Honduras; Obama's new puppets on display
On January 27, new puppets will take centre stage in the puppetry act in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. "President" Pepe Lobo ("elected" in a fraudulent poll on November 27 in which most Hondurans refused to vote) will accept the strings of attachment to the invisible power that continues to rule Honduras.
This obscure and menacing group are an unelected corps of representatives of the army high command and the 10 ruling oligarchic families. They meet under the informal moderation of the US ambassador, with the blessing of the top Catholic clerics.
These forces overthrew elected President Manuel Zelaya in a June 28 coup last year, sparking sustained protests for Zelaya's return to power.
Lobo has agreed to offer a "safe conduct" visa to ousted President Manuel Zelaya, who is still holed-up in the Brazilian embassy along with supporters.
The photos that will certainly be taken of Zelaya's helicopter trip to Toncontin airport, will offer a somewhat sublime (or obscene, depending on viewpoint) symbol of how this scene began, and how the curtain dropped.
Zelaya was kidnapped by armed soldier-thugs on June 28, 2009, and hustled out of the country to Costa Rica, with a brief stopover at the US-controlled Soto Cano airforce base.
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who later played a back-stabbing role in talks between coup leaders and Zelaya's representatives, knew Zelaya had been kidnapped before his arrival in the Costa Rican capital.
Some on the international left have expressed a sense of despair or fatalism with respect to what has been, in many circles, interpreted as a defeat for Latin American independence from the overwhelming power of Washington.
US President Barack Obama, after all, it seems, pulled one over on the majority of the Organisation of American States'𢍲 (OAS, which includes all nations in the Americas minus Cuba) that had vowed never to accept the coup.
He managed to entice the servile and discredited Arias to broker a negotiations process whose only purpose was to confuse and disorient the resistance forces in Honduras, the international solidarity movement, and to buy urgently needed time to bring the coup regime into a smooth, safe landing.
This move succeeded, despite warnings from grassroots leaders in Honduras and wise counsel from international revolutionary leaders including Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
But, did the survival of the coup regime, headed by Roberto Micheletti, until Zelaya's constitutional time in office ended give a clear, certain and stable victory for the Honduran ruling class and its imperial backers in Washington?
That question has already been answered on the streets and university grounds of the country, in the factories and workplaces, in the public employees' sector, in the rural fields and agricultural work centres, and in the ports and transport industries.
The mass national resistance movement against the June 28 coup, organised under the umbrella of the National Resistance Front Against the Coup (NFRG), is still a viable and significant political force. It was not disoriented either by Arias or by the November 27 electoral sham.
Despite disagreements over how to respond to various challenges, the movement remains strong and united.
This resistance is without precedent in Indo-Latin America and the Caribbean. Never has such a prolonged resistance to a military coup held its ground and outlasted formal political stalemate.
This movement has united and educated forces across the traditional barriers of class, race, ethnicity, language, gender, age, rural-urban differences, culture, regionalisms and educational backgrounds.
It has demonstrated political sophistication, not just here and there, but consistently.
It has resisted provocative efforts of the secret police and CIA agents to entice its younger elements into violent and criminal acts in order to create public support for even harsher repressive measures.
It has evaded efforts to promote provocations against the police and rank-and-file soldiers in order to keep the largely poor and rural soldier ranks isolated from the mass protests and its arguments in favour of democratic rights.
Over and over again, it has risen to the challenge of uniting very diverse class and political forces into a fist of defiance — without silencing the ranks to give a false picture of unity.
Differences were and are treated as a normal part of any genuine mass upsurge involving forces barely acquainted with working together, especially under conditions of fierce, violent repression and the silencing of opposition media.
Part of the "miracle" of the movement's unity stemmed from the fact that the entire movement held firm around the key demands of the resistance.
These included: rejection of the unconstitutional de facto regime and the restoration of the constitutional presidency; an end to repression and for the return of the army to its barracks; restoration of press freedom and re-opening banned TV and radio stations; release of all political prisoners; no impunity for those who carried out the coup or for the crimes that followed it, which have included assassinations, torture, disappearances, beatings and rape.
Finally, the key demand that ties all this together into a perspective for democratising the Honduran state is the call for a constituent assembly.
This is a call for a political process that leads to an elected assembly empowered to change the country's constitution.
This is an ongoing struggle that is far from over.
Much is at stake across the region. One immediate impact of the coup was to give courage and sustenance to reactionary forces in Panama and Costa Rica to finally come out into the open in their opposition to the process of Central American unity.
Recent expressions of the process towards unity include the Central American Integration System(SICA) and the C-4 Accord (through which citizens of Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala can travel between the four countries without a passport or visa). The C-4 is an important step towards establishing a common labour market, something prized by local capitalists.
Arias has made it clear that, if he has his way, his country will turn away from the SICA and ally with join the right-wing governments of Panama and Colombia. Such an arrangement is a direct threat not only to Venezuela and Ecuador, which border on the Colombian narco-state, but also Nicaragua, which has significant border disputes with both Colombia and Costa Rica.
It is clear the coup was part of Washington's strategy to re-militarise the region. The coup was followed by the agreement to install military bases in Colombia, and later in Panama; and by the decision to take the US Fourth Fleet out of mothballs and redeploy it to the southwest Caribbean theatre — offshore from Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras.
Obama has demonstrated not only his skills at "smart diplomacy", but also his readiness to use the big stick — even if he has to go through denial acts and blame secretary of state Hillary Clinton for the more crude moves in this warfare.
The struggle in Honduras goes on, but the mass resistance movement that has changed Honduran politics forever.
[This article is abridged from the Canadian Socialist Voice. Felipe Stuart Cournoyer is a Canadian-born Nicaraguan citizen who divides his time between the two countries. He is a member of the Sandinista National LIberation Front (FSLN) and a SV contributing editor.]