Honduras: resistance debates next steps

Before the June 28 coup, some in the Honduran left and grassroots movements had looked to the scheduled Nov. 29 general elections as a chance to break the monopoly on power held for decades by the Liberal Party (PL) and National Party (PN). Currently the two parties control 95% of electoral posts and government positions; of the 15 Supreme Court justices, eight are from the PL and seven from the PN. But the social movement was divided: union leader Carlos Humberto Reyes was registered as independent presidential candidate, while legislative deputy César Ham was running as the candidate of the small leftist Democratic Unification (UD) party.

Now the opposition also has to confront the possibility that the elections will be held under the de facto government, which is considered illegitimate by both the international community and the domestic opposition. But the UD has been strengthened by the defection of some politicians from the PL—both the PL and the PN supported the coup, even though Zelaya was a PL member. A number of former PL politicians are now registered as UD candidates for legislative or municipal positions, and UD leaders are hopeful that the party could win a strong representation in the National Congress. “We have to participate,” Ham has said. “Otherwise what will happen to us is what happened to the reactionary right wing in Venezuela, which didn’t run in the elections…and left Hugo Chávez alone in the National Assembly.”

But Juan Almendares, former rector of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), says “the two traditional parties are the masters of the electoral machinery… It is difficult for the left to win, even if international observers come.” According to Almendares, both parties have a history of fraud and Zelaya’s narrow win over PN candidate Porfirio Pepe Lobo in 2005 may have been fraudulent, since at that time the business community and the US embassy preferred Zelaya.

Much of the grassroots movement is threatening to boycott the election. On Aug. 28 the National Front Against the Coup d’Etat in Honduras (FNGE), the main grassroots coalition, announced that it wouldn’t recognize the campaign or the elections “if the constitutional order is not restored” and called on the UD and independent candidates to declare their positions on this. But Carlos Eduardo Reina, a PL leader close to Zelaya, noted that an electoral is boycott is difficult to manage. “Not even the [leftist rebel] Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation [FMLN], armed in the mountains, was able to carry out a boycott of elections” during El Salvador’s civil war of the 1980s, he said. (La Jornada, Mexico, Aug 29; FNGE statement, Aug. 28)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 30

See our last post on Honduras.