Honduras: 'A final offensive is needed'

August 22, 2009

A few weeks ago, I publicly exposed a potential collapse of the health system in Honduras. Today, public hospitals have only four basic medicines.

They are being told to make emergency purchases from pharmaceutical firms owned by the golpistas (coup makers): Laboratorios Finlay, owned by Jorge Canahuati Larach, who also owns the newspapers el Heraldo and La Prensa, and is an arms supplier; Elias Asfura, owner of Laboratorios Karnel, who also has various TV channels and now owns the once government-owned Channel 8, privatised by the coup regime; MANDOFER, owned by the Andonie Fernandez family that also owns Audio Video, a golpista group that includes Radio America.

This collapse also forces the coup government, which overthrew elected President Manuel Zelaya on June 28, to plea for private bank loans at commercial interest rates. Collateral for these loans is the obligatory bank financial reserve — that is, the guarantors are bank saver-depositors.

Basically, we are confronting a process of mortgaging the state, and eventually a catastrophic version of the corralito" (the economic measures taken in Argentina at the end of 2001 in order to stop a bank run).

If we stop awhile to think about it, the pillage the golpistas are literally carrying out not only shows their brazen ambition and likely their premonition of being close to their time, but also it will leave Zelaya with a desolate country.

Above all, a new government, which will be from the left, will inherit a grave situation. They are already clearing the road for future destabilisation.

Meanwhile, we have warned about peculiar movements among the liberal sector of the Zelayaist camp, which are aimed at these sectors obtaining a dominant position in the new government.

Fortunately, Zelaya has made public a communique urging his followers to desist, and they have said they will follow his instructions.

A division within the National Resistance Front Against the Coup (FNRG) could have terrible results for the people's struggle. The idea of a National Constituent Assembly to refound the country, pushed by the FNRG, is fundamental. It cannot be achieved if ambitions for power and keeping alive the old two-party arrangement are not abandoned.

The situation indicates that Zelaya will likely return to Honduras thanks to an agreement favourable to the golpistas. But this does not mean that he has given up.

Zelaya's importance today is rooted in his capacity to influence the outcome of the next elections scheduled for November. Zelaya's term in office runs out at the end of the year and he cannot stand again under the constitution.

If Zelaya does not return, the FNRG will boycott the electoral process. It is difficult to predict how much longer the consensus of Latin American countries against the coup in Honduras will hold.

Right-wing governments such as those in Colombia, Peru, Panama and even Mexico could break down this fragile OAS consensus.

Elections in Chile are just around the corner. The probable victory of the Chilean right could determine what happens if the right wing decide to recognise the coup regime.

In the medium and long term, the imperialist offensive against the advance of popular governments could realise its first victory in Honduras. It is not accidental that the Yankee government is delaying any process for resolving the situation.

We are mindful that the US Congress functions as if it were the 19th century, with a sizeable group of members who still hate Abraham Lincoln for abolishing slavery. They are susceptible to a lobby highly paid by a political clique of coup-making businesspeople.

We Latin Americans cannot and should not fall into this trap. They have tried to distance Zelaya from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez but they cannot take away Zelaya's convictions — which are certainly closer to those Chavez than Peru's right-wing President Alan Garcia.

Our president, Zelaya, is important. Today, three-quarters of the population want to see the country re-founded.

For that reason, it is imperative to push internationally, within the international community, for the unravelling of this crisis.

We have made a lot of headway on the domestic front. We have all kinds of hardships, but conviction is powerful. Although they repress us, we are freer than coup functionaries; neither "president" Roberto Michelleti, nor any other golpista can walk the streets of Tegucigalpa — now their prison.

The only way they can go out is with a military contingent.

Pressure from sister countries is still needed. They have done a lot already, and we thank them for that. But what is missing is a final offensive.

[Ricardo Arturo Salgado is an active participant in the National Resistance Front Against the Coup, and a Tegucigalpa-based sociologist. Translated from Spanish by Felipe Stuart Cournoyer.]

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