadano,” in Spanish, 
which was the credo on the posters and ads of 
Manuel Zelaya’s victorious 2005 presidential 
campaign – manifested itself this year in popular 
demands for a referendum on whether to write a 
new Honduran Constitution via democratically 
elected representatives to a constitutional convention.

It’s that simple, and the coup regime’s fear of 
authentic democracy is exactly why the failed 
“talks” in Costa Rica between the two sides have 
now ended without agreement on anything at all, as foreseen here and elsewhere.

That’s why the violent kidnapping of the 
president - accompanied by the military 
occupation of TV, radio and other independent 
media - took place on the dawn of an election 
day, Sunday, June 28, when the people of Honduras 
were going to vote in a nonbinding referendum on 
whether to have a vote in November over said 
constitutional convention, known as a constituent assembly in Honduras.

The hasty timing of the coup was intended to 
prevent the people from voting, and it speaks 
volumes of what the coupmongers believed the 
results of that referendum would have been, had 
the vote been allowed to happen. Their informed 
belief was that the referendum would have been 
approved and, even though it would be 
non-binding, that would have put to rest, once 
and for all, their claims to somehow speak for a majority of Honduran citizens.

After all, a much less risky strategy would have 
been to go out, the democratic way, and defeat 
the referendum at the polls. Lord knows they had 
the money to mount such a campaign. That the coup 
plotters did not even attempt to defeat it at the 
polls reveals the weak hand they are playing.

The question that was to be poised to voters – it 
bears repeating - was this one:

"Do you think that the November 2009 general 
elections should include a fourth ballot box in 
order to make a decision about the creation of a 
National Constitutional Assembly that would approve a new Constitution?"

And the coup plotters’ justification for the 
military putsch included the repeated claims that 
can be summed up as, “we had to do it this way 
because the constitution didn’t give us a clear 
enough path to remove the president legally.”

Got that? It translates as: “Yes, our 
Constitution is flawed, so flawed that we had to 
burn it, but any attempt to change it by 
democratic means is a threat that requires us to 
violate it in order to save it.”

The subsequent debates over the interpretation of 
many of the Honduran Constitution’s 375 articles 
and how they may or not may not apply to the 
situation – a loud discussion that has not, after 
23 days, convinced a single nation of the world 
to recognize the coup regime as a somehow 
legitimate government, because the pro-coup 
arguments are that specious – have been intended 
to obscure the central point: that the entire 
reason for the timing of the coup was to prevent 
the Honduran people from speaking as a nation.

The popular demand for a new constitution has not 
gone away. Indeed, it remains a central 
requirement from the highly informed and 
increasingly politicized working and poor majority in Honduras.

Twenty-four-year-old Hortensia “Pichu” Zelaya, 
daughter of the legitimate President Manuel 
Zelaya, repeated that demand on Saturday at this 
anti-coup demonstration in Tegucigalpa:

She reminded that Zelaya’s 2005 presidential 
campaign revolved around the theme of a “fourth 
branch” of government it called “Poder 
Ciudadano,” or “Citizen Power.” In that campaign, 
contrary to much that has been written, the very 
thing the oligarchy fears – grassroots citizen 
participation in Honduras’ government, which 
throughout history has been controlled by the 
manipulations of the upper classes – was the 
central campaign promise, ratified by the voters at the polls.

“They are afraid of the people,” the presidential 
daughter said to the multitude. “A people without 
weapons. A people that comes in peace
 A people 
that struggles
 A people that no longer wants to 
be repressed
 This people is tired of it, which is what we have demonstrated

Noting that social programs of the kind that her 
father instituted “are not enough,” Hortensia 
recounted: “President Zelaya discovered that if 
it is not enough, it will be enough to work with 
the people. That’s why we defend the non-binding 
poll of the public opinion, the Fourth Ballot 
Box, and why we want the National Constituent Assembly.”

The seven-point proposal last weekend by Costa 
Rican President Oscar Arias included the concept 
that a restored Zelaya presidency would somehow 
have to ignore the will of an organized citizenry 
to rewrite the nation’s constitution. The 
proposal was dead in the water because the 
grassroots bases in Honduras would never agree to that or abide by it.

And it’s a sign of the density and dishonesty of 
so many international media correspondents that 
they repeatedly boil down a concept as sweeping 
as a Constitutional Convention for Honduras and 
all it would entail – the democratic reformation 
of a government in each of its branches – to the 
sideshow possibility that it might or might not 
include an end to the single-term limit on the 
country’s presidents, depending on what the 
elected citizens decide and whether voters then ratify it.

They’ve tried to make it seem like the conflict 
is about whether Zelaya himself could run for 
reelection, even though the proposed 
Constitutional Convention – if approved on 
November 29 to happen sometime after that date, 
the same day a new president w ould be elected, 
and if it permitted reelection of presidents – 
would nonetheless happen too late to allow Zelaya 
himself to pursue it. See how badly they’ve 
mangled the real story out of Honduras?

The real story began and continues to be one of poder ciudadano: Citizen Power.

Which is why the inordinate focus on the circus 
up above – not only in the corporate media, but 
also among some colleagues of the left – so badly 
misses the point of what is occurring on the ground in Honduras.

It’s as if, for some, the past dozen years of 
struggle, sacrifice and multiple victories by 
Latin American social movements never happened, 
or as if they were merely symbolic, lacking in 
hard substance. But we have reported the real 
story, time and time again, here: Citizen Power 
in Latin America has considerably strengthened 
the role of Latin American peoples as their own 
subjects and no longer the objects of impermeable imperial rule from afar.

The analyses that assign all the responsibility 
for the coup’s success or failure to Washington 
are, in reality, quite dismissive of – and 
insulting to the people who organized - those 
victories from below and their consequences.

Immanuel Wallerstein, however, 
<http://fbc.binghamton.edu/commentr.htm>hits the 
nail on the head with this point:

“What about the United States? When the coup 
occurred, some of the raucous left commentators 
in the blogosphere called it ‘Obama's coup.’ That 
misses the point of what happened. Neither Zelaya 
nor his supporters on the street, nor indeed 
Chavez or Fidel Castro, have such a simplistic 
view. They all note the difference between Obama 
and the U.S. right (political leaders or military 
figures) and have expressed repeatedly a far more nuanced analysis.

“It seems quite clear that the last thing the 
Obama administration wanted was this coup. The 
coup has been an attempt to force Obama's hand.”

That’s not to say that efforts to unforce that 
hand in Washington aren’t worthy. We’ve done 
plenty of that, too. But to obsess upon a 
weakened empire that no longer has the absolute 
power to determine history in Latin American 
lands while also largely ignoring the struggle 
from below inside Honduras – a faux pas that most 
of the Washington-centric leftish analysis has 
committed – is to dismiss and disrespect the 
strides already made by organized peoples throughout this hemisphere.

As Narco News copublisher George Salzman noted in 
our comments section this weekend:

“If, as now appears not impossible, the Honduran 
Coup can be defeated by the large majority of 
ordinary people largely independently of the 
actions of the governments, that would be a 
greater victory for popular struggles than any other sequence of events.”

That is the authentic story from Honduras: the 
story written by its own people, from below.

And that’s why the “talks” in Costa Rica were a circus sideshow.

 From here on out, it’s all about “Citizen 
Power,” the immediate history of the steps the 
people of Honduras take to organize their own 
freedom and a more authentic democracy. That’s 
been our focus here for the past month. And it 
will continue to be the central thrust of our reporting.

Update: Here's an important development in 
international solidarity with the popular movements of Honduras:

Transport Workers Federation has called upon its 
four-and-a-half million members in 656 labor 
unions worldwide (it includes Longshoremen, 
Teamsters and Seafarers among other union sectors 
in the US and throughout the world) to refuse to 
load or unload products from the 650 merchant 
ships that are registered under the Honduran flag 
for as long as the coup regime is in place.

Update II: A national coalition of social 
organizations in have set 
July 24, as the date of President Zelaya's return 
to Honduras and have called upon the citizenry to 
"organize itself" to receive him. The call is 
signed by the CUTH federation of labor unions, 
the Popular Bloc against the coup plus prominent 
Liberal Party members Carlos Eduardo Reina and 
Rasel Tomé, "at a place and time that will soon be announced."

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