In Sao Paolo, Brazil, over August 17-19, Green Left Weekly journalists Kiraz Janicke and Federico Fuentes, together with journalists from Marea Socialista (Venezuela) and Alternativa Socialista (Argentina) spoke to Gilberto Rios, from the National Popular Resistance Front against the Coup in Honduras (FN).
They discussed the large resistance movement against the coup that ousted the democratically elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, on June 28. A significantly longer version of this article can be found at Links, journal of international socialist renewal.
How is the Honduran oligarchy sustaining itself in the face of the growing mass movement against the coup?
The oligarchy does not have the capacity to orchestrate the media campaign that is happening now throughout the country. The media campaign, the government's policy, and the mobilisation of the police and army are a result of CIA planning. It is confirmed that there is a CIA group working in [the Honduran capital] Tegucigalpa directing the coup.
It is really US support that has sustained the coup.
What do you think will happen next in Honduras?
The coup is weak politically. The international community still does not recognise the de facto government. The elections in November are important for it to legitimise its rule.
But the people do not want to take part in an election supervised by the coup government. It will not be a democratic process nor will the international community endorse it.
The struggle will continue beyond November, unless the president returns.
What is the situation within the armed forces?
The Honduran armed forces are very small (there are only 15,000 soldiers) but it is not just the armed forces involved in the coup. The police are also involved (another 14,000 officers) and there is also the privately run police force, which numbers more than 17,000.
There are sectors in the police who do not agree with the coup but are maintaining discipline. There is also a strong resentment because the high command had to take orders from the CIA and the oligarchy during the coup. So it is possible the armed forces may fracture.
The social movements are far more active in Honduras now. Did the coup spark the fire?
There was already a very vibrant popular movement in Honduras — the most developed of the region. The National Resistance Coordinator, which is the coordinating body of popular movements (the indigenous movement, labour movement, peasant movement, feminists and the gay-lesbian-transsexual movement), existed before the coup.
But after the coup, important sections of the Liberal Party (the traditional party from which Zelaya comes from) also became involved.
So these social movements have strengthened since the coup?
That's right. In the past, when we called for people to protest in the streets, they came out, but not in the same numbers as what is happening now.
In recent days, we have had protests that start in the morning and stay in the streets all day. At night, there are convoys of cars in major cities. It shows that the workers are participating, and the middle class is also coming out.
Which political organisations are taking part in the resistance?
The leftist political parties recognise they do not control any part of the popular movement. It's the opposite: we are part of the popular movement. All the political tendencies converged in the social movements, even before the coup.
If we talk about unions, 95% of Honduran unions represent the public sector and only 5% of unions represent workers in private enterprise. That 5% are the most militant because they have the most direct conflict with capital.
The beverage industry workers' union (STIBYS) is the union currently most involved in the resistance.
STIBYS just launched an independent presidential candidate: Carlos H. Reyes, one of the main leaders of the struggle. He has been a popular leader for more than 30 years. According to the latest polls he has almost 40% support. So the strategy is coming from the popular movements, not political parties.
Are there two positions in the resistance: one in favour of taking part in the election and one against?
Currently, there is no possibility of having two strategies with respect to the coup. Reyes has said publicly that if the president has not returned, he will withdraw and not endorse the process.
Although he has a chance of winning, we would only have a president. We would have no parliamentarians and we would be defeated in the other two branches of power: the Congress and the Supreme Court.
Does the resistance have the capacity to go further in its actions?
There are many parts of the country with a high concentration of weapons in the hands of the people. On the Atlantic coast, there has been a presence of drug trafficking, so the peasants have had to arm themselves for a long time.
Here we have more than 5000 armed men. The same in the east and the south, where, due to armed conflict in Central America, there remain many people experienced with weapons.
We have agreed not to take armed action because that would fall into the trap of what we think is the strategy of the US: to promote a civil war as a pretext for direct US invasion. Therefore, it is strategic for us to stay peacefully in the streets.
What does the FN think about US President Barack Obama's performance since the coup?
The popular movement has always been very anti-imperialist. We do not believe a change in the US government actually changes its international policies. The same policy of aggression remains.
Under Obama, the Pentagon's strategy will be to promote dirty wars, as in Honduras, rather than direct invasion, as under Bush.
This is clear not only to the leadership of the FN, but also to the people on the street. The people are now able to draw these political conclusions themselves. This is because people communicate with each other and there is much more flow of information.
The oligarchy made the coup with an old manual, but the people have changed and the world has changed.
How important is international solidarity to your struggle?
For the resistance, it is very important to know that the peoples of the world sympathise with the Honduran people. This boosts our morale for the struggle. Now, one can see in the marches of the resistance people carrying flags from every country in the world that has publicly opposed the coup.
I believe that every time there is an international presence, the military presence on the street decreases.
One can see police on the street. But when there is no international presence, what you see more are the military, who have neither training nor methods to suppress a march, but instead fire bullets.
A lot of people have been shot and wounded by that. They use repressive methods as if it were a war against the people, who are unarmed and peaceful. So an international presence is very positive for us.
We are thinking about the possibility of an international forum in Tegucigalpa, in October, involving popular movements from around the world — trade unions, politicians from across Latin America, progressives (democratic and revolutionary), all united against the coup.
Some US unions have offered to be there, and European forces from all the social movements.