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Vol. 73/No. 27      July 20, 2009

Ousted Honduran leader
agrees to U.S.-backed talks
July 8—The ousted president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, and Roberto Micheletti, who was appointed by the Honduran congress to replace him, have agreed to negotiations to resolve the governmental crisis. Following a July 7 meeting with Zelaya in Washington. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the talks will be led by President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica.

Zelaya was arrested by Honduran troops June 28 and put on a plane to Costa Rica, as part of infighting between wings of the capitalist class. The Honduran congress voted unanimously—including the members of Zelaya’s party—to name congress speaker Roberto Micheletti the new president, the succession stipulated by the constitution.

Declaring he remained the president, Zelaya made a show of attempting to land at the airport in the capital, Tegucigalpa, July 5. The army stationed vehicles blocking all runways at the airport. The pilot had to turn back, landing instead in Nicaragua.

Zelaya was to fly to Tegucigalpa together with the presidents of Argentina, Ecuador, and Paraguay—Cristina Kirchner, Rafael Correa, and Fernando Lugo respectively—but the three decided instead to fly to El Salvador, where they said they would “monitor” the situation.

Demonstrations have taken place almost daily, both supporting Zelaya’s ouster and calling for his reinstatement. Some Zelaya supporters have been tear-gassed and arrested or beaten. Two people were reported killed by soldiers July 5 when a crowd tried to break through barriers at the airport. But a nighttime curfew decreed following Zelaya’s ouster is largely not being enforced against pro-Zelaya demonstrators in the capital.

Several newspapers and radio stations were shut down in the first few days after Zelaya’s fall, but many of these are now open, in a few cases without some previous reporters or announcers.

The three union federations in Honduras—the General Workers Union (CGT), Workers Confederation of Honduras (CTH), and Unitary Confederation of Honduran Workers (CUTH)—opposed Zelaya’s overthrow. Union leaders called a general strike, but it didn’t materialize. The main worksites affected were schools and some hospitals.

Daniel Durón, general secretary of the CGT, said in a July 6 phone interview that workers in private industry did not strike.

María Gloria García, a staff member in the San Pedro Sula office of COSIBAH, the banana workers union, said some banana workers observed the strike call the first day, but returned to work after other union members did not strike.

In San Pedro Sula demonstrations took place July 2 both in support of the new government and against it. García said many of the workers who participated in the action backing the ouster of Zelaya were employed in nonunion garment shops in the free trade zone in that city. She said the majority of the Honduran garment industry is nonunion.

Zelaya belongs to a wealthy family in Honduras with large ranches and timber holdings. He is a leader of the Liberal Party, one of the two main capitalist parties, the other being the National Party. “He’s a businessman, a rancher,” said Durón, “but he took some initiatives that won him support.”

In 2005 Zelaya ran for president on an anticrime platform sprinkled with slogans about “citizens’ power” and “change.”

Early in 2009 he decreed a raise in the minimum wage by 60 percent to about $289 a month. Many employers refused to pay the higher wage or laid off large numbers of workers. Zelaya did not extend the raise to factory workers in the free trade zones. Some 100,000 are employed in garment and auto parts plants in these zones.

As the world capitalist economic crisis took a greater and greater toll on Honduras—one of the poorest countries in Latin America—Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez urged Zelaya to join the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a trade alliance between Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and some other Latin American nations. Chávez offered the Honduran government a steep discount in the price of Venezuelan oil.

As Zelaya’s rhetoric shifted to the left, the Post reported, he “increasingly spoke of the two nations of Honduras, one hopelessly poor, the other wealthy and uncaring. He began to argue for ‘people power,’ a kind of direct democracy.”

Rafael Alegría, a leader of the National Organization of Rural Workers and an advisor to Zelaya, told the Mexican daily La Jornada on June 29, “He isn’t a socialist or a revolutionary, but these reforms, which didn’t harm the oligarchy at all, have been enough for them to attack him furiously.”

The majority of Honduras’s rulers balked when Zelaya proposed the government conduct a plebiscite to see if people favored forming a commission to redraft the constitution to allow the president’s reelection.

The Supreme Court ruled against the referendum and even most leaders of his own party disagreed. Zelaya was arrested shortly after firing the general who refused to distribute the ballot boxes for the referendum.

No government has thus far recognized the Micheletti government. The Organization of American States and the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted resolutions for Zelaya’s reinstatement. The World Bank temporarily froze loans to Tegucigalpa, and Washington joined the initial calls for Zelaya to be restored to office.  
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