By Felipe Stuart Cournoyer and John Riddell.
A National Assembly of the Resistance, uniting more than 1,500 delegates from across Honduras, voted June 26 to launch a new political party, the Frente Amplio de Resistencia Popular (Broad Front of Popular Resistance—FARP).
The assembly was convened by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (National People’s Resistance Front—FNRP), 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.
The new party is to function as an arm of the Resistance Front in the political-electoral arena and will contest the 2013 presidential elections.
The delegates met under large suspended banners displaying the images of ALBA presidents—Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Raúl Castro (Cuba), and Evo Morales (Bolivia), alongside those of Francisco Morazán, Simón Bolívar, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro. Honduras was illegitimately removed from the ALBA alliance by the coup regime established in 2009.
At the assembly, Zelaya, who returned from exile on May 28, urged the FNRP to guard its unity. It must embrace all sectors affected by the cruelty of the existing system, which has devastated the lives of millions of Hondurans, he said. Zelaya stressed that Honduras needs deep structural reforms. The Honduran resistance, pressing forward in every field of activity, is capable both of taking political power and setting in motion the convening of a constituent assembly, he said. (See report by Dick and Miriam Emanuelsson.)
According to a July 10 report by the Nicaraguan left-wing website radiolaprimerisima.com, “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, which was held in the Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa. Zelaya insisted that it is the people who have the sovereignty to convoke a constituent assembly, not the state authorities. The Cartagena Accord accepted a framework in which the people must be consulted, he said, calling on organizations of teachers, peasants, workers, and various social sectors to demand their inclusion in the process.
Death squads still active
Zelaya returned to Honduras as part of the May 22 Cartagena Accord, which included provisions to rein in the coup regime’s campaign of terror against resistance and social activists. This repression included close to 100 political killings in 2010. As we warned in our May 24 report on the accord, the Cartagena agreement did not halt death-squad activity.
According to Bertha Oliva of COFADEH (the Committee of Family Members of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras), 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. Oliva was interviewed June 24 by Todd Gordon and Jeffery R. Webber (see “Imperialism and the Future of Honduran Resistance.”)
“Security forces can torture, and nothing will happen,” Oliva said. “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 reports. The same day, security guards working for Miguel Facussé, 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 Aguán region.
During their visit to Honduras, Gordon and Webber met many other activists who had recently received death threats.
Nor is repression directed only at the grass roots. On June 15, Gordon and Webber say, Zelaya’s former chief of staff, Enrique Flores, who had returned from exile on the same plane as the former president, was placed under house arrest—a clear violation of the Cartagena Accord.
According to Gordon and Webber, the urgent struggle against this murderous repression has been rendered more difficult by the Cartagena Accord, which “is likely to cast a democratic veneer over these atrocities, à 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.”
Gordon and Webber concede, however, that this is not currently the prevailing view in the resistance.
They analyze 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, Gorden and Webber say, “momentum within the Resistance has moved from Refoundational Space to the official wing of the Frente.”
This “momentum” was evident at the Resistance Front’s June 26 conference. Delegates of COPINH (Council of Peoples’ and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras), a major component of Refoundational Space, argued against the decision to launch a political party in conditions of ongoing capitalist pillage and repression in the country. In their view, “To fall into the trap of participating in the 2013 elections would be a huge mistake.” (Berta Caceres of COPINH in an interview by Gordon and Webber.)
Yet the resolution launching a political party to participate in electoral activity was approved by a 90%-95% majority at the Resistance Front’s 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.
Dick and Miriam Emanuelsson note, however, that the four resolutions presented during this discussion had been fully discussed by base organizations and committees of the Resistance Front 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, and 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.
According to the assembly decisions, 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 Resistance Front.
Gordon and Webber conclude their analysis with a quotation from Tomás Andino, a Refoundational Space delegate at the Resistance Front assembly:
“The same powers that were responsible for the coup d’état 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 Resistance Front 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 grass-roots 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 be unviable.
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.
Gordon and Webber have contributed to building our understanding of the Honduran resistance, which deserves close study internationally. But there is no need for us pass judgment at this stage on the debate among Honduran activists.
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.