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 The Honduras coup is the Caribbean’s business

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Date d'inscription : 02/03/2007

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MessageSujet: The Honduras coup is the Caribbean’s business   Mar 14 Juil 2009 - 1:07

The Honduras coup is the Caribbean’s business
By Andaiye, Norman Girvan and Alissa Trotz

On April 11, 2002, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez was briefly removed from office by an abortive coup d’etat. A documentary on this episode, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, shows how an alliance of big business, wealthy landowners, and elements of the military conspired to remove him, with the active support of the Bush Administration and the local and international media. State-owned TV stations were closed, coverage of pro-Chavez demonstrations was blanked, and false stories circulated.

Fortuitously, on the day of the coup, an Irish television crew happened to be inside the Presidential Palace making a documentary, and the end-result was a film offering an alternate and compelling counterpoint to the pro-coup stories. It documented the pro-poor policies of the government, the fact that it had been democratically elected and enjoyed extensive support among the poor; it refuted the lie that Chávez had resigned and revealed that he was being held prisoner, and showed the massive street demonstrations supporting him.

There are disturbing parallels with Honduras, where early on June 28th President Manuel Zelaya, democratically elected in 2006, was taken prisoner by soldiers and put on a plane to neighbouring Costa Rica, a forged letter of resignation was produced, and the President of the National Assembly, Robert Micheletti, proclaimed President. Honduras, a Central American nation of seven million people that recently overtook Guyana as the third poorest country in the hemisphere, still exhibits the deep racial and class inequalities that are a legacy of Spanish conquest and colonisation of the Indigenous majority.

Manuel Zelaya, himself a wealthy landowner, had angered the Honduran business elite and military by moving increasingly ‘to the left’ during his presidency, including his decision to take Honduras into the Venezuelan-led ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas). His plan to hold a non-binding referendum was the trigger for a series of events which led to his ouster.

But contrary to widespread media reports, the June 28 Referendum was not about extending Zelaya’s term of office. The actual question on the aborted June 28 ballot read: “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?” “Yes” or “No.”?

To quote Mark Weisbrot, Director of the Washington-based Centre for Economic Policy and Research writing on July 8th for the London Guardian:
“There was no way for Zelaya to `extend his rule’ even if the referendum had been held and passed, and even if he had then gone on to win a binding referendum on the November ballot.

The 28 June referendum was nothing more than a non-binding poll of the electorate, asking whether the voters wanted to place a binding referendum on the November ballot to approve a redrafting of the country’s constitution. If it had passed, and if the November referendum had been held (which was not very likely) and also passed, the same ballot would have elected a new president and Zelaya would have stepped down in January”.

What was launched, therefore, appears to have been a pre-emptive strike by the Honduran elite against Zelaya’s plans to deepen the democratic process in a country that has historically excluded the poor and Indigenous majority from effective participation in social and economic life, similar to what is transpiring in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.

An inadvertent revelation of the inbred racism and classism of this elite was the dismissal by interim foreign minister Enrique Ortez Colindres, of U.S. President Obama as a “little black man [who] doesn’t know where Tegucigalpa is”. He later commented that “I have negotiated with queers, prostitutes, leftists, blacks, whites. This is my job, I studied for it. I am not racially prejudiced. I like the little black sugar plantation worker who is president of the United States.” (There are reports that Colindres has been replaced, but other news stories contradict this).

Whatever one may think of Zelaya’s politics, there can be little doubt that what is at stake here is the integrity of institutional democracy and constitutional order. If soldiers can remove a democratically elected President, then no such President or government is safe—not in Latin America, the Caribbean, or anywhere in the world. Hence unanimous international condemnation of the coup; the United Nations General Assembly, the OAS General Assembly, the Rio Group, the ALBA nations, the Central American Integration System, the Caribbean Community, the European Union are all on record as calling for the President’s restoration.

The geopolitical climate has shifted somewhat since 2002. Last week US President Obama reassuringly declared “America supports now the restoration of the democratically-elected President of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies.”

But is the U.S. speaking with one voice? Some argue that the Pentagon, responsible for the large U.S. base in Honduras and with close ties to the Honduran military, must have known about the soldiers’ intentions beforehand, and not only didn’t stop the coup, but may have even given ’a wink and a nod’.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s initial statements were at least ambiguous, and she is believed to be behind the clumsy attempt to broker an agreement between President Zelaya and the usurper Micheletti, using President Arias of Costa Rica as mediator, an effort which spectacularly—and predictably — failed. As Weisbrot notes, unlike the UN, OAS and CARICOM, the US still does not call for an immediate and unconditional return. Some in the U.S. may well support the coupistas’ strategem of dragging out the process until the Honduran presidential election, due in November.

Meanwhile popular resistance to the coup in Honduras grows daily, and with it the likelihood of a violent polarisation that drags other Central American nations into the conflict. Daily demonstrations are being held by the national resistance movement, a coalition of popular organizations, at least one of which has been violently suppressed.

The National Fraternal Black Organization, representing Honduras’ Garifuna population, considers resistance their ”historic responsibility, as a culturally distinct people (whose) culture is threatened by these same powerful groups responsible for the coup”.

Mike James in the July 10th Catholic Standard, has reported on several Honduran religious communities publicly condemning the coup. One young man killed by military snipers when he attempted to go onto the airfield to welcome the plane returning Zelaya that the military stopped from landing, was the son of Pentecostal ministers, one of whom led the Human Rights committee in his community and has since been arrested.

James describes popular religious organizations offering alternative radio coverage and carrying footage of the resistance and repression in the Honduran capital, and a website, Honduras Resists, has been set up with regularly updated coverage. And across the region grassroots organizations are also categorically condemning the coup, like the network of indigenous women of South America and Mexico who issued a statement from Lima, Peru last week.

Honduras also brings to mind the ongoing crisis in Haiti, where President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was himself put on a plane by soldiers (American, in this instance) and banished in 2004, on the eve of the 200th anniversary of Haitian independence; a disgraceful episode in which the US, Canadian and French governments played no small part. Honduras is not only Caribbean business: we need to put these events in a wider hemispheric context.

We must insist on a conversation that recognizes that today two popularly elected presidents from our part of the world, Aristide and Zelaya, are in exile, and that the democratic aspirations of both the Honduran and Haitian people continue to be in limbo and require our solidarity.

Article printed from Stabroek News: http://www.stabroeknews.com
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