A Triumph for Democracy in Honduras?

A Triumph for Democracy in Honduras?

On Friday, October 30, a US-brokered, Agreement for National Reconciliation and the Strengthening of Democracy
in Honduras
was signed between President Manual Zelaya Rosales and coup
regime leader Roberto Micheletti. Among many sectors, the deal is being
hailed as a triumph for democracy in Honduras.

In a statement, also issued on Friday, the National Resistance Front
announced a “celebration of the upcoming restoration of Zelaya as a
popular victory over the narrow interests of the coup oligarchy.” While

the Resistance Front recognizes the Agreement as a victory, the Front is
clear that Zelaya’s restoration has come as a result of four months of
struggle and sacrifice by the people in the face of ruthless repression.

The other major point in their statement was the affirmation of “a
National Constituent Assembly as an un-renounceable aspiration of the
Honduran people and a non-negotiable right for which we will continue
struggling in the streets, until we achieve the re-founding of our
society to convert it into one that is just, egalitarian and truly
democratic.” This statement directly refutes point number two of the
Agreement for National Reconciliation, which asks for an: “abstention
from calls for a National Constituent Assembly, either directly or
indirectly, and also renouncing the promotion or support of any public
consultation for the purpose of reforming the Constitution to permit
presidential reelection, modify the form of Government or contravene any
of the un-amendable articles in our Constitution.”

Despite the Agreement’s prohibition on calls for a National Constituent
Assembly, the Resistance Front continues to move forward educating its
base about what constitutional reform would look like. On Sunday, a
large training was organized titled: “Paths of Latin American Peoples on

the roads to Constituent Assemblies.” There is a firm commitment to the

need for this path as the only real vehicle for meaningful change.

The major outstanding question is that of elections. Many ask if the
true will of the people of Honduras can be expressed by conducting
elections in less than four weeks, in a context where civil liberties
are virtually nonexistent and widespread repression by the military and
the police continues unabated. The question regarding the viability of
elections was not addressed in the communication issued by the National
Front on Friday. It remains unclear what their position will be.

What is clear is that the US decided it was imperative that the upcoming
elections be legitimated. Until Friday’s Agreement, the nearly unanimous
international consensus was that elections conducted by an illegitimate
government should be rejected.

To avoid this scenario, the US exerted major muscle against the
recalcitrant Micheletti, to produce an Agreement which ostensibly opens
the way for Zelaya’s return to the presidency, albeit in the context of
a “National Unity and Reconciliation Government.” If after consulting

with the Supreme Court, the Honduran Congress does reinstate Zelaya as
president, it will be an admission that its previous actions were
illegal and will constitute a reversal of the coup it had previously
endorsed. This is a small triumph for democracy. But this is where the
positive aspects of the Agreement end.

The US is now involved in a “full court press” to assure international

recognition of upcoming elections, despite of a total lack of conditions
in Honduras for holding elections. Due to the lack of clarity of the
Agreement, it is difficult to predict when Zelaya might actually be
reinstated and Constitutional order restored. There are two alternative
candidates for president, both of whom have been subjected to extensive
persecution due to their pro-active resistance to the coup. The
independent candidate, Carlos H. Reyes, has spent part of the last four
months in hiding, due to death threats. He was viciously attacked at a
protest three months ago; it required a long hospitalization and he is
still undergoing therapy for his mutilated wrist.

If the alternative candidates were able to put forward a unity ticket,
they could mount a substantial challenge to the two traditional parties.
However, neither of these candidates has spent the last months
campaigning, due to targeted political persecution and restrictions on
individual rights that have made campaigning essentially illegal. An
estimated 26,000 poll workers are needed to minimally guarantee
fraud-free counting and tabulation at each polling place. It seems
unlikely that a structure like this can be put into place on such a
short time frame, in a context where widespread repression of opposition
continues.

On the very day that the Agreement for National Reconciliation was
reached, there were three massive attacks by police and the army against
unarmed protesters in different locations in Tegucigalpa. A march to the
Marriott Hotel, where negotiations were taking place, was brutally
attacked despite the fact that organizers had a permit. The third attack
was staged at night, after the Agreement had been announced, in one of
the barrios where “pot banging” protests continue in defiance of the

repression. The Agreement puts the same army, which has exhibited
persistent brutality during the coup regime “at the disposition of the

Supreme Electoral Council.” The question is, will the army be used to
protect the right to vote for everyone, or to repress the resistance
movement?

As the resistance movement in Honduras celebrates the victory of turning
around the coup, it also is grappling with the complex implications this
new context brings. The obvious danger is that elections under these
circumstances could enshrine the current power structure and repressive
apparatus with a sheen of legitimacy that would never have been possible
with Micheletti.