Honduras: resistance petitions, plans strike

As of Sept. 1, Honduras’ National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) said it had collected 1,019,765 signatures on petitions calling for a constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s 1982 Constitution and for the safe return of former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009) from his exile in the Dominican Republic. One of the FNRP’s coordinators, union leader Juan Barahona, called reaching the number “a triumph” and said he was “sure we’ll pass the minimum goal we proposed of 1.25 million signatures” by Sept. 15, the final day of the campaign. (The population of Honduras is about 7.5 million, and there were 4.6 million registered voters in the country at the time of the November 2009 elections.)

The FNRP, which formed in response to Zelaya’s overthrow in June 2009, started the petition campaign on April 20 (we erroneously reported that the campaign had already gathered 1.2 million signatures in June). (Prensa Latina, Sept. 1; El Tiempo, San Pedro Sula, Sept. 2) The coup against Zelaya came on a day when Hondurans were to vote in a non-binding poll on whether to include a referendum on the constituent assembly in the November 2009 general elections.

The FNRP is planning to hold a demonstration on Sept. 15, the last day of the petition drive and the 189th anniversary of Central America’s declaration of independence from Spain. The group is also calling for a “civic strike” on Sept. 7, which Barahona indicated would be a sort of preview of a national general strike the main labor federations are planning if President Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa fails to increase the national minimum wage.

The minimum wage, currently 5,500 lempiras a month (about $290), was supposed to be raised in April, but the business sector blocked the pay hike. When negotiations between the unions and businesses fail to resolve the issue, the president has the authority to set the minimum wage, but Lobo still hasn’t taken action. One problem may be external pressure. The Honduras Culture and Politics blog notes: “In order to convince the International Monetary Fund [IMF] that Honduras qualifies for a standby line of credit, Lobo Sosa must prove to them that he has contained government costs in the 2011 government budget, especially salaries…. Obviously, adding a large increase to the budget, specifically for salaries, would undercut meeting that target.” (Red Morazánica de Información, Honduras, Aug. 31 via FNRP website; Adital, Brazil, Aug. 31; Honduras Culture and Politics, Sept. 2)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 5.

See our last post on Honduras.