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Honduran Democracy Can Only Be Asserted from Below

by Al Giordano and friends Thursday, Jul. 23, 2009 at 6:22 AM

"Democracy, however, can always be asserted from below, when an organized people stand up. That is the next chapter in Honduras, its best - and probably its only - hope. Update: Arias' efforts to convene, today, eleventh hour last chance "talks," are officially not happening

Honduran Democracy Can Only Be Asserted from Below

Posted by Al Giordano - July 22, 2009 at 8:49 am

By Al Giordano

“It is the people of Honduras who are going to resolve this crisis… The conscience of the Honduran people has awakened. We continue in our peaceful resistance.”

- Rafael Alegría, July 21, 2009

Today the clock counts down to zero on the 72-hour extension that official mediator and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias had announced for Honduran peace talks. There is nothing that indicates any breakthrough or agreement is possible.

When announcing that extension, Arias asked aloud, "What happens if one of those arms shoots a soldier? Or if a soldier shoots an armed civilian? There could be a civil war and bloodshed that the Honduran people do not deserve." That was a terribly naïve and distracting statement because, the fact is, a soldier has already shot and killed an unarmed civilian (Isis Obed Murillo on July 5). Arias has the scenario bass-ackwards.

Reuters reporters Simon Gardner and Esteban Israel filed a story on Monday titled, “Pressure grows on Honduras, violence feared.”

Threats of violence may temporarily keep violence invisible and in the realm of intimidation, censorship, and depravation of basic democratic rights (the coup regime has openly suspended the constitutional rights to free assembly, association, transit, due process and freedom from unwarranted invasion of one’s home, as its military occupied TV and radio stations), but violence, in latent form, is still violence.

The challenge should never be – as seems to be the priority of some up above – how to keep violence bottled up and hidden from view but, rather, how to disarm it.

The social movements that foment the civil resistance in Honduras against the coup – organizations of workers, farmers, students, ethnic and racial minorities, and for human rights – have demonstrated over the past 25 days that they “get” it.

As Jonathan Treat reported for Narco News from the highway blockade last Thursday, south of Tegucigalpa:

“The nonviolent action at the southern entrance to the city began as it did yesterday, with people gathering in the morning until several hundred people had convened. They then marched to a key spot on the highway where they will halt traffic. On the way, some bystanders shout insults at the marchers. One protestor responds by bending down and picking up some rocks. He is quickly surrounded with several leaders of the march, who remind him that the march was peaceful and insist that he puts down the stones…”

In other words, when they speak of “insurrection” – the right that is guaranteed by Article 3 of the Honduran Constitution against an “usurper government” that seizes the government by “force of weapons,” a legal definition that exactly describes the coup regime – the widespread interpretation by those organizing the insurrection is that it can and will be accomplished through nonviolent means. Considering that Honduran history has no great story or figure yet that casts the shadow of a Gandhi or a King or Cesar Chávez, this is a very huge development, historically speaking.

One North American native with more than two decades residing and raising his Honduran family in Honduras told Narco News yesterday, “I have NEVER seen so many people fired up in my 23 years in Honduras - I think a social revolution has been born – at last!”

Statements like those of US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley yesterday that seek to discourage the planned return of legitimate President Manuel Zelaya to his country (ask not for whom the woodshed tolls, Phil, it tolls for thee), are no more than transparent efforts to maintain a state of violence as long as it does not prick consciences. The fear is not of violence but that it becomes more visible.

There would obviously be nothing violent about a citizen walking across a border, or a bridge, or docking a boat, or landing in aircraft in Honduran territory. The only possibility for violence is if the coup regime commits it first, by attacking or otherwise attempting to deprive that citizen – in this case, the elected president of the nation – of his liberty.

The fear from above is that such an act by the coup regime would make the latent violence, in all its brutality, visible for the world to see. The psychological power of that elected president entering his homeland against the illegitimate regime’s objection – whether he arrives safely at the capital, or at his ranch in Olancho, or whether he is quickly kidnapped again and put in a prison cell – would of course galvanize the civil resistance and swell its ranks and thus its ability to more permanently shut down highways, factories and plantations, as well as the halls of the coup government.

The “fears” and preoccupations expressed from above – whether from Arias or from the State Department - are not that violence could occur: the entire foundation of the coup regime is rule by violence and threat of it. That is a classic developed world liberal misconception, as in Phil Ochs' song Love Me I’m a Liberal: “I’m all for the blacks and Hispanics, as long as they don’t move next door,” and they’re all for nonviolence as long as they don’t have to watch the sacrifice – and the repression it historically makes visible - that disarms the time bomb of violence.

A coup d’etat is violence incarnate, an atrocity and a crime against humanity. The only thing democratic about the Honduras coup, in a sense, is that it has democratized the violence and repression, now distributed across the board to every Honduran citizen.

The social movements in Honduras have demonstrated over the past 25 days that they have an actual plan to disarm the coup, more potent and pragmatic than that of external sanctions against a regime that can more than make up the shortfall through its dealings with narco-trafficking and ex-Cuban organized crime and terrorist networks (thus, Gorilla-in-Chief Micheletti’s public scoff at Secretary Clinton’s phone call threatening more sanctions on Monday). The Gallup poll and other indications have demonstrated that a plurality of Honduran citizens – 46 percent - opposes the coup and that only a small minority – 30 percent - approves of its regime. And those numbers, too - measured at the peak of the coup's control over information flow in the country - are suppressed by the shutdown of all critical media in Honduras during the days in early July when the survey was taken: an accurate poll today – now that Channel 36, Radio Globo, Radio Progreso and other independent media have retaken the airwaves through their own civil resistance - would very likely show greater opposition to the coup and shrunken support for it.

The hour approaches when international solidarity against the coup can best help the resistance by simply getting out of the way, allowing the Honduran people to reassert their democracy, and by accurately reporting and translating each step of their emerging history so that it does not occur in darkness.

Democracy can never be imposed from the outside or from above, not even by sanctions. The regular suggestions from some that if only full external sanctions would be applied “the coup would fall in a day” are naïve and inaccurate for the many reasons I’ve outlined and repeated already in previous posts. That’s a lesson I thought we all had learned already, but apparently not.

Democracy, however, can always be asserted from below, when an organized people stand up. That is the next chapter in Honduras, its best - and probably its only - hope.

Update: Arias' efforts to convene, today, eleventh hour last chance "talks," are officially not happening."

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