I come from a land that is plentiful in soul, body and resistance. This has been demonstrated throughout history, especially after the 2009 coup when we rose up to protest against the usurpers of power on the basis of Article 3 of the Constitution, the foundation of the recent democracy established in 1982: No one owes obedience to a usurping government nor to those who assume office or public service by force of arms or by using means or procedures which violate or ignore the provisions established by this Constitution and other laws. The acts adopted by such authorities are null.
We took to the streets every day to exercise our right to insurrection in defense of the constitutional order. For months we directly endured the horrors of military repression and yet every day we went out to peacefully defend democracy and repudiate the dictatorship that had taken power. Despite our presence in the streets, the November 2009 elections were held but were unacknowledged by most of the population, and the dictatorship that we now face was established.
The new “government”, unacknowledged by the Resistance, called itself “the government of national reconciliation”, despite members of its cabinet, such as General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, having been perpetrators of the coup and having promoted repression and the militarization of the entire country. It was under this “government” that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime declared Honduras to be the world’s most violent country in 2011.
During the same year, as a result of national and international ignorance of the situation and the lack of governance, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, head of the executive branch, signed the Cartagena Agreement with ousted president, Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales. This agreement guarantees the re-entry of Honduras into the Organization of American States (OAS), creating the possibility that the president, now in exile in the Dominican Republic, can return to the country with full restoration of his political rights.
The agreement was signed amidst much controversy in the social movements, resulting in the definition of two positions within the National Popular Resistance Front: Electoral and Refoundational. The Electoral position led to the establishment of the political party Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) that will participate in the upcoming elections. After much negotiation and the formation of several movements within the party, a consensus was reached to nominate wife of the ousted president, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya. Castro’s presidential candidacy has generated much passion in the political life of the country and she currently occupies first place in the voting polls.
Women have played a central role throughout this long process of human rights defense and democracy. On the eve of the general elections, JASS shares the visions of several women defenders and leaders from different movements.
We spoke to human rights defenders from the north, south and west of the country: Berta Caceres, the coordinator of the Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH); Miriam Miranda, the coordinator of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH); Magdalena Morales, from the National Confederation of Rural Workers (CNTC); Esly Banegas, from the Aguan Committee of Popular Organizations (COPA); Nubia Casco, from the National Ojojona Defenders Network; María Santos Domínguez, from COPINH, Rio Blanco, Intibuca. We present their impressions as expressed during the National Conference of Social and Popular Movements of Honduras on November 2-3.
“They have improved their logistics, have better advice, commit more murders, and continue to criminalize our movements.”
The outlook appears very difficult because of the oligarchy—all the power rests in a few people—political, ideological and financial machinery, economic control, as well as having on their side, the far right, the military (including all repressive intelligence whether overt or covert), the media, and the power to commit technical fraud (although it will be very difficult to conceal). Things have changed since the coup. More repression is anticipated because the regime has been preparing alternative ways to deal with social movements. They are better prepared now after the experience of the coup, which they did not organize to give up their power. Rather, they organized it to consolidate their power.
In Aguan, we are full of hope. In general, people hope that there will be changes. It is an opportunity, the people have not had any alternatives. The opportunity is to involve ourselves in women’s struggles to demand respect for our rights which have been trampled on in every respect by the patriarchal system and the oligarchy.
There is a difference with this election. In the 2009 electoral process, only the traditional parties participated so electoral choice was limited to parties that defend the interests of the oligarchy and institutional breakdown. But now, there is a new party as a result of a meeting of the National Resistance Front, and the situation can be improved, although that will not happen overnight because the oligarchy has eliminated the State. Women are able to feel this absence in the discrimination which exists against us.
This is a different process to other elections because since the coup, we have been eliminating the two-party system. There is a need to generate a new and different country in Honduras and the coup revealed, “who was who” and that’s marvelous. It’s not just the social movements anymore, every day people are becoming more critical of the traditional parties because they realize that the two parties have plunged us into a crisis and led us into despair.
And that is no small thing, because I think that there has never been any discussion or analysis by people in the communities of the three branches of government and their roles. In fact, a few years ago people didn’t even really know what the three branches of government were, but now, in the communities, people can clearly tell you that they are the Supreme Court of Justice, Congress and the President, and they clearly understand the role of each. That does not mean that it isn’t necessary to work hard to destroy the two-party system and the idea that democracy is simply voting in elections.
We must deconstruct democracy, we must talk about what real participation means, what consultation refers to, what we are being asked about, what it means that each Honduran woman and man is being asked how we want to live.
We must deconstruct concepts such as democracy and development and show how resources are being used on behalf of this “development”. But right now, the opportunity exists and everything depends on each Honduran man and woman and the social movements so that we can move beyond whatever may happen on November 24.
The outlook is very difficult because everything is a mess. Right now we have no political party to commit to. If Xiomara wins, we know that they will not make it easy for her to govern. Nothing will be settled from one day to the next.
The 2009 elections were imposed on the country by a corrupt system and that is why they were not recognized by the women or by the people.
Maria Santos Domínguez
For us the situation is very different because we do not want to continue with these presidents. We are yet to decide what to do about the elections because we don’t believe in anyone. For us there is no government. I think there is hope that we can progress in our struggle but we are uncertain because political parties make promises and then fail to keep them.