Honduras: Resistance launches political party amid repression

July 16, 2011
National Front for Popular Resistance members vote for a new political party at its assembly on June 26.

A national assembly of the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP), uniting more than 1500 delegates from across Honduras, voted on June 26 to launch a new political party, the Broad Front of Popular Resistance (FARP).

The FNRP is the main coordinating body of popular struggle since a right-wing coup overthrew the democratically elected government of president Manuel Zelaya two years ago, on June 28, 2009. One of its key demands is for a constituent assembly to draft a new democratic and pro-poor constitution.

The new party will function as an electoral arm of the front and will contest the 2013 presidential poll.

The delegates met under large suspended banners displaying the images of Latin American presidents from the left-wing Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) bloc ― Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Bolivia's Evo Morales, Cuba's Raul Castro, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega and Ecuador's Rafael Correa.

Zelaya's government had joined the ALBA bloc, but the coup regime that overthrew it withdrew.

They were hung alongside banners featuring Honduran revolutionary Francisco Morazan, South American independence hero Simon Bolivar, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.

At the assembly, Zelaya, who returned from exile on May 28, urged the FNRP to guard its unity. He said it must embrace all sectors affected by the cruelty of the existing system, which has devastated the lives of millions of Hondurans.

Zelaya stressed that Honduras needed deep structural reforms. The resistance, pressing forward in every field of activity, was capable taking political power and winning a constituent assembly, he said.

A July 10 report by the Nicaraguan site Radiolaprimerisima.com said: “The president of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, has initiated a discussion with a number of political parties on convening a Constituent Assembly.

“This proposal is similar to the one advanced by ex-President Manuel Zelaya, which caused his ouster on June 28, 2009.”

Zelaya took part in this discussion. He insisted that it was the people who have the sovereignty to convene a constituent assembly, not the state authorities.

The Cartagena Accord, signed between the FNRP and the Lobo regime, accepted a framework in which the people must be consulted, Zelaya said.

He called on organisations of teachers, peasants, workers, and other social sectors to demand their inclusion in the process.

Zelaya returned to Honduras as part of the accord, which included provisions to rein in the coup regime’s campaign of terror against resistance and social activists. This repression included almost 100 political killings in 2010.

However, the accord did not stop death-squad activity.

Bertha Oliva from the Committee of Family Members of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras said that only a few days after the accord was signed, a death squad struck down a close associate of Xiomara Castro, Zelaya’s wife and political partner, along with another victim.

“Security forces can torture, and nothing will happen,” Oliva told Todd Gordon and Jeffery Webber in a July 6 The Bullet article. “They can detain and assassinate their opponents, and nothing will happen.”

On June 5, three peasant activists were assassinated near their San Esteban cooperative, Oliva said.

The same day, security guards working for Miguel Facusse, a large landowner notorious for illegal expropriation of peasant lands, entered the National Agrarian Institute and opened fire on peasants who had taken refuge there, seriously wounding one of them.

On June 10, government and private security forces invaded several other peasant cooperatives in the Bajo Aguan region. Other activists told Gordon and Webber they have received death threats.

On June 15, Gordon and Webber said, Zelaya’s former chief of staff Enrique Flores, who had returned from exile on the same plane as Zelaya, was placed under house arrest ― a clear violation of the accord.

Gordon and Webber argued the struggle against this murderous repression has been rendered more difficult by the accord, which “is likely to cast a democratic veneer over these atrocities, a la Colombia”.

The accord “is best understood as a blow to the Honduran Resistance, one that is likely to undermine efforts to continue building a grassroots movement genuinely capable of challenging political and economic power in the country”.

However, they concede this is not the prevailing view in the Honduran resistance.

They analyse the movement as divided into three wings: the “official resistance,” composed of the forces that broke with Zelaya from the capitalist Liberal party (“a persecuted branch of former members of the ruling class”); a militant wing, Refoundational Space, which is critical of the accord; and “a third and oscillating force ... composed principally of popular classes and oppressed groups.”

In the lead up to the accord and since Zelaya’s return, Gordon and Webber said, “momentum within the Resistance has moved from Refoundational Space to the official wing of the [front]”.

This “momentum” was evident at the June 26 conference. Delegates of Council of Peoples’ and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), a major part of Refoundational Space, argued against the decision to launch a political party in conditions of ongoing capitalist pillage and repression in the country.

They told Gordon and Webber: “To fall into the trap of participating in the 2013 elections would be a huge mistake.”

Yet the resolution launching a political party to participate in electoral activity was approved by 90%-95% of delegates at the June 26 assembly.

Gordon and Webber question the fairness of debate in the assembly. Most speakers were “selected from the officialist camp”; Zelaya’s personal authority weighed heavily on the gathering; discussion was “truncated,” they say.

However, Dick and Miriam Emanuelsson reported in a June 27 Nicaraguaymasespanol.blogspot.com article that the four resolutions discussed had been fully discussed by base organisations and FNRP committees in urban barrios and on a municipal and departmental level.

Opponents of launching a political party were able to make their arguments before the assembly, but they did not convince many.

The vote to launch the FARP was greeted with general jubilation.

There is no basis to question grassroots delegates’ understanding of the different strategic choices before them or their capacity to evaluate them.

The new political party will not replace the resistance front. Membership in the party will be individual; forces with divergent views on the party remain united in the front.

Gordon and Webber quote Tomas Andino, a Refoundational Space delegate at the assembly: “The same powers that were responsible for the coup d’etat remain in place … [A]re we to expect that these forces that came to power through force are going to give up that power through voting? No! …

“[T]he only strategy available to the people is to rise up. ... If we simply move toward participation in elections we are going to be lost.”

If the majority were proposing to replace a strategy of mass action with sheer electorialism, Andino’s point would be well taken.

In fact, this majority argue for maintaining the grassroots struggle for a constituent assembly and democratic rights alongside participation in the coming elections.

Andino and the Refoundational Space delegates were unable to convince many that such a combined strategy would not be viable.

There are some in Honduras and elsewhere who believe that electoral action will have a negative effect, no matter how it is conducted.

But in several Latin American countries in recent years, including Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, an integration of electoral action with grass-roots initiatives has had some positive results.

Whatever our views on the discussion there, we have a joint responsibility to continue building opposition to the repression in Honduras and to ongoing pillaging of the country by imperialist powers and their corporations.

[Abridged from www.johnriddell.wordpress.com.]

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