Honduras: The coup dies or constitutions die

July 19, 2009

The article published below is an abridged July 10 column by former Cuban President Fidel Castro. It was originally published in Granma.

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The countries of Latin America have been struggling against history's worst financial crisis in living memory.

While US President Barack Obama —on a trip to Moscow to discuss nuclear weapons — was declaring that the only constitutional president of Honduras was Manuel Zelaya, the hawks in Washington were making manoeuvres for Zelaya to negotiate a humiliating pardon for the "crimes" the coup plotters have attributed to him.

It was obvious such an act would be tantamount to Zelaya's disappearance from the political stage.

It is a proven fact that when Zelaya, overthrown in a June 28 military coup and exiled to Costa Rica, announced he would return to Honduras on July 5, he had decided to fulfil his promise to share the brutal repression of the coup with his people.

Travelling with Zelaya was United Nations General Assembly president Miguel d'Escoto, Honduran foreign minister Patricia Rodas, a Telesur journalist and others.

I know for a fact that in mid-flight, when they were nearing Tegucigalpa, he was informed from the ground about Telesur broadcasting the moment when the enormous mass of people awaiting him outside of the airport were being attacked by soldiers with tear gas and automatic rifle fire.

His immediate reaction was to request that they gain altitude in order to denounce the events on Telesur and to demand the commanding officers of those troops cease the repression.

Then he informed them he would carry on with the landing. The high command then ordered the landing strip to be blocked. In a matter of seconds, vehicles were obstructing the runway.

The Falcon jet made three passes, at a low altitude, over the airport. Specialists explain that the tensest and most dangerous moment for pilots is when fast, small planes — like the one carrying the president — reduce speed for touchdown.

That's why I think that attempt to return to Honduras was audacious and brave.

If the coup regime wanted to put Zelaya on trial for alleged constitutional crimes, why not allow him to land?

Zelaya knows that it is not only the constitution of Honduras that was at stake, but also the right of the peoples of Latin America to elect the people who govern them.

Today, Honduras is not just a country occupied by a coup regime, it is also a country occupied by the armed forces of the United States.

The military base at Soto Cano, also known by its name of Palmerola —less than 100 kilometres from Tegucigalpa and reactivated in 1981 under the Ronald Reagan administration — was used by Colonel Oliver North when he was running the dirty war against Nicaragua.

From this base the US government directed attacks against the Salvadoran and Guatemalan revolutionaries that cost tens of thousands of lives.

That is the location of the Joint US Task Force-Bravo that occupies 85% of the area of the base.

Eva Golinger revealed its role in an article posted on Rebelion on July 2, titled "The US military base in Honduras at the centre of the coup".

She explained that "the Constitution of Honduras does not legally allow for foreign military presence in the country. A 'handshake-like' agreement between Washington and Honduras authorises the important and strategic presence of hundreds of US soldiers on the base, under a 'semi-permanent' deal.

"The agreement was reached in 1954 as part of the military aid the United States was offering Honduras … the third poorest country in the hemisphere." She adds that "the agreement that allows the military presence of the United States in the Central American country can be removed with no notice given".

Soto Cano is also home of the Aviation Academy of Honduras.. The US military task force is partly made up of Honduran soldiers.

What is the objective of the military base, the planes, the helicopters and the US task force in Honduras?

Without any doubt they are only adequate for use in Central America. The war on drug trafficking, the official justification, does not require such weapons.

If Zelaya is not returned to his position, a wave of coups threatens to sweep away many Latin American governments.

Alternatively, such governments could be at the mercy of ultra right-wing militaries, educated in the "security doctrine" of the US School of the Americas, which specialises in teaching the methods of torture, psychological warfare and terror.

The authority of many civilian governments in Central and South America will become weakened. The dark days of military rule across the region are not very far back in time.

It would not be understandable for Zelaya to now take stalling manoeuvres that would wear out the considerable social forces that support him and only lead to an irreparable attrition.

The illegally overthrown president does not seek power, but he defends a principle, and as Cuban independence hero Jose Marti said: "One just principle from the depths of a cave can be mightier than an army."

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